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If I'm not ticketed, can I be found at fault for an accident?


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Question: I was involved in a car accident and found not at fault by the responding officer and didn’t receive a ticket for the accident.  Can my car insurance company dismiss that finding and say I owe my collision deductible?

Answer:  Your car insurance company can indeed come to a different determination of fault than that decided by the police officer who came to the scene of the car accident.

But from your description, it’s possible that you just may have a misunderstanding with your insurer.

It appears you are assuming that because your car insurance company is saying you owe your collision deductible, it believes you are at fault. In reality it doesn’t matter if you’re at fault. If you make a claim against your physical damage coverages -- either comprehensive or collision -- you automatically owe the deductible you choose at the inception of your policy.

If you believe another driver was at fault for the accident, then you can make a claim against that driver’s property damage liability coverage. If the other driver’s insurer agrees that their insured was at fault, then they’ll pay for your car’s repairs or total loss. If not, then you would indeed need to use your collision coverage and pay the deductible.

That's not to say that your insurance company can't disagree with a police determination of fault.

After reading the police report, speaking to the drivers and any witnesses to the accident, and possibly looking at the damage to any vehicles involved, your car insurance company can decide that you were fully or partially at fault for the accident in question.

Your insurer may find that the police have overlooked something, or that the officer may not have listed a driver to be at fault because he was unable to determine it. The auto insurance company will normally take into account what the police say about the event, but then draw its own conclusions about fault.

If you disagree with how fault is assigned, then discuss this issue with your insurer. It should explain how its investigators came to their decision and if comparative negligence or contributory negligence laws were used to split the blame.

Some states have guidelines that auto insurers must follow for their determination of which party is the principally at-fault driver. You can check with your state’s insurance regulator for information on your state’s laws regarding this and make a complaint if you believe your insurer did something incorrect.

Before getting upset with your own insurer, though, it’s important to point out that car insurance companies don’t always decide fault based on if tickets were given out at the scene of the accident.

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