Auto Insurance - About Fault

By Compuquotes Team on March 27th, 2008

Auto Insurance

The actual meaning of fault can be important in determining whether someone is entitled to damages, and if so, in what amount. The actual definition of fault will vary from state to state. There are a few different concept involved in determining fault.

The first is contributory negligence, where if the injured party was even partially at fault, he or she could receive nothing since the laws policy isn't to reward people for their negligence.

The other is comparative negligence. The potential for injustice has been corrected in most states by changing the law from contributory negligence to a system of comparative negligence. The injured party is entitled to receive that percentage of damages that he or she didn't cause, as determined by a jury. Say you were found 30% liable for $100,000 worth of damages and bills, you would receive $70,000.

There are many types of comparative negligence among the states that follow this law. Some states allow both sides to sue each other for the percentage they aren't at fault. Other states require that a plaintiff be less that 50 percent at fault in order to receive any damages. The percentage that each party is at fault in an accident can be a big issue in settling an auto accident dispute.

Many often wonder if they need a lawyer after they've been involved in an accident. Lawyers are an integral part of the fault system in virtually every state in the United States.

Plaintiffs usually hire a lawyer on a contingency basis, meaning they pay the attorney a percentage of the amount of money the attorney collects on their behalf. This isn't the only expense for a plaintiff. They also must pay such fees as the costs of a court reporter to record a deposition, and court filing fees. Costs can range from a few hundred dollars for smaller cases, all the way up to tens of thousands of dollars for larger cases. Clients are responsible for costs regardless of who wins the lawsuit.

Plaintiffs are also are sometimes held responsible for any medical treatment or doctor's testimony that are necessary. More often than not, a client doesn't have the money to pay for these doctors. The doctors generally will respond by taking a lien on the case, meaning the doctor gets paid out of the proceeds before a client receives a penny.

There is only one side to being sued, the defendant lawyers' fees and court costs are usually paid for by their insurance company. Defense lawyers generally charge the insurance company at an hourly rate, usually at a great rate because of the high number of cases the firm will handle.

If you find yourself in court over an auto accident, you can expect to go through several steps before settling the dispute. After the initial accident there is an investigation that occurs, usually done by the local police department. If there are any injuries, medical treatment is given.

After there is a clear picture of what happened, an insurance adjuster will attempt to resolve the case. If the matter cannot be resolved at an adjuster stage, a lawsuit is then filed. As both lawyers learn the details of the case they will form conclusions as to who will win, and any possible settlements.

They then hold a settlement conference. If a settlement doesn't occur, they hold a trial where a jury, judge, or arbitrator will determine who wins. If the loser is unhappy he can try to overturn the judgment with an appeal.

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