Each state has its own system for determining fault in a car crash. Ohio uses a somewhat complex system called “comparative fault.” But what is comparative fault law and how does it work? Let’s take a closer look and find out; it may just save you a lot of stress after a serious crash.
Ohio’s Comparative Fault Explained
After an Ohio car crash, the insurance companies assign each party involved a percentage of the fault, adding up to a total of 100%. Whoever has more than 50% of the fault is considered the responsible party or “at fault” and is unable to claim damages from the crash, even if they were seriously injured.
Other parties involved aren’t exactly off the hook either. Even if you weren’t considered responsible for the crash, the insurance company will reduce your settlement in proportion to your assigned fault. In other words, if you were awarded a $100,000 settlement, but the insurance company says you were 25% responsible, you’d only receive $75,000.
So what’s the problem here? Isn’t comparative fault one of the fairest ways to determine compensation for a serious crash? Not quite. The problem is that the insurance company’s assessment of the crash is often arbitrary.
The insurance adjusters were not at the scene of the crash, they don’t know all the facts. They’re relying on police reports, testimony, and any other evidence you can muster to determine whether you’re 25% responsible or 34% responsible. Worst of all, a slip of the tongue or a poorly-worded statement can give the insurance company a reason to shift your assigned fault.
A few small percentage points of fault saves the insurance company money, but it deprives you of the compensation you’re entitled to. Therefore, it’s important to know what you can do to minimize your assigned fault in a car crash.
Protecting Yourself From Redistributing Fault
Get a Police Report
A police report is one of the best pieces of evidence you can have after a car crash. It is an impartial, publically-available report from a government official that verifies a crash occurred and who was involved. Often, a police report will include a statement or a description of the events, which can serve as a solid foundation for the injured to build their case.
Take Pictures of the Scene (or Get a Dashcam)
Just as important as having a police report is having visual evidence to make your case. After a crash, make sure you get pictures of all four sides of both vehicles, as well as pictures of the surrounding area and where the crash occurred. You may also want to invest in a dashcam as that can provide a much clearer picture of who was at fault for the crash and will typically be more significant than any evidence gathered after the wreck.
Stay off Social Media
It sounds harsh, but you should abstain from social media from the time of your crash until the case is settled. Tempting as it is to let everyone know you’re okay, posting about your crash on social media gives the insurance company a means of subpoenaing your account and looking at everything you’ve posted, including private messages.
If someone asked about the crash and you said something like, “I didn’t even see them coming,” the insurance company could take that to mean that you weren’t paying attention and, as a result, could significantly increase your assigned fault. But that’s just one reason why you need to be extremely careful about who you talk to after a crash.
Refuse Recorded Statements
When you call the insurance company to report the accident, you may be asked if you’d be comfortable explaining your side of the story. You should refuse this request until you’ve had a chance to speak with your attorney. Expect that anything you say to the insurance adjusters may be twisted and used against you. Something as simple as “I didn’t have time to react” could increase your assigned fault by upwards of 25%.
Remember that you have no obligation to agree to a recorded statement until you’ve had a chance to speak to your attorney. In many cases, you can speak to your attorney about the crash before you report the incident to your insurance company. Once you have an attorney on your side, they can provide you with additional advice that can help you receive the full compensation you are entitled to under the law.If you or someone you love suffered serious injuries in a car crash and have questions about Ohio insurance, we are here for you. If you’d like to schedule a free case consultation with an experienced Columbus car accident lawyer from Ross, Midian & Breitmayer, LLC, please don’t hesitate to call (614) 450-2223 or send us an email.