What to do if I was in an auto accident that was deemed my fault by my insurance company but I wasn’t?

I hit the car in front me who had slammed on his brakes. However, the driver in front of me was distracted and not slowing down for a stopped vehicle in front of him. When he realized the car in front of him was stopped he made a panic stop and left me no time to avoid a collision even though I was following at what was deemed a “safe” following distance by the DMV. The only reason the driver in front of me did not hit the car in front of him is because the driver of that vehicle saw that he was not slowing down and took evasive action-swerved off the road. Insurance company is attempting to settle before reading the police report too. Should I fight?

Asked on June 25, 2014 under Accident Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Legally, you may fight--the insurance company's determination is not binding, since it is not an adjudication by a court of law. However, you will very likely lose: there is a strong presumption that the following/rear driver was at fault, since if he/she was maintaining a safe following distance for that speed (remember: the faster you go, the longer the distance should be, to accomodate greater braking distances) and was also paying attention and reacting immediately to the actions of the car(s) ahead, he or she should have been able to stop. In cases like yours, saying the car ahead of you made a "panic stop" and that's why you hit them is very rarely a winning defense to liability.


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