In many car accidents, it's pretty clear who's at fault, so the at-fault driver's insurance company accepts liability and begins paying the other party's medical bills and/or damages. But sometimes, accidents happen and for various reasons, it's impossible to determine who's at fault. This article gives you a real-life example of a customer where fault of an accident could not be determined and how Ohio auto insurance worked through the process. In the state of Ohio, this example is pretty typical of the process. Let me set the scene:
Our customer was backing out of a parking space in the parking lot of a restaurant. She was nearly out of the space getting ready to straighten the wheel, when out of the corner of her eye she noticed a vehicle backing down the lane. The vehicle did not stop and collided with our customer's vehicle.
The two drivers exchanged contact and insurance information.
Because the incident took place on private property, no police were called. Law enforcement usually shies away from taking accident reports that occur on private property, and many have a policy in place where they simply won't do it. You can read additional information about car accidents on private property in a related article.
After the information was exchanged, witnesses were asked to give a statement, but no one came forward. Both parties left and filed claims with their respective insurance companies.
How insurance responded
Definition time so the rest of this article makes better sense: The majority of insurance liability claims are paid based on the concept of negligence. “Negligence” is defined as the failure to exercise the degree of care required of a reasonable and prudent person in any given circumstance resulting in injury or damage to another. As a general rule- negligent = at fault (and thus legally liable) .Not negligent = not at fault (and not legally liable).
Back to the accident: Each person was contacted by their respective insurance companies to give a statement. They were also asked by the other insurance company to give a statement (this is all standard procedure for any accident). Each person said the other was at fault. In the event of conflicting stories, and no evidence to prove otherwise, each insurance company denied liability.
The final outcome of this claim is that each insured had to seek coverage from her own company to pay any medical expenses or damage to her vehicle. A note: collision is the coverage that would repair or replace the damaged vehicle, subject to the deductible. Medical payments coverage can be used to help pay medical bills.
Does this stink? Of course it does. But an insurance company is only obligated to pay when their insured is negligent (i.e. legally liable) for bodily injury or property damage to someone else or something else. Not negligent = not at fault = no payment. So your only solution is to use your own policy to fix your car and/or pay your medical bills. So what if you don't have collision coverage? Then you'd be stuck paying for repairing your car out of pocket. And no medical payments? Then your health insurance would take over. In the absence of health insurance, you'd pay out of pocket.
Get our handy checklist- What You Should Do If You Have an Auto Accident.....
How Ohio's law of comparative negligence applies to this situation as well
In Ohio, we have a comparative negligence law. Comparative negligence allows for a person to recover damages as reduced by the person’s own percentage of negligence. In Ohio, if a party is more than 50 percent at fault, recovery is not allowed. In this example, since fault could not be determined, each person was deemed to be equally at fault. With two parties that equals 50% responsible- another reason that each person's insurance takes care of that person only.
The moral of the story
If you're involved in an auto accident where there is no clear indicator of who's at fault, then chances are good that your own car insurance will have to come to the rescue. So it's always a great idea to make sure your policy has adequate limits and deductibles you're comfortable with in case you have to use it. These type of accidents happen more often than you may think.
Claims time is the NOT the time to find out you have a below average policy and agent. Call us or request your quote today!