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How does a car insurance company determine fault?

Here's what you need to know...

  • When you file a claim following a car crash, it is your insurance company’s job to investigate the details surrounding the event to determine fault
  • Your claims adjuster will ask you to make a statement that is recorded so that it can be used throughout the investigation
  • Each party, as long as they have insurance, will have an insurance adjuster representing them throughout the claims investigation process
  • It’s important to let your adjuster speak on your behalf when you’re contacted by the third-party adjuster. This ensures that you don’t say anything that can be misconstrued and used against you to place blame on you.
  • Insurance adjusters will ask to interview witnesses who weren’t passengers in your car to see if the details match up
  • Typically, the adjuster will use the police report, the driver statements, witness statements, pictures from the scene and also pictures of the damage of each car to allocate fault to one or both parties
  • Without the allocation of fault, insurers wouldn’t be able to surcharge the negligent driver for having a loss involving damages or injury

After you’re in a car crash, you’ll be asked to make a recorded statement of the events that led to the collision. Always be careful with what you say in this statement because it’s used to investigate the loss and determine fault.

While you’re assigned an adjuster who acts on your behalf throughout the claims process, it’s the adjusters duty to look at evidence and to make a fault allocation decision that’s fair and accurate. Compare car insurance rates now by using our FREE tool above!

The only time it’s easy to determine fault is when there’s no way to place blame on one of the two parties.

Since no reasonable driver is going to take credit for being 100% negligent in a collision, adjusters must look at the loss from many different angles to put the pieces together. They compare statements, look at damage and read reports to see the big picture. Here’s how adjusters and examiners work together to solve the mystery of who hit who:

Here’s how adjusters and examiners work together to solve the mystery of who hit who:

Should you file a claim through your insurer or the other insurer?

A claims adjuster is the professional through the insurance company that’s been assigned to your claim file. While you do have the option to go through the other party’s insurance from the start, all experts recommend that you contact your own company to speak with the third-party adjuster on your behalf.

While they are considered bad faith tactics, third-party adjusters who’re given the opportunity to speak directly with a claimant will try to find a reason to deny a claim or to minimize their own driver’s fault. These agents might ask leading questions or misconstrue what you’ve said during your interview to mean something entirely different than what you intended.

By contacting your own company to file your claim, you can protect yourself and ensure that a full investigation will take place. You also don’t have to worry about communicating with several different parties to make statements or submit evidence.

Who does the claims adjuster work for?

A claims adjuster works for the insurance company. If you’re filing a claim with your own insurer, the adjuster will make decisions that are in the best interest of the company and their client. That’s not necessarily the case when you’re dealing directly with a third-party adjuster.

It’s important that you remember that the adjuster’s goal and purpose is to settle a claim as quickly as possible for the lowest possible amount.

If you’re at-fault, this means that company will try to offer small settlements to the victim and a low market value on your car. This is why it’s so important to know how the claims process works before you’re filing a claim.

Investigations Start When You File Your Claim

The claims process is fairly standard industry wide. When you make the first contact with your claims department, the information provided is used to investigate fault. When you first file your claim, you’ll speak with a representative who asks basic questions and enters your answers in the claims file. This is then forwarded to an adjuster who’ll do the heavy-lifting so that they can make the final decision.

It’s The Company’s Job to Allocate Fault

While some aspects of insurance are regulated by the state or the federal government, fault allocation is not. Under liability laws, the state only governs how much a person can collect and who gets compensation. It doesn’t dictate how to assess fault and how to apportion payments to the parties involved.

What is the difference between Comparative Fault and Contributory Negligence rules?

You might think that fault allocation only really matters because your rates will go up, but that’s not the only reason fault is important. In some states, fault allocation will determine whether or not you will even receive money to put towards damages. If you could be denied money to repair your vehicle because you contributed to the cause of the loss, you’d pay more attention.

In states with contributory negligence rules, you can’t even be 1% at-fault or you won’t be eligible to for any type of damage recovery.

In other comparative fault states, the amount of damage that a party can recover is reduced by their degree of fault. Be sure to investigate the rules in your state.

Different Ways Adjusters Determine Fault

There’s not one sure-fire way that an adjuster is able to point the finger at a specific driver. In fact, most accidents have some sort of shared fault. The key is to put everything together to see who is primarily at fault and what the other party could have done to avoid the crash.

Here are some of the different pieces of evidence that can be used during the investigation:

  • Statements made to the insurer by the drivers involved
  • Statements made by witnesses who weren’t in the vehicle
  • Police report information on location of accident, road conditions, and vehicle damage
  • Citations issued to parties
  • Pictures submitted by drivers or witnesses
  • Claims examiner report showing where damage on the vehicle was
  • Investigation at the scene of the accident
  • Intersection videos if available

What happens if you are at fault?

If both adjusters agree that you were to blame for the accident, there’s a chance that your rates could go up. In most states, your rates can only go up the following renewal if you’re 51% or more to blame for the loss. If liability is less than 51%, you shouldn’t be dinged for the claim.

If you’re not happy with the way that your carrier has handled your claim, it’s time to shop around. Exercise your rights to appeal the decision but also look to see where you can find insurance for less. To find affordable insurance rates in minutes, use an online comparison tool and see if you can lower your bill with a reliable company. Enter your zip code in our FREE tool below to compare car insurance rates now!

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