As you know, Maryland is a fault state, which means the driver at fault and his insurance company would typically compensate the other driver for the incurred damages. But who determines this “fault?” And how is it calculated? These are all good questions that our Baltimore auto accident lawyers are happy to help you with.
Fault vs. Negligence
Before we can talk about how fault is determined, we should first define what a “fault” is. In a legal context, fault typically implies the degree of negligence a driver committed, which resulted in an accident. Each state has its own definition of negligence. In Maryland, negligence is defined as “conduct which falls below the standard established by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm.” Maryland recognizes what is called “contributory negligence” that takes into account how each driver contributed to the accident rather than identifying a single party at fault. If a driver is found to have contributed to his or her own injuries to any extent, they are typically ineligible to recover any damages, with a few exceptions.
Who Determines Negligence
Because there are numerous parties and authorities involved in a typical auto accident, each of these parties may have their own guidelines for determining fault or negligence. They typically come to the same conclusion, as they rely on each others’ reports, but that’s not always the case.
How Police Determine Fault
The police are not interested in negligence necessarily, but rather in determining which traffic laws were violated and who should face consequences. The police officer on the scene will question witnesses, take notes, sketch a diagram and put together an accident report based on that information. If the officer feels like they have enough information, they may include their personal judgment as to who they think was at fault. Later in the police department the report will get reviewed and the adequate fines and citations will be issued. A citation may be used by other parties as evidence of the driver’s negligence.
How Insurance Companies Determine Negligence
Insurance companies assign an adjuster to your case once you file a claim. One adjuster from each company is typically involved. The adjuster then investigates the case similar to the police officer. However, since they weren’t present at the scene, they rely on police reports, witness testimonials, medical reports, as well as their personal assessment of the damage to your vehicle and your health. Based on this information, the adjuster then determines the extent of damages and the degree of negligence of each driver based on the state’s definition of negligence. This will translate in the amount of compensation you may be eligible for.
How Courts Determine Negligence
Filing a law suit is typically the final attempt to receive a compensation if your claim was denied by the insurance company or if the coverage was insufficient. When you take the other driver to court, the judge will look at all the evidence collectively, as well as listen to testimonials and hear arguments from your Maryland personal injury attorney. The court may or may not come to the same conclusion as your insurance company, especially if you have a good lawyer who can build solid arguments.
Do you have other questions or want to discuss the best strategy to receive auto accident compensation you deserve? Contact DRA e-Law today to speak with one of our experienced lawyers.