Establishing who is at fault is one of the key aspects of any car accident claim. One driver may be completely at fault, or liability may be shared between two or more of the drivers involved in the accident. Third parties may be liable as well.
After the accident, you may think you know who is at fault – especially if the other driver was behaving recklessly right before the crash. However, negligence in a car accident claim can be complicated. It is in your best interest to work with a car accident lawyer who can help you protect your legal rights.
Colombo Law serves clients who have been injured in car accidents in Columbus, Hebron, Circleville, Fairmont, Chillicothe, and other areas of Ohio. Please call (614) 362-7000 today for a free consultation.
What Should I Do If the Other Driver Is at Fault for the Accident?
The steps you should take after a car accident are the same whether you are at fault or not:
- Call 911: In addition to requesting that emergency workers come to the scene to help you and anyone else who is injured, ask for the police to respond as well. In Ohio, car accidents involving injury, death, or property damage of more than $1,000 must be reported to the police.
- Get treatment for your injuries: The medics who arrive on the scene will assess your injuries and determine whether or not you should be taken to the hospital. It is always best to follow the recommendations of first responders when it comes to urgent medical care.
- Give a statement to the police: In order to prepare the accident report, the police officer will ask you to describe what happened. Keep your answers factual. You may be angry if you think the other driver was at fault, but it is important not to exaggerate.
- Exchange information with the other driver(s): You will need the name and contact information, the insurance information, and the driver’s license number for each driver, as well as the license plate number for each vehicle involved in the accident.
- Document the scene: Take pictures of the position of and damage to your vehicle and any other vehicles, debris from the accident, damage to the road, and any other pertinent details.
- Speak to witnesses: If anyone saw the accident, ask them to share their observations with you. Make sure you get their name and contact information, should you need it later.
If you stayed at the scene for all of these steps, your next priority is to go to the emergency room for more complete diagnosis and treatment of your injuries. You will also need to report the accident to your insurance company within a reasonable amount of time; check your insurance policy to make sure you stay within the filing requirements.
Finally, you should consider contacting a car accident lawyer as soon as possible for help with your claim.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer If the Accident Wasn’t My Fault?
Although you may feel that you have “right on your side” if someone else caused the accident, this doesn’t mean you will automatically be fairly compensated for the injuries and other losses you sustain. Insurance companies are businesses, and their policy is to pay no more than they have to on accident claims.
The at-fault driver’s insurance company will conduct its own investigation of the accident. If the investigators find evidence to suggest that you or someone else was at fault and not the insured driver, the company may deny your claim.
Even if the investigation confirms that the other driver was at fault, the insurance company may try to undervalue your claim by:
- Calling you to ask questions about the accident: Your answers will be scrutinized for any admissions of fault or suggestions that your injuries are not serious.
- Asking you to make a recorded statement about the accident: Again, any information you share will be scrutinized and used against you.
- Requesting your medical records: You may assume that signing a medical release will provide the insurance company with proof of the seriousness of your injuries. In reality, however, representatives will comb through the records looking for evidence of a preexisting injury or condition that they can argue was not caused by the accident, and thus deny your claim for compensation.
“Falling” for any one of these tactics can cost you the compensation you need and deserve for your injuries. When you hire a lawyer, however, you can focus on getting better while your attorney handles communications with the insurance company on your behalf.
How a Lawyer Can Help If the Car Accident Wasn’t Your Fault
There is a common misconception that you only need an attorney if the accident was your fault, or if liability is disputed. In reality, an experienced car accident lawyer can assist you in many ways after a collision that is not your fault. These include:
- Reviewing your legal options: In addition to filing a claim against the at-fault driver, a lawyer can review your insurance policy and advise you of coverage that may be available through your own insurer.
- Building a claim on your behalf: If you plan to sue the other driver or another party, you will need to present compelling evidence of fault. A lawyer who knows the car accident law in Ohio is well-equipped to investigate your case, collect evidence, interview witnesses, and more.
- Countering claims that you are at fault: If the other driver claims that you are at fault and the insurance company denies your claim as a result, your lawyer’s investigation of the accident will turn up evidence to refute these claims. Without an attorney, it boils down to your word against the other driver’s.
- Negotiating with the insurance company: As we said before, the other driver’s insurance company will deny or try to pay as little as possible on your claim. Attempting to negotiate a settlement on your own will typically not achieve the same result that you might get when an attorney handles your case.
- Taking your case to trial: Most car accident claims are resolved through out-of-court settlements. However, it is important to work with an experienced attorney who is prepared to go to court on your behalf if necessary.
What About Comparative Negligence?
In the event that your impressions of the car accident are incorrect and you are partially at fault, you are not necessarily barred from recovering damages. The comparative negligence law in Ohio allows claimants to recover compensation so long as they are no more than 50 percent at fault for the accident.
Contact Our Car Accident Lawyers Today
If you have been injured through no fault of your own in a car accident, don’t wait for the insurance company to do the right thing. Instead, speak to the experienced car accident lawyers at Colombo Law about your legal options.
Our firm makes a No Fee Promise with every case. If we don’t recover compensation for you, you don’t owe us an attorney fee.
Call (614) 362-7000 today for a free case evaluation. Colombo Law serves clients in car accident claims throughout Ohio, including Columbus, Hebron, Circleville, Fairmont, Chillicothe, and other areas.