Fault in an Accident Is an Important Concept
An accident, as the name suggests, usually happens without intent, but that does not mean that nobody is responsible for it. Auto accidents happen every day, and each time one occurs, the investigation begins to figure out what happened. In determining why the accident occurred, experts will also determine who was at fault.
While it may seem like a straightforward idea of someone being at fault or not, it is usually more complicated than that. Fault in an auto accident rarely falls on only one party. It is possible for someone to be more at fault, and in rare cases, it is actually only the fault of one driver, but coming to this conclusion doesn’t happen quickly or easily most of the time.
To complicate matters, each state has its own definition of fault. Some states do not even recognize fault. These no-fault states don’t allow placing blame on anyone, even if there is a clearly guilty party. This can make for complications when it comes to seeking damages and recovering from an accident.
An attorney is the best person to consult if you live in a no-fault state and feel you have a potential court case. Your attorney can guide you and help you to understand the applicable laws.
Fault vs. No-Fault Accident
Most states use the concept of fault in auto accidents. They allow a court to assign responsibility or a percentage of responsibility to one party in the situation.
In a state that allows fault, the person who is liable will have the responsibility of paying for the damages incurred in the accident. The non-liable party can then collect these damages by making insurance claims or taking the liable party to court.
In a no-fault state, everyone is responsible for their own damages regardless of who is liable for the accident. No-fault states include:
- North Dakota
- New York
- New Jersey
The idea behind no-fault laws is to help keep auto insurance rates down by preventing needless court cases involving auto accidents. Therefore, it is very difficult to bring a lawsuit in a no-fault state. While they do not completely remove your ability to sue for damages, they do limit them. The most common limitation is the serious injury threshold, which you must meet before you can take your case to court.
Serious Injury Threshold Explained
Each no-fault state has its own rules about going to court with your accident claim. Most of them require that your damages meet a certain amount. Often, states call this a serious injury threshold.
The serious injury threshold may vary from state to state. For Florida, for example, the threshold is that you must suffer specific injuries to file a court case. These include:
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement that is significant in nature
- Permanent injury
- Permanent loss of a significant bodily function
If you meet the threshold, you can operate under tort laws, which allow you to sue for economic and non-economic damages.
Another example is New York. The threshold in this state requires you to have one of the following occur as a result of the accident:
- Permanent damage to your body that results in loss of use or limitation of use
- Bone fracture
- Significant disfigurement
- Loss of an unborn child
- Any injury that prevents you from continuing regular daily activities for at least 90 days
You must provide complete certified medical evidence of your condition in court to prove your case and receive damages.
The Role of Insurance in a No-Fault Accident State
Your auto insurance plays an important role in a no-fault accident state because you will make a claim to your insurance company for any losses, and it will issue you a settlement payout. Because of this, it is essential to make sure that you have adequate insurance coverage.
You will want to have the basic coverage options, but also comprehensive and collision insurance, which will pay for damages to your vehicle. Additionally, in no-fault states, you will have a requirement to carry a special type of insurance called personal injury protection.
PIP will cover your medical expenses after an accident. It also will typically provide payments for lost wages. Unlike other types of insurance, such as bodily injury, PIP pays for you and not others in the accident. It ensures well-rounded coverage so that you do not suffer due to the accident.
How an Attorney Can Assist in Your Case
All no-fault accident states set their own limits on when you can and cannot file a lawsuit. It can become confusing to try to figure out if you have the right to go to court if you live in one of these states. An attorney has the knowledge of the laws to be able to help you determine what you should do.
Your lawyer can also assist you in dealing with your insurance company. Since your insurer will be the first to handle any claims, you need someone to help you navigate this process.
Ideally, when you make a claim for an accident, your insurer would pay you according to your policy. However, that often doesn’t happen. Insurance companies want to limit the amount of money they pay, so they will try to offer you settlements that are nowhere near what you should get.
Your lawyer can work through your case and negotiate with the insurance company to ensure you get what you deserve. If you later decide you need to go to court, then your attorney is right there with all the information needed to build a solid case that will help you bypass the serious injury threshold and have the ability to plead your case in court.
Work with an Experienced Local Lawyer
You’ll want to work with a local lawyer who understands your state laws and who has experience with auto accidents. It is also important to contact an attorney as soon as possible after your accident so that you have proper representation right from the start. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!