Automobile Liability Lawyers
What is Automobile Liability?
Generally automobile accidents can be very upsetting and the process to recover your losses does not make the accident any easier. Dealing with the insurance companies can be very confusing when you are unfamiliar with the terms they use and the value of your case. Most automobile accident matters are handled by lawyers experienced in dealing with insurance companies and their attorneys.
The Role of Insurance in Automobile Accident Compensation
Insurance plays a major role in automobile liability. Most states require drivers to carry auto insurance. Requiring drivers to carry insurance assures that a good part of that cost will be paid by private economy, rather than burdening the state. When an insured person is involved in an automobile accident, some degree of the financial liability for the accident lies with the insurance company. Thus it is often the insurance company, rather than the individual at fault that is primarily involved in the compensation proceedings. For this reason, the insurance companies become immediately involved in auto accident and they have an interest in settling the claims for the smallest amounts possible. The maximum amount that an insurance company will pay depends on the coverage purchased by the insured. Insurance laws and practices, including coverage minimums and no-fault insurance, vary greatly from state to state. It will be very important that you know the laws that govern automobile liability in your state and it will be to your advantage to retain counsel who has experience with the insurance practices of your state.
No Fault Insurance
About half of the fifty states incorporate some version of no-fault insurance into their insurance laws. "No-fault" is a theory of insurance compensation that became popular in the 1970's and 1980's. Under the no-fault theory auto insurance covers only the insured, and does not cover any damage inflicted on others. Theoretically, if everyone involved has no-fault insurance everyone's damages are covered by their own policies and there is no need to speculate on who caused the accident (hence, "no-fault"). Under strict no-fault liability, each party is barred from suing any other party for damages - presumably because all of their damages would be covered by their own policies. However, while some no-fault states require drivers to have no-fault policies, no states which incorporate no-fault theories into their insurance laws also rely solely on no-fault liability. Each has some hybrid form of no-fault which allows for civil suits against other parties in certain situations.
States that include elements of no-fault liability in their insurance practices include: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington.
Compensation and Elements of Liability
You are legally entitled to be compensated for injury or loss you incur in an automobile accident caused by the fault of another. While many cases are settled directly with insurance companies, many other cases are resolved within the court system under a negligence theory. Like other personal injury scenarios, compensation under the law requires that you show:
- that the other party had a duty to you;
- that they breached that duty;
- that their breach caused the accident; and
- that actual damage did occur.
Determining Fault in Automobile Accidents
If an automobile accident case is brought to court, fault will be determined by the court. Each side will present the facts of the case and the judge or jury will weigh those facts, make factual findings and determine fault.
Factual findings will be based on party statements, depositions, and testimony, on witness statements, depositions and testimony, on police testimony or reports, on expert testimony, on physical evidence and on demonstrative evidence.
Dealing With Insurance and Insurance Companies
- Do report your accident to your insurance company right away
- Do get information regarding the insurance companies of the other parties
- Don't agree to a settlement right away
- Do consult an attorney before agreeing to a settlement
- Do seek and document medical treatment, if necessary
- Do allow your legal representative to negotiate with the other party's insurance company
- See Insurance Companies and Personal Injury for more information
What to Do if You or a Loved One Have Been in an Auto Accident
At the scene:
- Don't flee
- Stay calm
- Get medical treatment, if necessary
- Exchange basic contact and insurance information with all parties
- Get basic contact information from witnesses
- Don't Admit Fault
After the accident:
- Contact the DMV, if necessary
- Contact your insurance company
- Notify the responsible parties. These may be insurance companies. If so, determine the exact amount of insurance coverage available
- Make notes about the accident
- Document the damage to your person and to your property. Keep a journal; take pictures, keep bills and estimates, etc.
- Document the scene
- Get regular medical treatment if necessary. Keep track of all ailments, treatments, diagnoses, bills
- Hire an attorney. You may not have to pay them up front and they will take care of all of the legal details of your situation. For more information, see Why Hire a Lawyer.
- When you know the true value of your case - after your medical needs and other financial damages are clear - negotiate or have your lawyer negotiate with the insurance company to be compensated for your injuries.
Consult a Lawyer - Present Your Case Now!
Last Modified: 01-04-2011 02:28 PM PST