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Methods determining fault after a car crash

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 7 million motor vehicle accidents were reported in 2018, resulting in over 36,000 deaths and 2.7 million injuries.

While 4.8 million crashes resulted only in property damage, it doesn’t mean they were painless for the drivers involved. When it comes to assessing fault, there are five basic methods.

Who determines fault?

From the other driver involved to police and insurance companies, remember that not everyone is looking out for your best interests. If you are in a crash, be extremely cautious over the first four methods, especially if you are injured:

  • Drivers: Often, after a fender bender, drivers may exchange information and either point the finger at the other driver or take responsibility themselves. However, even a minor crash can be disorienting, and drivers often incorrectly remember the circumstances. This can lead to potential liability and financial repercussions, even if the crash wasn’t their fault.
  • Police reports: When police arrive at the scene of an accident, their job is to check for injuries and call for medical help, if necessary. They then assess the scene and damage, interview witnesses and try to assign fault. However, police reports are often wrong or missing critical information.
  • Insurance companies: Insurers’ top priority is to protect their bottom line and pay as little for claims as possible, even if it’s your own insurance carrier. If someone else’s negligence harms you, be wary of offers from their insurance company just to get the case settled as quickly as possible, especially if you face long-lasting or permanent injuries.
  • Arbitration: Insurers who can’t agree on fault often use this method. A private company determines the extent of the damage and who pays. However, once again, the insurers’ best interests are prioritized, and you may forfeit your right to take legal action.
  • Litigation: Being represented by an experienced personal injury attorney may be the only way to ensure that your interests are protected. A knowledgeable lawyer will seek fair compensation, and deal with insurance companies who only look out for themselves.

Protecting your future

Car crashes that seem minor can cause long-lasting repercussions and permanent injuries that alter a person’s life by requiring expensive medical treatment. Even if you are partially at fault, you may still be able to recover damages as Oklahoma recognizes comparative negligence statutes.


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