In a lot of car accidents, fault can be easy to determine. One driver makes a careless decision—like speeding or running a red light—and it causes a wreck. But what if you crash your car or cause an accident because of another driver’s actions? In that case, determining fault and responsibility for damages is more complex.
These situations can vary greatly depending on how the crash happened and who holds the most fault in causing it. This article will discuss what typically happens in the legal process when a crash is caused by another driver, including whether more than one driver may share fault in an accident.
No-Contact Car Accidents and Phantom Drivers
A “no-contact” car accident involves another driver causing you to crash into an object that isn’t their vehicle. It might look like this:
- A driver in front of you suddenly hits their brakes without warning on a two-lane highway
- You hit your brakes and swerve to the right to keep from rear-ending the driver’s vehicle
- As a result, your car exits the roadways and hits a tree, damaging your car and leaving you with injuries
In some no-contact car accidents, the at-fault driver may not have even noticed they caused you to crash. This is known as a “phantom driver” case because, like a ghost or phantom, they may vanish forever after causing harm. It might even be hard to convince your insurance company that the driver existed in the first place.
If you are able to remember any information about the phantom driver, such as their license plate, after this type of crash, it can be helpful. And if there were any witnesses to the crash, they may be able to provide additional information to identify the driver. But if there’s no way of identifying the driver, you’ll typically need to turn to your own auto insurance’s Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage. A phantom driver is usually treated as an uninsured driver.
In Georgia, all auto insurance companies are required to offer you UM coverage. Unless you specifically deny this coverage, you probably have it. So if the at-fault driver can’t be identified, you have to turn to your own insurance coverage to make claim. But remember that insurance companies are never quick to pay out full compensation. They might claim you need a witness statement or other evidence to confirm what happened.
Either way, you still have a right to seek financial recovery for your injuries and other costs because the crash was not your fault. A car accident lawyer can help you figure the best options available to you. They may also be able to send out a detective to look for other evidence, such as traffic camera footage, that could identify the driver.
If the Car Causes You to Hit Another Car
Maybe the other driver swerved into your lane, causing you to swerve away from them—and collide with a third vehicle. Or they hit the brakes suddenly, causing you to rear-end them and push them into the car in front (which is known as a “chain reaction accident”).
These situations can be really troubling. Although you technically caused the resulting accident, it wouldn’t have happened if the first car hadn’t been acting carelessly. But what matters is how the insurance companies will see the situation and determine who was at fault.
Under Georgia’s personal injury laws, everyone has a certain “duty of care” to protect others from harm. If someone does put others in harm’s way, whether they mean to or not, it’s considered negligence. In a personal injury case, like a car accident, the negligent party is liable for all damages—which usually means their insurance company is responsible for covering the costs of the victims through an insurance claim.
Most of the time, if someone takes an action that then causes an accident, they will be found responsible—at least partially, if not fully. If your response was reasonable based on what happened, you can make a case for this and demonstrate the first driver’s fault in the whole accident. You will likely want to hire a car accident lawyer to help you present the right evidence.
Comparative Negligence for Shared Fault
In the best case scenario, you’ll be able to show the first driver was completely at-fault for your crash and any resulting accidents. However, if you and the other driver are found to each hold a degree of fault, your financial recovery will be based on Georgia’s comparative negligence laws.
Through comparative negligence, you may be assigned a percentage of the blame by a judge or jury. For example, if the first driver is determined to be 95 percent at fault and you five percent at fault for the accident, the compensation you can receive is based on the percentage. If your damages from the crash total $10,000, you would receive $9,500 of that total due to your five percent fault.
If you know you had no fault in the accident, or if you aren’t sure, it’s important to always consult with a legal professional before apologizing or admitting any blame. The facts matter and they may protect you from getting left paying costs that weren’t your fault. A car accident lawyer can view your situation with a legally experienced eye and advise you on your best course of action. The goal is getting you the fullest financial recovery possible for damages you didn’t cause.
Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer for Free
Dealing with a crash that happened because of someone else’s reckless driving is frustrating, but you have rights. Talk to a car accident lawyer today who can help ensure you aren’t paying for damages that weren’t your fault.
At John Foy & Associates, we have more than 20 years of experience helping car accident victims get the money they need and deserve. For a FREE consultation with one of our attorneys, call today. We’re available 24/7 at 404-400-4000, or you can fill out the form on this page to get started.