Visitor Question

My next step dealing with insurance company…

Submitted By: Anonymous (Roy, Utah)

I was driving east when I came to a 4-way stop intersection. I stopped at the stop sign. As I entered the intersection to turn right heading south, another driver, heading west, suddenly turned left in front of me, crashing into the driver’s side of my car.

After calling the police the other driver and I pulled into a nearby parking lot. It took the police over an hour to respond. The officer spoke with us but failed to issue a traffic citation to the other driver. The officer provided us with accident forms to complete. Part of the form required us to give a description of the accident. 

Because my car was old, I only carried liability insurance. Nevertheless, I filed a property damage claim with my insurance company, and another property damage claim with the other driver’s insurance company. As expected, my insurance company denied my claim.

The other driver’s insurance company sent me an email stating their driver was at fault, but since I failed to properly evade the accident, their driver was only 70% liable for the accident, while I was liable for the remaining 30%. There was no way I could have avoided the accident without causing another accident. I pushed on my brakes and swerved to the left to try and avoid it! 

I researched Utah law regarding failure to yield. Based on the failure to yield law I completely disagree with the claim decision. I spoke with the driver’s insurance company’s claims supervisor. She was not much help.

I use my car for work. Because it is too damaged to drive, I have now lost $200.00 in income. Shortly before the accident I paid the car registration fees. Now it seems I wasted that money. All that was remaining was to have the safety and emissions test. I can’t afford to pay for a rental car so I have had to rely on others for rides to work.  I really need some perspective. Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Anonymous,

There are a couple of legal issues applicable to your accident. Let’s take them one at time…

First:   The driver’s insurance company is basing their decision to divide liability between you and their insured based on Utah’s Comparative Negligence law. The State of Utah’s Comparative Negligence law allows a division of liability in car accidents. Some refer to the law as the “50% bar.”

Under the 50% bar, a victim in a car accident may recover compensation from the at-fault driver, even if the victim had some fault in the accident. However, if it is determined the victim’s percentage of fault (liability) is 50% or more, the victim is wholly barred from recovering any compensation from the other driver.

For example, let’s say Tom and Sue were in a car accident. It was determined Tom was speeding over the state limit when Sue turned left in from of him. Sue was injured and her car was damaged.

Sue sued Tom for $100,000, saying Tom’s speeding was 100% liable for the accident. However, after trial it was determined Sue might have avoided the accident if she had looked left before turning across the highway in front of Tom.

The jury decided Tom’s liability was 80%, and Sue’s was 20%.  As a result, instead of receiving $100,000, Sue was only awarded $80,000. However, if the jury had decided Sue was 50% or more liable for the accident, then based on Utah’s Comparative Negligence law Sue would have received nothing from Tom.

Second:    You have a valid legal argument based on Utah’s Failure to Yield law.  Title 41, Chapter 6a of the Utah Motor Vehicle Code reads in part…

“After stopping at a stop sign, the operator of a vehicle shall yield right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard.”  

Based on the facts you present, it appears you were already in the intersection when the other driver turned in front of you. If that is the case, it is arguable the other driver was 100% at fault.

You can file a Complaint with the Utah Insurance Commission.  However, it is unrealistic to believe the commission will investigate the claim. The insurance company’s decision to divide liability is discretionary. Furthermore, there just isn’t any evidence of wrongdoing or bad faith which would prompt a serious investigation.

Finally, while you have every right to consult with an attorney, it is unlikely any attorney will accept your case. There were no serious injuries. In the unlikely event you find an attorney to represent you, it would likely be on an hourly fee basis. Those fees would easily surpass the amount of money in controversy over the accident.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: October 19, 2017

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