Question

What to do if fault can't be determined in a car accident?

Should we report a minor accident to our insurance company? My wife was backing out of a parking spot and a car hit her back bumper. While the bumper damage looks minor, it is an Audi A6. The other vehicle has damage to the driver side quarter panel near the tire (I was not there so not sure the extent). The other driver called the police and a report was taken. The drivers did not exchange insurance info. I would say that both drivers feel the other is to blame. My wife had a significant claim approx 3 months ago.

Mar 19, 2018 Randolph, New Jersey

Answer
Ava Lynch

Mar 19, 2018

Fault can only be determined by the insurance company. So, in this situation, the only way for the damage to be repaired would be to contact both insurance companies and handle it through their claims department. They might determine that both drivers are equally at at-fault. However, if you're worried about another claim on your insurance report, this might not be the best idea, as this repair would most likely be considered an at-fault accident or at least partial. If you can afford it, your best option might be to get a quote for the out of pocket repair cost and handle it without your insurance company. If you're held partially liable, let's say 50/50 with the other party, you can expect your premium rate to increase, but not as much as it would if you were found to be 100% at-fault. Provided you live in an at-fault state and depending on that state's own laws, both parties can collect payment for damages — with the payment being split 50/50 usually after negotiation from the drivers' insurance companies. In the same vein, if you were held 70% liable for an accident, and the other driver 30%, the amount of damages insurers would payout would be split in the same manner. This is called comparative fault. In some states, if you're found to be at least 51% at-fault — in other words, you're found to be mostly responsible for the accident — you would be 100% liable for the damage. So depending on your state's insurance laws, determining fault can become a dicey situation. So if the damage sustained by both cars is minor, I suggest getting an estimate and seeing if you can settle with the other party without making a claim and getting insurance involved. If you cannot work out a deal with the other driver, then it's time to get insurers involved to determine who was at fault. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask. For more information on how fault is determined, see this article.

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