Motor accidents are stressful, scary, and dangerous. And most often, they happen in a blur. While assigning blame may not be your first instinct after a traumatizing car crash, it’s crucial to your eventual insurance claim.
Utah is a hotbed for fatal road accidents. Car crashes claimed 320 lives in 2021: a 15.9% increase over 2020. Given the trend, there’s a fair chance you may be involved in an auto accident at some point in your life.
Deciding who was at fault for the accident usually dictates who’ll pay for the incurred losses. Generally, the at-fault driver shells out for any resulting vehicular and personal damage.
That said, determining fault is easier said than done. In this post, we explain how fault is assigned after a car accident in Utah. Let’s dive in!
Utah as a No-Fault Insurance State
It is worth mentioning that Utah is a no-fault insurance state. This means all drivers involved in an accident need to make an initial claim with their own insurance companies, regardless of who is at fault. The no-fault claims do not cover ‘emotional suffering’ or other non-economic losses.
If you want to sidestep the no-fault system and file a third-party insurance claim against the perpetrator, your injuries must meet specific thresholds mandated by the state.
For starters, you must have incurred more than $3000 in medical bills or sustained life-altering physical wounds like:
- Permanent disability
- Permanent disfigurement
- Permanent impairment
In any of these scenarios, you can sue the at-fault driver for your physical, mental, and emotional losses in a third-party insurance claim.
Comparative Negligence Laws in Utah
Utah also has modified comparative negligence laws, which suggest that your final recovery settlement will decrease according to your share of liability in the accident. So, if the jury finds you 20% responsible for the crash, the total amount of your damages will be decreased by 20%.
Remember that you must be less than 50% at fault to claim reimbursements. Otherwise, you won’t receive any payouts at all.
Again, this can be confusing, which is why you should consider speaking to a reputable car accident lawyer first. A lawyer will run through your case with a fine-toothed comb and help you close any gaps with ease.
4 Ways to Determine Fault After a Car Accident
Although it may seem simple enough, assigning fault is one of the trickiest aspects of an insurance claim. In a situation where multiple drivers are pointing fingers at each other; things tend to get complicated.
When it comes to deciding who is to blame for a motor accident, here are a few ways to navigate the situation.
1. Admission of Fault
Some drivers are so shaken up after an accident that they may accidentally admit fault at the scene. For example, they may say they did not see the other car coming. Or maybe, they can confess to missing a red light. Either way, it is a bad idea.
There are consequences to being too forthcoming in these situations. Apologizing after a car accident can work against your injury claim. When you admit fault, even partially, you risk losing out on your rightful compensation.
During the ensuing investigation, try your best to cooperate without implicating yourself. A reputable car accident attorney will be able to coach you on exactly what you should say to avoid repercussions.
2. Police Report
In Utah, you’re legally required to contact the nearest law enforcement agency immediately after an accident. Once the police arrive, they’ll quickly scan the scene to determine if anyone requires urgent medical attention. Next, they will assess each vehicle and record the damage.
But not all accidents are innocent. Cases involving speeding, driving under the influence, or cell phone use require further inspections. The police may talk to witnesses, including the drivers and passengers. In this regard, be sure to have your story straight. Spontaneous responses won’t do you any favors.
After the police cover all their bases, they will submit a report. This document can play a crucial role in pushing your settlement claim along. Remember to ask for a copy of the report and the badge number of the officer-in-charge. This will make it easier for your car accident lawyer to prove your claim.
3. Physical Evidence
Physical evidence from the crash site can also help you piece together what went down during the accident. Here are four different pieces of evidence that may come into play.
- Paint Transfers: When two vehicles scrape against each other, they may leave paint smears. They can help establish collision spots, speed, and motion.
- Skid Marks: Skid marks can tell you how the car swerved in the seconds before or after the collision. They’re also a reliable indicator of vehicle speed.
- Glass Fragments: If you have a broken windshield or side window, the remaining glass fragments can be used to determine the fault.
- Dents, Dings, and Scratches: Dents and scratches on the car’s surface also tell you where it was struck.
However, analyzing physical evidence is not a cakewalk. Ideally, you must contact a car accident law firm to set the ball rolling. They will bring an accident reconstruction specialist on board to assess the evidence and make reasonable deductions.
4. Insurance Companies
Once you file an insurance claim with your provider, it’s up to them to decide the outcome. If the other driver is indeed at fault, your insurer will seek a payout from their end.
But this isn’t always cut and dry. Insurance companies are notorious for dodging claims. While some submit because they want things settled, others will fight over every dime. You need a seasoned car accident attorney in your corner to deal with wily insurers effectively.
What Happens When Fault Is Undetermined?
Every car accident case is different. Sometimes, insurers cannot reach an agreement on fault, especially when there is a lack of compelling evidence. Maybe the police were not called on time. Maybe there weren’t any eyewitnesses or cameras around.
You may feel disheartened when your claim hits a dead end. But not all hope is lost. Here are a few other options to follow.
- Arbitration: You and the other drivers can settle your case out of court using a neutral arbiter. Arbitration is less expensive and cumbersome than court trials.
- Trial: If all else fails, you can present your case before a jury- the ultimate judge of fault. The jury will assess your case, weigh the evidence, and sound the verdict. Remember that a jury’s decision is nearly always final and binding. But very few cases go that far.
Also read: 7 things you should NOT do after a car accident
The Bottom Line
Assigning a fault after a car accident can be messy and complicated. You might know you did nothing wrong, but you are not the one who calls the shots. One wrong move and you may find yourself losing out on a sizeable check.
Instead of breaking into a cold sweat, consider letting the car accident lawyers at Carlson Injury Law take the lead on your case while you focus on getting better.
At Carlson Injury Law, we have helped multiple clients recover damages from car accidents. We will fight for your rights and ensure you get justice. For more information, feel free to reach out to us today!