Auto insurance companies assign fault in accidents to determine who pays for the damage or injuries caused in the incident. Liability determinations can be tricky, and the laws governing how fault is determined and assigned vary from one state to the next. For example, in some states a driver who is 51% or more at fault for an accident must pay 51% of the damage; in other states, he must pay 100% of the damage due to being the primary contributor to the accident. In addition, insurance liability is not the same as a traffic violation; a driver may or may not receive a traffic citation from a police officer regardless of their liability with the insurance company.

Because liability can be complex to determine, a licensed liability adjuster is assigned to every claim

The adjuster’s job is to review the facts of the loss and determine who is at fault from the information available. He or she will get recorded statements from both drivers, take any witness statements and review the damage reports for both vehicles. The adjuster may also request photographs of the scene, order a police report or do further investigation.

Every accident is different, and in most cases it’s impossible to tell without an investigation who might be at fault for an accident. There are a few types of accidents that are considered clear liability cases. These types of accidents do not require a licensed adjuster to determine liability:

— Accidents involving one driver hitting a parked vehicle, even if the other car was parked illegally, will always be the fault of the person driving.

— Single-car accidents such as roll-overs or any accident where a driver hits fixed property will always be the fault of the driver. This is usually true even if the weather played a role in causing the accident, although certain weather-related accidents can be disputed.

— Rear-end accidents where one driver rolls forward into another driver’s rear end will always be the fault of the person who was in the back. In situations involving multiple vehicles, liability is sometimes divided among all drivers or it may continue to rest on the rear-most vehicle.

In every other type of auto accident involving two or more vehicles, a licensed adjuster must complete an investigation to determine who is at fault for an accident. Once liability has been determined, the adjuster will advise the insured of who is at fault and provide information on what the next steps of the claims process are.

What if Someone Backs Into My Car?

Backing accidents are very common, especially in crowded parking lots. Despite their apparent similarity to rear-end accidents, this type of fender-bender is not a clear-cut liability case. Every backing accident is handled by an adjuster or team of adjusters who will determine who is at fault for any particular accident. This also means that if a person is involved in two backing accidents, they may have different liability for each one. There are certain factors that the insurance adjuster will look at to help decide liability:

— Who had the right-of-way?

If one person is backing out of a space while the other person is driving down the aisle, the loss will be handled differently than if both parties were backing out at the same time from opposite spaces. The person with the right-of-way will often be considered not-at-fault for the accident.

— Was anyone speeding?

If either party was driving too quickly or erratically, they may be more likely to be found at fault for the accident.

— Did anyone try evasive action?

If the driver made an attempt to avoid the accident, he may be found to be less at fault than if he did not.

— Did the driver signal properly?

If the person backing out of their space didn’t have backing lights, they may be found at fault or partially at fault for the accident.

— Was the driver paying attention?

Drivers who are talking on their phones or otherwise not paying attention to their surroundings are more likely to be found at fault than drivers who saw the accident coming and could do nothing to avoid it.

After the liability adjuster completes the investigation of the claim, he or she will inform both parties of the decision. If the insured is at fault for the accident, their insurance is responsible to pay the other party’s damage. If the insured is not at fault, he or she can pursue the other party’s insurance for damage or a deductible reimbursement. The adjuster should also be able to answer any questions that the insured may have regarding the policy and what will happen next with the claim.