Every state has its own state laws regarding car accidents, and each state handles them slightly differently. Probably the biggest difference is between “at fault states” and “no fault states.” This determines how liability is handled in a car accident and how insurance policies work:
- In at fault states, the driver who caused the accident is liable for the cost of the accident, and their insurance will pay for it—for everyone involved.
- In no fault states, each driver’s insurance pays for their own costs, including the costs to passengers in their car. It doesn’t matter who caused the accident.
Georgia, like most states in the US, is an at-fault state for car accidents. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing. It’s good because at-fault states tend to have lower car insurance costs and fewer insurance scams. It also helps incentivize drivers to drive safely. But car insurance claims can be complex in Georgia because you have to prove exactly what happened.
What counts as being “at fault”?
Many people confuse “fault” in a legal sense with blame. But the two aren’t always the same. Often, neither driver did anything illegal and no one meant to harm anyone—in other words, there is no blame. But someone is still responsible for the accident, even if it was through carelessness, and that person has a duty to pay for the other person’s costs. That is what we mean by “fault.”
In some cases it’s obvious who’s at fault. If someone runs a red light and causes an accident, for example, there is no arguing that they are liable for the costs.
In other cases it’s not so obvious. Under the law, someone can be at fault simply through negligence—meaning they could have prevented the accident if they were more careful. Imagine someone making a turn at a red light, for example. They use their signal and wait for a break in traffic, but they don’t look to their right and they end up hitting a parked car as they turn. Technically the person did not break any laws, but they were negligent or careless. They are at fault for the accident.
Who determines fault in an at-fault state?
In most cases the insurance companies will attempt to work out who is at fault. Insurance companies have developed complex rules to adjudicate responsibility in a car accident. They may take into account the police report or other factors, but they can make their own final decision—they do not have to follow the police’s opinion.
You won’t always agree with the insurance company’s decision. That’s why it’s so important to have a good car accident lawyer on your side for any claim. Your lawyer can help gather evidence that proves you are not at fault, and negotiate with the insurance company.
Have you been involved in an accident? John Foy & Associates offers a free consultation with some of the most experienced and respected personal injury lawyers in Georgia. Fill out the form to your right or call us at 404-400-4000 to get your FREE consultation today.