What does not at-fault accident mean?

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What does not at-fault accident mean?

The other driver ran a red light but she said she ran a yellow light. So on the police report, it was a yellow light. Both me and my passenger knew that was a lie. And we had a witness saw her run the red light. But since there was no camera, so the police only gave her a yellow light ticket and could not approve that she ran a red light. We both have the same insurance company, so the company asked me to pay 20% of my car’s damage if I wanted to file the claim through her policy. Or I can use my own policy with a not at-fault accident record.

Asked on October 27, 2016 under Accident Law, Iowa

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Believe it or not, the police's opinion as to fault is NOT legally binding--it's what the police think, and it be persuasive, but it's not a legal determination. Similarly, the insurer's opinion is not legally binding--it's just what they have determined after an investigation (and bear in mind that the insurer has an economic incentive to come to a conclusion that results in them paying less money). Only a court judgment is legally binding.
So if you don't want to pay and think you are not at fault, you have the right to not voluntarily pay; if an insurer or the other driver think that you were at fault, they can sue you for the money--and to get it, they would have to prove in court that you were at fault. Only if a court orders you to pay, would you have to. Of course, a lawsuit--even defending against one--takes time and can cost money; if the amount of money they are seeking is comparatively low, you may be better off voluntarily paying it.
Similarly, if you think the other driver was at fault in causing damage to your vehicle, you could sue her, even if she or her insurer or the police think that she was not necessarily at fault, and if you could prove in court that she was at fault, recover money.
Proof in a case like this could be by witness testimony as well as by any documentary evidence. 


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