4 Car Accident Liability Questions

Have you been hurt in an accident and don’t know who is liable? Check out these 4 car accident liability questions for guidance, then call us.

1. Who Repairs Your Vehicle After an Accident?

4 Car Accident Liability QuestionsThis is a question that seems to be more straightforward than it truly is. In a clear liability accident, if our client were sitting at a red light and were hit from behind, the property damage would be paid for by the owner of the vehicle that struck from behind. Issues often arise in cases involving incidents such as T-bone accident, a red light accident, or a stop sign accident. In those cases—even though it may seem that the car running through the red light is completely at fault—insurance companies claim, depending on where the impact is to the various vehicles, that the other vehicles proceeding through the intersection bear some of the fault. The companies will try to save as much money as possible and refuse to pay the entire amount. We generally do not want to deal with companies that attempt to evade full payment, and we include this in our litigation. Some people involved in accidents need as much compensation as possible in order to replace their vehicle, pay off loans, and attend to other financial matters, so the lack of a full payout becomes a significant problem.

The other way to have property damage paid is through first-party coverage. In the event that an insurance policy has collision coverage, regardless of fault, the subscriber can demand that her or his insurance company pays 100% of the bills, minus the deductible. Once the bill is paid, there is a process created in New York State called the intercompany arbitration process. To illustrate, if an accident survivor’s insurance company pays $10,000 for her or his property damage, but the company only pays $9,500 because of a $500 deductible, the company has an expedited way pursue the other vehicle’s insurance company in order to recoup the $10,000. The company will recoup the subscriber’s deductible as well.

2. Who Is Liable In A Self-Driving Car Crash?

The issue regarding liability for self-driving vehicles is a hot topic in New York law and all around the country right now. New York hasn’t really seen the influx of self-driving vehicles, or test sites, as some of the other cities and states in the county right now, but certainly, they’re coming. Recently, I traveled to Hong Kong for an electronics show where self-driving vehicles were first placed into exhibition. The issues that are arising right now is, who will be responsible? Obviously, the owner of the vehicle will be held responsible.

Now the issues are whether or not the manufacturers and even component part manufacturers are going to be responsible. Although it hasn’t been litigated in New York state, we are monitoring this closely and will be attending more conferences regarding self-driving vehicles. What I would say is that it’s fairly clear that the component part manufacturers of self-driving vehicles will all be held responsible in the event that there is a failure. Failures can be proven in a number of ways. There are ways that we can determine why the intelligence of the self-driving vehicle failed, and then be able to prove our case against the appropriate parties.

3. Who is at Fault in an Accident?

Every day, we talk to clients who have been involved in varied types of accidents, and they often ask how fault is determined. That determination really happens in a couple of distinct stages. Insurance companies attribute and determine the level of fault between themselves. If they can’t agree, they go through an intercompany arbitration process to determine what portion of each element of the case they will take – such as property damage that occurred at an intersection when two people claim they had the red light, or the green light, or a stop sign. That’s one step.

We’re not bound by their determination because they don’t usually go to the lengths we do when conducting an investigation. We take photos, interview witnesses, inspect the points of impact on the vehicles, and review the photos and the repair estimates for each vehicle. When an insurance company does that, it is really a pretty cursory review – a determination made without what we would consider a full investigation. A number of factors must be taken into consideration when apportioning fault.

The insurance companies do that from their perspective, but we, as your attorneys, attempt to do that for you. We look to the other driver and any others involved in an incident to determine what they should have done. For example, even if no vehicle and traffic law was violated, did they violate a known safety rule? Did they fail to look both ways before pulling out of a parking lot, for example? No vehicle and traffic law says that specifically, but drivers are not allowed to merge into traffic or cross over lanes without first making sure of clear access. In order to determine whether it’s clear, one must look both ways.

We evaluate situations, and actions, and other things when the insurance company doesn’t go much deeper than just checking events against traditional vehicle and traffic laws that may be considered the basic go-to guidelines. Many factors can contribute to a determination of who was at fault and – if the fault is shared – how much is attributable to each party.

4. Whose Negligence Caused My Injury?

In some cases, the determination of who is at fault is easy, particularly in two-vehicle accidents, in cases in which someone may have run a red light, and in similar situations. The issue of who is at fault for an accident becomes more difficult in cases where there are multi-vehicle accidents. In our system, there can be multiple at-fault parties for an accident; anyone involved in an accident can be substantially at fault even if he or she barely contributed to the accident.

Premise liability cases and dog bite cases are dependent upon the facts. In a premise liability case, we would need to show either that the owner knew or should have known that there was a dangerous condition on the premises, regardless of whether the owner created such a condition. In a dog bite case, we would need to show that the dog had a vicious propensity. From there, we could show negligence and even strict liability.


Our Buffalo Car Accident Lawyers at Andrews, Bernstein, Maranto & Nicotra, PLLC fight for the rights of persons who are injured or disabled. We approach each case on an individual basis and personally assist each client with their unique needs. We are involved in every step of the legal process, and ensure that each case receives the time and effort necessary for success. 

After reading our 4 car accident liability questions and you have more questions about who is liable in a car crash, contact us today. Let our experience work for you.

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