Fault and liability are the biggest issues to resolve when referring to personal injury claims. This is essentially deciding who the blame for the incident falls upon and it can become quite contentious.
The party at fault is decided by who’s insurance provider must pay out for the claim.
Why is it important?
It is an important topic to get correct. This is because the party at fault holds the responsibility for covering any financial expenses.
If the other party admits liability, they are responsible for compensating you and anyone else affected by the incident. This could be financial compensation for medical fees, injuries, and losses sustained.
Claims, where you are at fault, will appear on your driving and insurance records. This will result in your premiums increasing over the next few years. This is based on the assumption that you are at a higher risk for future accidents after you have been found liable for one.
This will have a knock-on effect on your no claims discount. When you are found at fault for an accident this is known as a claim - where your insurance company must pay out. This means that you will no longer be able to pay a reduced cost on your insurance and can result in your premiums rising in cost.
If you overhear the other party admitting liability, try to get an audio or video recording of this admission. If this is not possible, take as accurate a note as possible. If you are feeling okay, you could even chat to some eyewitnesses nearby to see what their take is. Ask them if they have heard any admissions of liability and note this down too.
How is fault determined?
A claims handler at your insurance company is tasked with taking your statement of the incident. They will ask for any supporting evidence you have, such as pictures, recordings, or witness accounts.
This claim handler is likely to consult mapping software such as Streetview or Google Maps to build up a better idea of what happened. This will give them an idea of what the environment is like and how the incident is likely to have unfolded.
If the two drivers offer conflicting descriptions of the incident, they will see whose story seems the most realistic and plausible. This is where the notes you took earlier will come in handy. The story with the largest level of detail and consistency is likely to be the more believable option. This is where the notes that you took earlier will come in handy.
It is ideal to have an independent eyewitness to corroborate your side of the story. This must be someone with no connection to either party involved in the accident to ensure impartiality is maintained. For this reason, we suggest keeping contact information of witnesses to call upon later.
What happens in the case of a dispute?
Initially, insurers will make their decisions on who is at fault. This is dependent on what their estimations are as to who would win the case if it went to court. Less than 1% of cases actually make it this far, as insurance companies will always prefer to settle out of court.
If the fault is disputed, a specialist claim investigator is likely to be called into the proceedings. Their job is to conduct more in-depth interviews with eyewitnesses and may even be requested to check the scene of the incident.
Sometimes an engineer will be called in too. This is likely to be to generate an approximate estimate for physical repairs to the vehicle. They are sometimes asked to recreate the accident to determine who is more likely at fault.
If your insurance has a black box, or telematic, policy then this can also help determine who the fault lies with. They will contain stored GPS data from the time of the accident. This will give information such as how fast the car was moving and its exact location. In a similar way, dashcams can also provide concrete evidence of who the fault lies with.
Why do cases get settled outside of court?
Many insurance companies will opt to settle out of court as it is much cheaper and easier. This means that in some cases, the insurance provider may accept fault on your behalf, even if you do not agree that is correct.
This is due to the high cost of legal fees that come with a court case. It is common for these fees to be much more expensive than the worth of the claim.
If neither party is willing to accept blame for the accident but also does not want to go to court, costs tend to be settled on a 50/50 basis. This means that costs are split equally between both parties. This is often cheaper than going down the court route but means that you are likely to have an at-fault claim on your insurance record.
Regardless of how adamant you are that the accident wasn't your fault, many insurance companies are authorized to settle claims without your permission. This is due to the terms and conditions of most insurance policies.
If you staunchly disagree, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service to investigate the insurer’s decision.
How can you make your claim stronger?
Immediately after an accident, you should record as much information as possible. We suggest taking photos of damage sustained to your vehicle and the other party’s.
You are well within your rights to request a second opinion on your claim if you do not feel your insurer is doing a satisfactory job. You can even hire an engineer to look over your vehicle and your insurance broker may be willing to advocate for you.
Sometimes, if you are really convinced you have been found at fault incorrectly, pestering the insurance provider can work in your favor. There are many stories of cases being reviewed following consumer complaints and the ruling being overturned as a result.