When Is An Accident Just an Accident?
Injury & Accident Attorney Serving Nearby Areas of Columbus & Fort Benning, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama
This content has been reviewed by Gary O. Bruce
As personal injury lawyers, we hear and even use the word “accident” a lot, but we don’t particularly like the term. By calling car wrecks, or slips and falls, or injuries from defective products “accidents,” the implication is that it happened for no reason and no one is to blame, or the person who caused it didn’t mean to and thus shouldn’t be blamed. But the truth is, that’s rarely the case and it’s not how the law works.
You weren’t injured in a car crash for no reason; you were injured because someone else was distracted, speeding, or driving under the influence.
You didn’t fall for no reason; you fell because a floor was mopped and no wet floor sign was put up, or because a badly maintained handrail broke.
And you certainly didn’t suffer injuries from a defective product for no reason; you were injured because the product was defectively built or designed.
If you are injured through no fault of your own, then someone else is almost always at fault, even if they didn’t intend or want to hurt anyone. But just because they didn’t mean to hurt you doesn’t mean they aren’t legally responsible. They are! Everyone has a legal duty of care, which means they must take all reasonable precautions to avoid harming other people through their actions.
But can it ever happen that no one is at fault?
Auto Accidents Where No Ticket Is Issued
After a collision, if someone gets a ticket, that person is usually the person found at fault.
When you’re in a collision where the responding police officer doesn’t write either driver a ticket, it doesn’t mean no one is at fault. It just means that the police officer wasn’t able to determine who was at fault, either because they didn’t witness the crash or there wasn’t enough evidence at the scene. In fact, it’s rare for tickets to be issued after car crashes in Alabama for exactly this reason.
However, Alabama and Georgia are both “fault” states for auto accident claims. That means that whoever caused the wreck is responsible for the other driver’s damages, which means the insurance companies of both drivers are going to be very invested in determining who was at fault (so they can prove it was the other guy and get out of paying themselves). This is in contrast to “no fault” states, where it doesn’t matter who was at fault, because both drivers get compensation for their injuries from their own insurance.
However, fault can also be shared, and if you are found partially at fault, your compensation could be reduced or denied altogether. In Georgia, you have to be less at fault than the other driver (less than 50%) to get compensation. In Alabama, you can’t be at fault at all, even 1%, or you will be denied compensation.
That’s why you should always talk to a lawyer after a wreck where fault isn’t crystal clear. An experienced lawyer can help reduce the percentage of fault you are assigned, if any.
Single Vehicle Accidents
When you are in a single vehicle wreck (meaning you didn’t hit another car and weren’t hit by another car), then the insurance company is almost always going to assume you were at fault for your own crash.
For example, a driver could leave the road and crash because they were distracted, driving while drowsy, or driving too fast for road or weather conditions.
Contrary to what you might believe, the best way to prove you were not at fault for a single car wreck is not by trying to prove no one was at fault, but by proving that someone else was. Examples of when someone else might be liable for your crash include:
- Swerving to avoid debris in the road (the person who dropped the debris is potentially liable)
- Swerving to avoid another erratic driver (the other driver is potentially liable)
- Crashing due to a malfunction of the vehicle (the manufacturer is potentially liable)
Acts of God
Generally, the only time no one is considered at fault for an accident is when it’s an “act of God.” This refers to any unexpected events that can’t be controlled or protected against. However, don’t go looking for “Act of God” coverage in your insurance policy, as this isn’t an official term. Generally, any damage of this kind will be covered by your comprehensive auto coverage after a crash or injury.
- Collisions with animals
- Falling objects
However, there are some situations where someone could still be considered at fault. For example, if you were injured as a passenger after the person who was driving hit a deer. If the road was marked by a “deer crossing” sign, then the driver could be considered negligent and at fault if they didn’t slow down or look for deer, since they knew that the hazard existed and didn’t do enough to avoid it.
Do You Need Help Proving You Were Not At Fault After a Crash?
At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, we have plenty of experience determining who was at fault for wrecks, and helping victims of crashes get the full compensation they deserve for their injuries, property damage, and pain and suffering.
If you’ve been in a wreck that wasn’t your fault, contact our firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation.