A car accident is stressful enough, but what if it’s your fault? You might wonder what happens next, including what you should do. The details depend on where you live, your car insurance coverage, and your degree of fault in the accident.
What Happens if the Car Accident Was Your Fault?
How fault is handled after a car accident depends on where you live. There are “fault” and “no-fault” states:
- In fault states, the person at-fault for an accident is liable for the damages of anyone injured in the accident.
- In no-fault states, each person’s car insurance typically covers their damages.
Most states are at-fault states, including Georgia, and that’s what we will focus on in this article. If you were at fault in a car accident and you live in a fault state, you (or, usually, your car insurance) is responsible for the other drivers’ damages. The other driver(s) will be entitled to file a claim with your insurance company.
What Damages Are Covered if You Cause a Car Accident?
In personal injury cases, “damages” are any losses resulting from an accident where someone is negligent. These damages can include:
- Medical bills and other treatment costs
- Prescription medications
- Vehicle damage
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering damages
In most cases, you will not have to pay for these damages out of your own pocket—unless they exceed your auto insurance policy limits. If the injured driver takes you to court for more money than your policy will pay, you may be responsible for the additional costs. This can happen in serious car accidents, such as those resulting in serious injuries or death. It’s best to get a car accident lawyer to help in this situation.
In most cases, your insurance company will agree to a settlement with the injured driver and you won’t need to go to court.
What About Damages to Your Own Vehicle?
Your car insurance policy is responsible for the other driver’s damages if you are at-fault. But you might wonder about your own damages.
If you purchased collision coverage as part of your policy, it should cover your vehicle damage from the accident. However, you will still need to pay your deductible, which is a certain amount of money you must pay before the policy starts covering your damages.
For example, if you have $2,000 worth of car damage from the accident and your deductible is $500, you would pay $500 and your insurance should cover the rest.
What Should You Do After a Car Accident You Caused?
Even if you were fully at fault for a car accident, there are things you should do to protect your rights.
Stop and Stay Safe
Stop and make sure you are out of the way of traffic. Check for injuries in your vehicle and any other cars, and call 911 if anyone is seriously injured or killed.
Report the Car Accident
Call the police to report the accident. Do not leave the scene until police arrive. If you do, you can get charged with a hit and run.
Exchange names, insurance information, and phone numbers with the other driver(s). You might also write down their license plate number and note the make and model of their vehicle.
Document the Scene
Take pictures of the accident scene, including the location of all vehicles, any injuries you suffer, and all vehicle damage. Picture evidence will prevent anyone from changing the story later.
Tell Your Insurance Company
Call your insurer to let them know that the accident happened. Most policies require that you report an accident as soon as you can. Otherwise, you could miss out on coverage.
Police might also give you a ticket for causing the car accident. It might be tempting to avoid this, but failing to report the accident is far more serious.
What Happens If You Are Partially at Fault in a Car Accident?
Sometimes, there is more than one at-fault driver in an accident. This is common when more than two vehicles are involved. The laws on partial fault vary per state.
In Georgia, according to GA Code § 51-12-33, you are only responsible for the percentage of fault you hold in the accident—as long as you are less than 50% at fault. Here’s how it works:
- Your percentage of fault is decided and your damages are calculated.
- Then, the damages you would otherwise be awarded are reduced by your percentage of fault. This allows you the chance to recover for some of your damages if you were not fully at fault in the accident.
- If you are 50% or more at fault for a car accident in Georgia, you will not be entitled to recover any damages.
A car accident lawyer can help determine the full extent of your damages and make sure your rights are protected throughout the process. You should not have to pay for more than your degree of fault in an accident.
Will My Car Insurance Rates Be Affected By the Accident?
If you were 50% or more at fault for the car accident, your car insurance rates will likely increase upon renewal. To know the details for sure, contact your insurance company.
Some policies will offer “accident forgiveness” if you go long enough without causing another accident. However, accident forgiveness is something you would need to purchase ahead of time for it to benefit you after a current accident.
Get Help After Your Car Accident
Whether you are at fault or not, car accidents are stressful for everyone involved. Remember to breathe and focus on the positives. In the best-case scenario, all parties will leave with only minor damages and can move on from the incident. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s important that the at-fault party is held responsible.
If you need assistance with a car accident claim, John Foy & Associates can help. We have been representing car accident victims and helping them get the recovery they deserve for over 20 years. We work only for injury victims—never for insurance companies. For questions about your case and to schedule a FREE consultation, call us today at (404) 400-4000 or contact us here.