What can I do if I disagree with an insurance company’s finding regarding a finding of fault?

I was recently involved in a rear end collision car accident. I was in a quiet 2 way street (one lane per way) and was looking to street park. I found a spot on the other side of the road. I looked to make sure it was safe and made a u-turn. When my car was about 90% on the other side, a car from behind me struck me head on in the rear driver’s side back wheel. Unfortunately, the decision by the insurance companies was that I was mainly at fault for the accident although I believe otherwise. What would you say in the matter? And if we took the case to court, how likely is it that we will win?

Asked on November 10, 2014 under Accident Law, New Jersey


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

An insurer is not a court: their decision is not legally binding. If you disagree, you have the right to sue the driver (and also car owner, if the driver and car owner are not one and the same) whom you believe was at fault and, if you can prove in court by a "preponderance of the evidence" (i.e. that it is more likely than not) that the other driver was at fault, you can recover compensation, regardless of what the insuer says.

Also, typically, even if you are also somewhat at fault, if the other driver is more at fault than you, you can recover at least a portion of your losses or damages.

You would seem to have a reasonable chance to recover at least some of your losses, since even if you should not have been doing a U-turn on that street (U-turns are often illegal, depending on the street and how you performed), the other driver still should have avoided and not struck what was (presumably) a slow-moving vehicle. Therefore, while you may not recover everything you're looking for, you seem to have a reasonable chance for at least partial compensation.

If the loss or damage is below, at, or even just over (so you don't mind giving up some) the limit for your small claims court, a good option is to sue in small claims acting as your own attorney: that way, you risk very little in exchange for the chance to win.

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