Determining fault in a no-fault state no-ticket crash?

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Latest post 12-30-2010 12:01 PM by adjuster jack. 6 replies.
  • 12-25-2010 10:09 AM

    Determining fault in a no-fault state no-ticket crash?

    Hi all,

    I'd like to get some opinions on this:

    I was in a crash a while ago. I estimate I was traveling about 25-30 mph due to snowy conditions in a 55 mph zone but have no proof of that other than the relatively minor damage of the accident. As I approached a driveway/private road, I saw another car also approaching but not slowing significantly. View was blocked a little bit by a stand of trees. It was clear that he was going to enter the roadway, so I started braking and went into the next lane over but we crashed nonetheless. Damage was to my right front corner and his left front  corner -- what you would expect from a typical angle crash. There were no witnesses to the crash itself, but it was quite snowy so there were a lot of tracks and a few people came out to help afterwards.

    There were a number of accidents that day due to the snowy conditions. The officer got on scene about an hour and some later. We had already moved the cars, though I took pictures of where they landed and some partial tire tracks leading up to the crash. The guy who hit me stated that he had already fully entered the roadway when I came "just flying" up the street and "came out of nowhere", lost control and hit him. The officer then asked him why his front left was damaged and not his back, and he said it was basically because I came up alongside him and then hit him in the front. 

    The officer dismissed that as highly improbable given the damage and forensic evidence on scene (tire tracks, property damage) and also stated that even if that had happened it wouldn't matter because he had failed to yield right-of-way to me. When he wrote up the report, he had listed no hazardous actions for me, and failure to yield for the other guy. In the narrative it also states that he failed to yield. However, for reasons unknown the officer did not issue a ticket to the other driver.

    I filed a claim with my own insurance company within a few minutes of getting home.  It turns out that despite the fact that my car was drivable, it had $5500 in damage.They got to work authorizing my repairs and advised me to pursue a mini-tort against the other driver's company (out of state) to recover my deductible. I did, and sent everything over that they needed. I just received word from them that they will not pay my deductible because the other gave them conflicting statements. They stated that that since the officer didn't issue a ticket, and since he didn't witness the accident, nothing on the police report mattered. Their conclusion was that he had entered the roadway, I had approached at "a high rate of speed" and had hit their insured. 

    At this point, I'm looking at either encouraging my company to pursue his harder or just pursuing the mini-tort through small claims court against the individual involved, not the company he was driving for. However, I have already received an anonymous phone call from someone threatening me with a lawsuit for pursuing this. The guy who called said he also had seen the police report but since no ticket was issued there is no fault. That seems preposterous to me. State law is clear -- the traffic entering the roadway must yield to the traffic on the roadway. Whether he got a ticket or not seems to be irrelevant to determination of fault. I also spoke with the responding officer and he said that his report did indicate the other guy was at fault. 

    I got the formal letter from his insurance company today stating that they will only pay claims for which their insured is legally liable and that their insured is not responsible for this accident. They go on to say I can send additional documentation that would support my position. I'm afraid that anything I send them will end up being used to further distort the truth, so I am reluctant to submit anything else.

    So my questions are these:

    1) Does anyone have any general tips for working this out? Is it worth trying to work with his insurance company?

    2) Does anyone agree with the other insurance company? 

    3) Does the fact that no ticket was issued translate into no fault for the accident?

    4) Is it possible for me to request his statement from his own insurance company for documentation?

    Thanks for any input.

  • 12-25-2010 10:41 AM In reply to

    Re: Determining fault in a no-fault state no-ticket crash?

    "1) Does anyone have any general tips for working this out? Is it worth trying to work with his insurance company?"

    Hire a lawyer and sue.  They represent their insured not you.  They have already indicated they intend to dig in their heels and not pay.  They listen to lawsuits not to attempts at negotiation at this point.

    "2) Does anyone agree with the other insurance company?"

    We have no way of knowing with no access to all the evidence.  However, our resident insurance expert Adjuster Jack should be along with a more educated opinion at some point.

    "3) Does the fact that no ticket was issued translate into no fault for the accident?"

    Only in a court of law.  The insurance company is free to ignore that fact and make their own determination.

    "4) Is it possible for me to request his statement from his own insurance company for documentation?"

    Possible: sure.  But keep in mind they are not legally required to give you ANYTHING related to their insured until you file suit and move for discovery.

    "That's just my opinion, then again I might be wrong."  Dennis Miller

     

  • 12-25-2010 11:47 AM In reply to

    • Kivi
      Consumer
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    Re: Determining fault in a no-fault state no-ticket crash?

    The police report is hearsay and will not be admissable in court. The fact that the officer did not issue any tickets also will be largely irrelevent.

    Since you are in a no-fault state, it's largely up to you whether you want to chase after your deductible as it appears the majority of the damage will be covered by your collision insurance.

    Small claims court is cheap and informal. It also is possible that when the other driver is served with a lawsuit, his insurance company will decide to settle with you rather than defend.

  • 12-25-2010 2:11 PM In reply to

    Re: Determining fault in a no-fault state no-ticket crash?

    My fellow volunteers appear to have saved me a lot of work today.

    Just a couple of points, though.

    You are confusing "no-fault state" with whether somebody is at fault in an accident. "No-fault state" refers to the necessity of injuries being covered by your own insurance regardless of fault.

    When it's just damage to auto you have the option of pursuing the claim on your own policy or pursuing the whole cost of repair from the other driver.

    Generally, when your own insurance company pays for the damage to your car it goes after the other driver for the full amount of your claim (that's called subrogation) including the deductible and refunds your deductible when the money comes in.

    First thing I suggest is that you call your claim rep and find out if a decision has been made to subrogate and whether they are pursuing the full amount including your deductible.

    If yes, you need do nothing but wait. You'll be notified if they are successful or not.

    It's always possible that the claim rep decides not to subrogate, it's their option, it's not up to you. If the claim rep has chosen not to subrogate (or subrogation fails), you are on your own for your deductible and I agree that small claims court is probably the best way to go after it.

    Don't be afraid of threats of a lawsuit. If you got sued over this, you just turn it over to your insurance company and it gets taken care of. Nothing to be concerned with and nothing to stop you from suing on your own.

    Now for your questions:

    loves_fall:
    Does anyone have any general tips for working this out?

    Small claims court.

    loves_fall:
    Is it worth trying to work with his insurance company?

    His insurance company already denied the claim. There's nothing to work out. You'll have to sue the driver.

    loves_fall:
    Does anyone agree with the other insurance company? 

    Of course not. But the other insurance company is not your insurance company and it owes you nothing until and unless a court of law says so.

    loves_fall:
    Does the fact that no ticket was issued translate into no fault for the accident?

    No.

    It's the details of the accident itself that counts. And it's true that a driver coming out of a driveway or private road must yield to traffic on the main road. Your photos will probably go a long way in your favor in court.

    loves_fall:
    Is it possible for me to request his statement from his own insurance company for documentation?

    Sure, you can request it, but you won't get it until you sue, if you get it all. Small claims court rules generally don't permit "discovery" (the exchange of information and documents prior to trial) so what's likely to happen is you both get to court and tell your stories and the judge makes a decision.

    Here's a link to small claims in MI:

    http://courts.michigan.gov/scao/selfhelp/smallclaims/sc_help.htm

     

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
  • 12-30-2010 11:26 AM In reply to

    Re: Determining fault in a no-fault state no-ticket crash?

    Thanks for the input, all.

    Just a couple of questions --

    If we go to small claims court, it's me vs. him, right? I didn't think attorneys were allowed. At what point would his insurance company be involved? Or would they automatically want to move it to general civil? It seems like that would be a huge waste of money for a few hundred bucks...

     

  • 12-30-2010 12:01 PM In reply to

    Re: Determining fault in a no-fault state no-ticket crash?

    loves_fall:
    If we go to small claims court, it's me vs. him, right?

    Yes.

    loves_fall:
    I didn't think attorneys were allowed.

    Then you haven't read the material at the link that I provided, or you would KNOW that attorneys aren't permitted in small claims court per 600.8408 (1):

    http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(apxi1q55nbr4h2551brxya55))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-600-8408

    loves_fall:
    At what point would his insurance company be involved?

    As soon as he received the summons and complaint and forwarded them to his claims department.

    loves_fall:
    Or would they automatically want to move it to general civil?

    I'd say that's a good bet because the insurance company would appoint an attorney for its policyholder.

    However, if you are only suing for $500, the claim rep might just decide to send the policyholder to court on his own with the agreement that the insurance pays if he loses. No way to predict whether a policyholder would sit still for that, though. So it's anybody's guess as to whether it stays in small claims or not.

    loves_fall:
    It seems like that would be a huge waste of money for a few hundred bucks...

    It does, doesn't it. But many insurance companies take the position that they go to the mat for every disputed claim regardless of how much.

    No one can predict what'll happen when you file the lawsuit.

    Not even me. And I'm the one with 35 years in the insurance business.Ok

    • The right of the people 
    • to keep and bear arms,
    • shall not be infringed.
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