November 24, 2009

What Is Comparative Negligence In Auto Insurance?

One of the most important things you’ll need to understand about your auto insurance policy is the terms surrounding your claim payments. It’s critical to know what situations would prompt an insurance pay out on one of your claims, and how your state figures accident fault. Many states now use a method called comparative negligence to find who’s at fault in an accident. So, if your state uses comparative negligence, you should learn about the term before you’re involved in an accident.

When you’re involved in an auto accident, the party who had is said to have more fault in causing the accident is determined to be the negligent party when figuring who will pay for injuries and damages. Because this could result in some terribly unfair judgments, most states now use comparative negligence. In states with contributory negligence, if the injured party is even 1 percent responsible for the accident, they can’t recover any damages. In comparative negligence, an insurance company decides what percentage negligent each party was in the accident, and drivers are entitled to claims according to these figures. For instance, if you were 10 percent at fault for an accident, you could be financially responsible for approximately 90 percent of the damages caused in the accident.

In many states, 51 or 50 percent comparative negligence laws are used. These basically state that if a party’s negligence is over a certain number (50 to 51 percent), they’re not allowed to receive damages. If you get into an accident where you’re at 50 percent fault in a state with 50 percent comparative negligence, neither you or the other driver will be able to recover any damages – which is why many states opt to use the 51% number. A claims adjuster, who will negotiate with you and any attorneys that you’ve hired, figures the percentage of negligence. When percentage of negligence is decided, it’s submitted to the courts and your auto insurance company. Your auto insurance coverage then takes effect to pay any damages that you owe (other than your deductible and up to your limit).

As always, you should remember never to admit fault if you’re involved in an accident, and to follow the instructions on your insurance card. If you admit fault, you’re automatically 100 percent negligent, which will hurt you in court, so even if it seems obvious, never apologize or admit fault. You should read your auto insurance policy to see what type of coverage you have, and research your state laws to see whether you’re driving under contributory or comparative negligence. Knowing how your state’s insurance law works will be extremely vital if you do get into an accident.