*States that have “optional no-fault,” laws, where drivers can choose to opt out of the no-fault system.
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If You’re At-fault in a Car Accident
Your job at the scene of an accident is not to point fingers, accuse others of wrong-doing or admit fault. But once you know everyone is safe, you have some responsibilities and a role to play. So, what should you do after an accident?
For safety’s sake, you might need to move your car out of an intersection or heavy traffic, but don’t leave the scene. If you’re worried about an injury or someone else in the other vehicles involved, let 911 come and handle it. And never pursue a vehicle that flees the scene of the accident — wait for the authorities to arrive in that case and let them know what happened.
Contact the proper authorities
If you or others need medical attention, call 911 immediately. This should be the first thing you do. Be sure to get a police report afterward, it can really help the insurance companies determine who was at-fault in the car accident.
It’s helpful if you can safely take photos of the accident as-is, before the cars are moved out of traffic. Begin documenting the car damage from the accident and any other facts. Gather license plate numbers, the time of day, traffic conditions, and any road hazards that might have impacted the accident.
If there are witnesses, try to get names and contact information. And, of course, you’ll want the other driver’s name and contact information along with their insurance information.
Avoid admitting fault after the accident
You might find it difficult, but try to avoid admitting fault. Don’t lie. Simply report the facts as you saw them without saying “it’s my fault.”
The police and the insurance companies will come to their own conclusions about who is at-fault in an accident based on all of the facts and reports from everyone involved and any witnesses. Your insurance group may also seek legal advice to help identify the faulty party.
Contact your insurance company
You'll want to let your insurance carrier know about the accident right away. Not only will your agent help you start processing your claim, they can also help you understand your car insurance coverage and walk you through gathering evidence at the scene.
Tell them the basics about the accident, including the location, then ask for next steps. Ask how to start the process of filing a claim. You can begin the process through the MyAmFam app, or you can go online and use our Report a Claim form.
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How to Work with Your Insurance Company After an Accident
It can be difficult to prioritize your actions and figure out what to do after a car accident that’s not your fault. And even if you are found at-fault for an accident, it’s best to keep things simple and focus on the details you’ll need to resolve your claim.
Report the facts
Admitting fault to your insurance company after a car accident is never a good idea. But make sure you detail what happened from your point of view. As the saying goes — just the facts.
Gather and submit evidence
If you took pictures and collected contact information from other drivers and/or witnesses, pull this data together. Your insurance agent will tell you how they want you to submit it in order to determine who is at-fault.
Share the police report
If the police came to the scene of the accident and made a report, let your agent know. Find out if they want you to get the report or if they will get it for you.
File the claim
Later, when you get a chance to talk to your agent in a safe location, ask how to start the process of filing a claim to repair damage after the accident. Or you can go online and use our Report a Claim form.
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Does Car Insurance Cover At-fault Accidents?
The type of car insurance you have will play a big role in the coverage you get when you’re making an at-fault car accident insurance claim. Let’s look at some of the more common types of car insurance and how they come into play. Keep in mind, car insurance requirements by state can vary, so it’s best to check with your agent to understand the at-fault laws where you live.
If you’re in an accident, whether it’s your fault or not, your optional collision insurance can step in and help pay for damages to your vehicle. Typically, collision insurance has a deductible. When setting up your coverage, you'll pick the deductible amount that works for you and your budget. Usually the higher your deductible is, the lower your premiums are.
Bodily injury liability insurance
When you’re determined to be at-fault for an accident, bodily injury liability coverage helps cover the costs of injuries to your passengers, the driver and passengers of the other vehicle. It goes beyond just medical expenses and can help with pain and suffering, lost wages, legal fees and funeral costs. This is exactly the type of insurance you want in this situation.
This is optional insurance covers you when there’s an accident that doesn’t involve another car. Comprehensive insurance covers you if you hit an animal, your car is vandalized or is damaged in a hailstorm. But comprehensive insurance isn’t what you'll use when you hit another vehicle.
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How Do Insurance Companies Determine Fault in a Car Accident?
Before we decide how insurance determines fault, it’s key to look at how the state views it. In most states an accident is fault-based, meaning someone is at-fault or negligent, even if the fault is shared between the drivers. A few states have no-fault insurance laws. In these states each person’s insurance company pays for medical expenses up to a predefined amount. But even in no-fault states, the cost of repairs is still subject to fault.
Your insurer will determine fault by the reviewing details about how the accident happened. They’ll review site-specific details including photos and other physical evidence of damage. Adjusters take into account statements made by those involved in the accident and compare them against third-party eye-witness accounts, if available. They’ll also review the police report for details of negligent driving actions of those involved.
In states where no-fault accident insurance is required, insurance companies will adhere to applicable state laws that define negligence. This is important because the way a state interprets negligence will impact how claims are paid out and how fault is determined. Frequently, the fault for causing a car accident is shared.
When both drivers act negligently and an accident results, a percentage of fault will be assigned to each party involved in the collision. Suppose Car A turning left through an intersection and hits Car B, traveling in the opposite direction and driving over the speed limit. The driver of Car A might be found 70 percent negligent and Car B would be deemed 30 percent negligent.
That shared degree of negligence can define terms for claim settlements and payouts made by insurance companies. Because states define negligence differently, it’s important to understand the terms they use and where these laws apply:
Pure negligence, or contributory negligence
If you’re found negligent in any way and your actions contributed to a car accident, states that observe pure or contributory negligence do not allow you to receive insurance payouts from others. This applies even if your found to be responsible for a small percentage of the accident.