Indiana Laws: Determining Fault in Car Accidents
Understand your rights when you’re hurt in a crash
When a car accident happens in Indiana, the at-fault party – usually, but not always, one of the drivers involved – is responsible for paying for the injuries sustained. This is why, even in scenarios where it seems like fault is obvious, it can be hotly contested. The insurance companies have every incentive to interpret the facts in a way that limits their costs – and thus, the injured person’s compensation.
That’s one of the reasons you need to know your rights. It’s also why you need experienced legal advice. An attorney can investigate your accident and determine what happened – and who was responsible.
Who is at fault for a car accident in Indiana?
Broadly speaking, Indiana law says the driver whose negligence caused the accident is at fault. That means if someone was speeding, texting, drunk, or simply not paying attention, and their careless behavior caused the crash, then they are at fault. There are no hard and fast rules determining who is at fault for an intersection accident, T-bone crash, left turn or right turn accident, or any other crash. It all depends on the circumstances.
There are certain scenarios where one driver is presumed to be at fault. For instance, in a rear-end accident, the driver of the rear vehicle is presumed to be at fault. Likewise, a driver who hits a parked car is presumed to be at fault. But even in those scenarios, that presumption can be overcome. For example, perhaps the vehicle that was rear-ended had lights that weren’t working. Maybe the car was illegally parked and could not be seen until it was too late to avoid a collision.
It’s also important to note that you only need to prove that the other driver caused the accident, not why they caused the accident. For instance, in a drunk driving accident, it’s not strictly necessary to prove that the at-fault driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Instead, it’s sufficient to prove that they were careless and caused the crash. This is one of the reasons why it’s possible to win your civil case against a drunk driver even if the drunk driver is acquitted in criminal court.
Depending on the situation, determining fault can be tricky. For example, in a T-bone or other intersection accident, witnesses may disagree on what color the light was or which vehicle had the right of way. The same is true of accidents while backing out of a parking space, especially in a crowded parking lot where witnesses may have had an obstructed view. Sorting out what happened and who was responsible requires a detailed investigation.
What if multiple parties are at fault for the accident?
There are some scenarios where more than one party can be responsible for a car accident in Indiana. This is most common in chain reactions and other multi-vehicle accidents with three or more cars. Even in a two-vehicle accident, however, other parties can be responsible in some circumstances, such as the manufacturer of a defective vehicle or the company responsible for maintaining the road surface. And even if only two vehicles are involved, the drivers of those vehicles might each be partially to blame.
In situations like this, Indiana uses the principle of modified comparative negligence with the 51% fault rule. That means if you are partially at fault, you can still recover if your percentage of fault is less than 51%. For instance, if you are 30% at fault, you can still recover, but your recovery would be reduced by 30%. However, if you are found 60% at fault, you cannot recover compensation at all.
What to do after an accident that is not your fault
First, remember that the determination of fault isn’t always clear-cut. So, even if you don’t think the accident will be blamed on you, you need to be careful. Call the police, wait for them to arrive, and get the investigating officer’s name and badge number to ensure you can later get a copy of the official accident report. Take pictures of the scene. Get names and contact information for any witnesses. Get medical attention, and then get legal advice.
It’s also important not to discuss fault for the accident with anyone other than your lawyer. To the extent you have to talk to anyone about the accident – the investigating officer at the scene, for instance, and the initial call to your insurance company – stick to the facts of what happened. Don’t talk about fault, and don’t apologize. Even saying “I’m sorry” could be construed as an admission of fault.
Should I get a lawyer for an accident that was not my fault?
If you were injured, the answer is absolutely “yes.” First, remember that fault for the accident may be disputed, even if you think it was obvious. Your attorney can investigate, find the evidence that proves the other driver or another party was at fault, and hold them accountable for the damages you suffered.
Second, remember that fault for the accident is only one piece of your case. Even if an insurance company doesn’t dispute liability for the accident, they may downplay the severity of your injuries to reduce the amount of compensation they have to pay you. That’s why you need a lawyer to advocate for the full compensation you deserve while you focus on getting better.
Remember, you only have a limited amount of time to take legal action after a car crash in Indiana, and it’s in your interest to act quickly. Don’t let an insurance company lowball your compensation or try to blame the accident on you. Instead, reach out to Vaughan & Vaughan for a free, confidential consultation with a car accident lawyer.