Who determines fault after an accident?
Before the process of repair and restitution can begin, the insurance companies will need to determine which driver is at fault (or “most” at fault) for the accident.
Determining fault is important because the at-fault party’s insurance company will be financially responsible for the injured party’s property damages and medical injuries. Insurance companies determine fault based on Georgia’s legal definition of negligence.
Sometimes it is clear who is at fault. For example, a driver may run a red light and hit another vehicle. In this case, it is usually simple to prove that the driver who violated the traffic laws was negligent. At other times it may be more complicated or there may be multiple contributing factors. Such is the case when two vehicles collide while merging into the same lane or in a collision involving 3 or more vehicles.
The insurance companies will make the final determination of fault in a car accident. But there are things you can do on your end to make sure the process is as smooth as possible.
You can help determine fault
- Take photos – photograph the vehicles and damages incurred at the scene. Take photos of any traffic lights, streetlights and the area where the accident occurred to help determine who violated the rules of the road.
- Eyewitness testimony – take down the contact information for all eyewitnesses to the accident. They can be instrumental in providing an unbiased third party opinion when the drivers disagree on how the accident happened.
- Research and know Georgia’s driving laws and compare them to the area where the accident occurred. For example, if drivers on opposing sides of an intersection both have a green light (not a green arrow) and one vehicle turns left and strikes the vehicle passing straight through the intersection, the vehicle turning left would be deemed at-fault because Georgia law mandates that drivers turning left on green yield to oncoming traffic.
- Police reports – this is your most important piece of evidence. The police officer’s version of the events is seen as more reliable (and credible) than the version of those involved and will often be the determining factor when the accounts don’t match up. Make sure that you always call the police so that a police report is made.
If a vehicle hits you, you should never leave the scene of an accident without waiting for the police to arrive. Even if the other driver admits fault and exchanges insurance information with promises of fixing your vehicle, their willingness to admit fault can quickly change once you reach out to their insurance company.
If you’re injured, let the responding officer know and seek medical care immediately. These details can be handled later, but the number one priority is always your health, safety and well being.
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