How Does an Insurance Company Decide Who Is at Fault?

by Paula A. Wyatt | January 9, 2023 | Blog, Insurance | 0 comments

How Does an Insurance Company Decide Who Is at Fault? If you have suffered an injury in a car accident, you are not assured financial compensation for the harm that you have suffered. The only way that you receive compensation is if someone else was to blame for the accident. Then contact a car accident lawyer or they will assume the legal obligation to pay you. If they had car insurance, the insurance company pays on their policyholder’s behalf up to the policy maximum. Although you may have a robust idea of what happened in the car accident, the rule that governs is that facts are only what you can prove. The insurance companies may not determine the other driver’s fault, even if it is clear to you what happened. First, the insurance companies may speak to each other and review the evidence they already have. At some point, the other driver’s insurance company may accept liability for the accident. While this is the process, in a nutshell, the parties can determine in several ways.

The Process of Determining Fault Can Be Complex

The Process of Determining Fault Can Be ComplexYou often hear the process described as the insurance companies getting together to decide who is liable for the car accident. Usually, the process is nowhere near as clean as that. After all, if the insurance company tries to do everything it can to save money at your expense, it may not go along with another insurance company when it means they have to pay for an accident. The insurance companies may have differing views about who was to blame for the accident.

The Drivers Themselves Can Determine Liability

One driver may accept responsibility for the crash, either at the scene of the accident or in the claims process afterward. A driver may admit to running a stop sign or acknowledge that they did not see you when they struck you. It is hard for a driver to change their story later once there is any record of what they said. If another witness hears the driver’s statement at the scene, they can testify on your behalf. From your standpoint, you should never admit liability for a car accident, no matter what. You may be shaken up at the scene and not thinking clearly. However, the insurance company will take whatever you say as an admission. They will use any comments against you if they have an opening to dispute your claim. Do not give them any ammunition because it makes the insurance company’s job easier. However, if the other driver admits fault, it will make your job easier. However, the insurance company may still complicate things for you. Even when liability for the accident is apparent, an insurance company will try to find other ways to wear you down to cut what they should pay you. You should not try to argue the cause of the crash on the scene with the other driver. There is little good that can come of it, and it will distract you from the other things you may need to do at the scene of the accident, such as getting pictures and the contact information of witnesses.

Reviewing the Police Report

The insurance companies may review the police report to determine responsibility. Drivers will report the accident to law enforcement, and a police officer will appear at the scene. They may do their own investigation, including speaking to people who saw the crash and what they noticed about the scene. They will also note the conditions at the time of the crash. Although the police officer may not explicitly determine fault for the crash, they may include enough information on their report that makes liability very apparent to the insurance companies. Sometime after the accident, the police officer will issue their report. You should ask to obtain a copy if you do not receive one. The insurance companies can learn what happened from the accident report. You should certainly include it as part of your claim. The police report has limited use if your insurance claim does not settle. Since the officer did not see the crash directly, the report is hearsay, especially regarding what the witnesses said. You might need witnesses to testify directly in court to establish the facts of what happened. Otherwise, their statements will not be admissible to prove your case.

The Insurance Companies May Confer

The insurance companies can determine amongst themselves who was responsible for the crash. Even though insurance companies have the incentive to deny liability, they also seek to manage their own risks. If they deny liability in a case where their driver was responsible, they can face several consequences. If you take the case to court, not only will the insurance company need to pay for its own defense attorney, but it may also end up paying more in a jury award than it might have in a settlement. Further, denying a claim in the face of highly compelling evidence can be grounds for a bad faith claim. The more challenging instance is when both drivers share in the blame for the crash. The insurance companies will need to agree on how to apportion the fault between both drivers involved. The insurance adjuster will review the evidence about the car crash that they have seen. Some cases are very clear-cut, and liability is very apparent. For example, in a rear-end car accident, there is a presumption that the rear car was at fault for the accident. In other cases, there may be compelling testimony that establishes that one of the drivers was clearly at fault. When the evidence is clear, the insurance companies will agree on liability. The next communication you receive may be the initial settlement offer.

Arbitrating Fault for a Car Crash

There is a way that insurance companies can decide disputes without ending up litigating against one another. In many disputed cases, the insurance companies might go to arbitration.

A Jury May Decide Your Case in Court

Finally, if no other way of resolving an impasse exists, a jury can decide who was to blame for the car crash. If the insurance company does not pay your claim when you file it, you can file a lawsuit in court. The insurance company is one of many routes that you can pursue to obtain financial compensation. The reality is that most car insurance cases will not go to trial. Even if you file a lawsuit because the insurance company denied your claim, the insurance company will most often settle with you because they do not want a trial. Nonetheless, you have the right and ability to have your case heard by a jury if that is what you and your lawyer decide is the best thing for you.

You Need an Attorney to Represent Your Interests

You probably shouldn’t leave it solely up to the insurance companies to determine who was at fault for the crash. Then, you may find yourself on the outside looking in regarding financial compensation. You may be disappointed if you speak with the other driver’s insurance company and expect a fair and reasonable conclusion. Further, it does not even make sense from your standpoint to speak with the insurance company. They will use your words to deny you financial compensation in any way they can. You should always hire an attorney after any car accident. Your lawyer will give you advice about how to handle your claim. They will also keep the insurance company from harassing you and trying to trick you into giving a statement. If the insurance company wants to speak with you, they will need to go through your lawyer, who will advise you that you should not be speaking with the insurance company. In addition, your attorney will control how your story gets told. A lawyer knows how best to present your story to the insurance company to prove that someone else was responsible for the accident. They can clearly and concisely tell what happened during the accident.

How a Car Accident Attorney Can Help Prove Your Case

Your car accident attorney can back your story up with evidence, assuming it exists. The proof is the best way to show that someone else should pay you for your injuries. Here are some sources of evidence that a car accident lawyer can gather to support your case:
  • Testimony from witnesses who saw the actual accident
  • Pictures from the scene of the accident and the wreckage of the cars involved
  • Dashcams or traffic cameras that recorded the accident
  • The police report
  • Testimony from an accident reconstruction expert
If you can present a compelling picture of what happened to cause the accident, you may be in a position to receive financial compensation. You can have your say, and it is in the insurance company’s best interests to consider your point of view. Otherwise, the costs to them can be higher in the future. If you have strong evidence, the insurer likely wants to avoid litigation and might make a fair offer without involving the civil courts.

Do Not Wait to Hire a Lawyer in Your Car Accident Case

You will want to hire an attorney early in the case, preferably right after your accident. Although the car accident has already happened, many things in the days after the accident can impact liability determination. You do not want to be unrepresented because your legal rights may be at risk. If you do not have a lawyer, the responsible driver’s insurance company may go to work trying to deceive or pressure you. Their tactics can compromise your legal right to financial compensation. It costs you nothing to speak with an attorney, so paying for an attorney should not keep you from getting a lawyer. You do not need to pay anything upfront to retain the lawyer who can help you get a car accident settlement.

You Must Also Secure the Right Car Accident Settlement

Proving liability is only the first part of a car accident case. Once the insurance company makes you a settlement offer, it is the opening phase of settlement negotiations. The insurance company will likely make you a low settlement offer to catch you unaware of the value of your case. If you do not have an attorney in your corner, you might consider taking the settlement because it is money in your pocket right now. When you realize you need more money, you have already permanently signed away your legal rights. Studies show that people who hire car accident lawyers do far better financially than those who try to represent themselves, even after accounting for the lawyer’s percentage of your settlement. Not only do you have someone who knows the law and how to fight for you, but you can also take comfort in knowing that they will handle the details from start to finish.

Speak With a Car Accident Attorney Today

Your priority after an accident is taking care of your physical health, so you should focus on getting emergency care and following your overall treatment plan. However, the bills will start piling up soon, and you can relieve some of this stress by consulting with an accident attorney. A san jose personal injury lawyer can assess your rights so you know whether you can expect some compensation. This alone can help. Then, your lawyer will handle the process of seeking compensation for you, which is another weight off your shoulders. It costs nothing to speak with or hire an attorney to begin representing you. Injury lawyers only charge fees if they successfully obtain compensation for you. There is nothing to lose, so protect your rights by contacting a law firm near you.


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