Liability in a Car Accident: Who Pays?

You've recently been involved in a car accident, now you're left wondering who is responsible for paying accident-related costs such as the repair or replacement of your vehicle, medical expenses, and even lost wages. This is a question of liability, and the insurance adjuster assigned to your case will attempt to answer. We recommend that, before speaking with insurance, you contact our firm. Insurance adjusters are not on the claimants' side, which can result in reduced-value claims.

To determine liability, the insurance adjuster will evaluate the evidence to find out what factors led to the collision and who is at fault. To determine fault, the adjuster should look at all the evidence, but often they only look at the evidence that is readily available to them. This can include:

  • The police/accident report
  • The scene of the accident
  • Any pictures of the scene submitted as evidence
  • An estimate of vehicle damage (usually from an approved auto body shop)
  • Medical bills from accident-related injuries

The insurance company may want to have a conversation with you as well in order to ascertain what happened. We often discourage our clients from doing so, as the insurance company is usually trying to get you to admit fault.

In California, multiple parties can share responsibility for a single car accident. The principle of "shared" or "split" liability as it often called allows for multiple parties to collect damages, but only partial. Usually, if one of the parties involved is more than 50% at fault for the accident, they cannot recover financial damages from insurance.

If insurance determines that one party is 20% at fault for an accident that caused a total $10,000 in damage, that party can recover up to the amount that the other party was at fault – so, 80% or $8,000.

Lessem & Newstat, LLP has the experience to handle contested liability cases for people who have been involved in car accidents. In order to maximize your financial recovery and get what you deserve, call us today at (805) 793-0227 for a free consultation.