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Who Is at Fault? How Florida Law Assigns Blame in Car Accidents

Imagine yourself immediately after a car accident. Odds are you have been in one. So, you probably remember the haze of adrenaline right after the accident and the moment you check to make sure you, your passengers, and the other driver are all right. You assess the damage, exchange your insurance information, and wait for the police to show up to mediate the accident.

As you wait or begin interacting with the officer, you start to hear a word: fault. Fault is a word that gets thrown around a lot during an accident. But, what does fault mean for you?

We will answer this question as we explain how fault works in a car collision. Use our information so you know how fault affects you if you have another car accident.

What Is Fault Exactly?

Fault, from a legal standpoint, is not limited to car accidents. Fault is kind of negligence, the same kind that determines personal injury cases. Fault ultimately determines who is liable for any injuries and damages that result from the collision. The complexity of the road ensures fault can apply to multiple parties at once or to one driver exclusively.

Who Decides Your Level of Fault? The process of assigning fault comes in three stages. You'll begin with the police officer's report, then insurance adjustor's assessment, and finally a court's ruling. Here is how they work.

Police Reports Officers collect statements from all the parties involved to get an accurate view of the scene. They compile other evidence as well, such as photographs, to confirm the witness reports. Officers then issue their own report, usually assigning blame according to the evidence.

Insurance Assessments Insurance adjustors will then look over the case to determine the amount of damage and the responsible parties. They will pour over the original police report, confirm medical reports, and assess repairs. They are the ones who produce the percentage value that represents each person's responsibility for the accident.

Court Rulings If individuals want to dispute the compensation for damages they receive, they take the case to the court. Courts will review the evidence and come up with their own determination. The court settles claims of responsibility and fault for all parties involved, as well as their financial liabilities.

What Determines Your Fault? Each state and the state insurance companies work together with law and court decisions to create rules that guide fault decisions. Those rules are then applied to each case. Since each case is different, those rules need to change to accurately determine who is at fault. Those rules include:

  • The person who rear-ends another car is at fault. Sometimes the drivers share fault, like if a driver collides with a driver who cuts them off.

  • A "t-bone" accident is due to a traffic violation, such as running a red light or stop sign. The fault of the accident will usually lie with the driver who committed the traffic violation.

  • Reckless driving is also the cause of side-swipe accidents. The officer will often issue a citation if that is the case, assigning fault to the offender.

  • Multi-car accidents usually split the fault between all of the participants. If your car hit another car, you will receive some level of fault.

How Does Fault Apply in Florida? Florida has two laws which change how fault works in the state: the no-fault car insurance rule and the comparative fault rule. The two laws shape how fault impacts you in a car accident.

No-Fault Car Insurance Florida mandates that all drivers have car insurance with $10,000 property damage liability and $10,000 personal injury protection. Then if you get in an accident, your medical and repair costs come out of your own insurance until they hit that $10,000 limit. Only after that can you seek damages from the other driver.

Comparative Fault Rule With comparative fault, the law assigns some responsibility for the accident to each driver. It's possible that you would be held responsible for 40% of the damage and the other driver would be held responsible for 60%, or any other combination of percentages.

When the time comes to collect insurance payments for the damages, the proportions determine your total payout. If the other driver caused 60% of a $200,000 dollar accident, you would receive up to $120,000 in damages. However, since you were responsible for 40% of the accident, the other driver would receive $80,000 in damages.

What Does Fault Mean for Me? Your level of fault determines how much your insurance can help you against a claim. The higher your level of fault, the less of a benefit you will receive.

That's why you should always drive safely. A good record looks better to an insurance adjustor or a court. If you do have a collision, make sure you follow correct accident protocol to minimize your level of fault.

If you have a concern about an accident, consult a legal expert to make sure you get the benefits you deserve.

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