I was sideswiped in an auto accident. It wasn’t my fault but the other persons’ insurance company refuses to fix my car. What are my rights?
Author: Attorney Jason Macri
According to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, there are over 500 auto accidents in the State of Florida every single day. That is a staggering figure. Many of these accidents are clearly the fault of one of the driver’s involved. For example, driver A is stopped at a red light. Driver B is approaching the red light but not paying attention to the road. Driver B gets distracted and before you know it, driver B’s front bumper is planted firmly into driver A’s trunk. It is only obvious in this example that driver B is at fault for the accident. Driver B’s insurance company should pay for driver A’s property damage as quickly as possible. If driver A’s damage appears to cost more money than the fair market value of driver A’s vehicle, driver B’s insurance company should pay driver A the value of the vehicle in exchange for the damaged vehicle.
Unfortunately, a great deal of auto accidents are not so clearly the fault of solely one driver involved. A sideswiping accident is a perfect example of a difficult liability case. Let’s say that Driver A is Northbound on I-95 in one of the middle lanes. Driver B is also Northbound on I-95 in the lane directly to the right of Driver A. Driver B starts adjusting the car’s radio, takes his/her eyes off the road for about 5 seconds and looks back up at the road to learn that a large piece of debris is about 50 feet ahead, directly in the path of Driver B’s car. Driver B quickly jerks the wheel to the left in an effort to avoid the debris. In doing so, Driver B strikes the right side of Driver A’s car. In this scenario, Driver B is clearly at fault. Unfortunately the insurance companies may not see it the same way.
Because the damage to both vehicles is along the side of each vehicle, it is going to make it difficult for the insurance company’s adjusters to determine who was at fault. Yes, it is true that they can simply speak with Driver A to find out what happened and determine who was at fault. The problem is that Driver B may not admit to swerving and may deny causing the accident. Driver B may even claim that Driver A swerved into his/her lane and caused the accident. The issue is that is becomes nearly impossible to determine who was at fault based on the property damage alone. Unless there is an admission of fault by Driver B or witnesses that can attest to Driver B’s negligence, it may be very difficult to get Driver B’s insurance company to agree to pay for Driver A’s damaged vehicle.
Driver A can certainly present the property damage claim to his/her own insurance company but there will probably be a deductible. Most deductibles are in the $1,000 range. This means that Driver A will be paying at least $1,000.00 to rectify property damage for an accident that was not even their fault. Driver A’s insurance company may offer to try and recoup the deductible from Driver B’s insurance company but the truth is that this is typically a lengthy process with no guaranteed outcome. Most people would be very upset by the prospect of paying $1,000 to fix a vehicle that was damaged by someone else.
Fortunately for Driver A, there are injury lawyers out there who are willing to fight for the rights of those injured in auto accidents even if liability is not so clear. A lawyer may want to hire an accident reconstructionist or another type of expert in an effort to prove liability. Maybe after taking the deposition of Driver B it may become more readily apparent that the accident was Driver B’s fault. Lastly, it may be possible to uncover witnesses who will help prove that the accident was Driver B’s fault. If a person has been involved in an auto accident of any type, it is extremely important to call a lawyer quickly. An experienced accident lawyer will ensure that your rights are protected and that the insurance companies don’t give you the run around.