When you’ve been involved in a non-injury car accident case, understanding the nuances of property damage, liability, and comparative fault (also known as comparative negligence or contributory negligence) is crucial to your car accident claim.
In our comprehensive video guide, Car Accident Property Damage: How-to Guide, Andrew Kryder, Chicago car accident attorney and founding partner of The Kryder Law Group, LLC Accident and Injury Lawyers, helps decode these complexities in straightforward language.
This guide prepares you with knowledge to file a claim with insurance companies when the accident damaged your vehicle and there are no personal injuries.
Let’s continue to delve into property damage claims involving your own insurer and that of another at-fault driver.
Comparative Negligence Rules
Andy begins, “One of the reasons why you need to document your claim is to establish liability. Liability is really a fancy legal term for ‘who’s at fault’.”
You want the documentation that you are gathering to support “the conclusion that the other person 100% caused the accident.”
Proving Who Is at Fault for the Accident
In Illinois there are degrees of fault, Andy continues. “We call it ‘comparative fault‘. It’s a concept that two people could hold some level of responsibility for an accident.”
“Think of it as one accident [with] 100% fault. One person could have 20% [of the fault], while the other person [bears] 80% of the fault.”
How Comparative Fault Impacts Your Insurance Claim
“Here’s how this impacts your recovery on a property damaged claim.”
Andy lays out an example, “Pretend that your vehicle is worth $10,000 . . . If the documentation shows that you’re 20% responsible for the accident, [the other driver’s insurer is] going to reduce the amount that you’re entitled to by the same percentage [of the accident that you’ve been found accountable for.]”
“Here in our example, if the car is worth $10,000 and you’re found to be 20% at fault, they’re going to reduce the $10,000 by 20%; you’re only going to get $8,000 of the $10,000 value of your car.”
“The point is,” he reminds us, “that documenting your claim and establishing 100% liability on the other person is so critical because it can mean thousands of dollars in compensation” for you.
Documenting How the Accident Happened
“So get out there” Andy coaches, “get the police report, take witness statements—if there [were] people who saw it—get the traffic camera footage, body-worn camera footage, and any other evidence that’s going to support [your claim that the accident was] 100% the other person’s fault.”
Using Your Own Car Insurance Coverage to Recover Compensation
“This is why I recommended that you report the accident to your insurance [company] even though you didn’t cause the accident.” He repeats, “The reality is: if the [at-fault driver’s] insurance company is wrongfully going to accuse you of being somewhat at fault for this accident, it’s going to reduce the amount that they’re going to pay you.”
“You may not be willing to accept that. If you go through your own insurance, yes, you will have to pay a deductible, but your insurance is going to take care of the property damage at 100%.”
Your Own Insurance Company or the Insurer of the Other Driver?
In conclusion Andy tells us, “You’ll have to do the . . . calculations to figure out which is to your advantage: going with the [other driver’s insurance company] even though there’s a reduction in the amount that you’re going to receive, or going with your own insurance company—which is your plan B—paying your deductible which might be $500 to $1,000, but getting the full value of the repairs or the replacement of your vehicle.”