New data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that car accidents are increasing at an alarming rate. In the first six months of 2021, an estimated 20,160 people died as a result of a car accident. That’s the highest number since 2006. The number of non-fatality accidents, particularly those that involved speeding and traveling without a seatbelt, are also higher than pre-COVID time periods. Distracted at fault drivers and those under the influence also contributed to the dangers of automobile travel in the past year.
Of course, not all car accidents result in death. But virtually every accident results in some kind of loss, such as:
- Damage to at least one vehicle
- Increased insurance rates
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Other expenses that you wouldn’t otherwise exist without your car accident
After a traumatic event, there are also damages that are difficult to monetize (like anxiety and depression) and other mental health repercussions.
Who Gets a Settlement When There’s an Accident?
Typically, when there’s a car accident, it puts a set of events into motion:
- Someone calls the police and other emergency personnel
- Those first responders file reports
- If needed, injured parties undergo medical examinations
- Impacted drivers and passengers notify the appropriate insurance companies
Expenses add up quickly: Tow fees, repair bills, and medical expenses are often just the very tip of the iceberg.
The police examining the accident scene might make a determination about which driver was at fault. Or, assuming both parties have insurance, it’s likely both insurers (yours and the other driver’s) will review any police and medical reports to determine who is at fault.
What happens if the insurance companies say you are at fault, but you also have injuries? Or the insurance company says your car’s totaled? Can you win a settlement that covers part or all of your expenses, even if the police determine you’re at fault for the accident?
Can an At Fault Injured Driver Win a Settlement?
The shortest, quickest answer to that question is this: No. No, you cannot win a settlement if you’re the person at fault for your car accident.
But does that mean you cannot file a claim for damages? Does it mean you have no recourse to recover any costs related to the accident?
Why Can’t I Win a Settlement if I’m At Fault?
If the police or insurance companies determine that you are at fault for the accident, you likely have no one to sue. That’s because the at fault driver is the party you name as the defendant in your claim. However, if that person is you, then you cannot sue yourself for damages.
Is There a Way to Win Damages If I’m At Fault in an Accident?
Does this mean if you’re at fault for your accident, you have no recourse to recover your damages?
The answer to this question depends on a variety of factors, including:
- The state in which you reside
- Where your accident occurred
- If the police found you totally or only partly at fault for the accident
If you live in one of the twelve no-fault insurance states (or Puerto Rico) and carry uninsured motorist and PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance, that might cover part of your damages. Living in a no-fault state doesn’t mean the insurance company or police won’t find you at fault. However, it does mean that your insurance company will handle the circumstances differently than an insurance company in an at fault state.
If you live in an at fault state, the driver that caused the accident is financially responsible for any other party’s damages.
There also might be a chance that you could win damages if the police and/or insurance companies find that both drivers were at fault in an accident. This is complicated and varies from accident to accident.
Should I Talk to an Attorney?
If you think there’s a chance you should win damages even though you’re at fault for your accident, there are important things you should do.
First, if you have injuries, you should seek immediate medical attention. Ensure that you clearly and thoroughly document everything. You’ll need supporting evidence that shows the gravity and seriousness of your injuries for a successful claim. In addition, you need to clearly show how those injuries caused you economic harm. You might have to pay those expenses out of pocket.
You should also consult an attorney. But be prepared to hear news you don’t want to hear. A credible auto attorney will give you an honest assessment of your case’s potential. If it has been determined that you are at fault in an accident, it will be harder to convince a judge or jury that you should be awarded damages.
Ready to see if you may qualify? Complete your free online auto accident case evaluation now!
Lisa Allen is a writer and editor who lives in suburban Kansas City. She holds MFAs in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, both from the Solstice Low-Residency Program in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. Prior to becoming a writer, Lisa worked as a paralegal, where she specialized in real estate in and around Chicago.