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Auto Insurance Claims/multiple car snow accident

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QUESTION: On a snow day, travelling on interstate highway, I was quite a few seconds behind a big van. It was snowing, the road situation was slippery. All of a sudden, the van in front of me lost control and started to spin on the road, eventually it stopped but turned 90 degree sideways, pretty much blocking the road. Even though I was at a reasonable distance behind, there is no way for me to come to a sudden complete stop before the van, all I could do was slowing down hoping for minimum impact. My car hit the van and then bounced to guardrails, quite significant damage. Another driver also hit the van due to the same reason. The state police came and made a report, but I didn't get a detailed copy yet. Police did say it's the van driver's fault. My own insurance is liability only, so I'm dealing with the van's insurance company, waiting for their response. Should his insurance pay for all the damage to my car? Do I have any fault? I have contacted the van driver's insurance agent, the agent said it's my fault, because his van already stopped, and my car hit his van, but she said she will have to wait for the insurance company to make the final decision.

ANSWER: I would need to interview all parties to mak a fair liability decision.  However, based on what you told me, it sounds as though you were at least partially negligent.  All drivers have an obligation to avoid hitting things in front of them.  If you were unable to stop in time, you were not following at a safe distance for the snow conditions.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Thanks for the response. I'm afraid that's what the insurance company going to say. But under my situation, I don't think anyone driving any car could avoid the collision, unless I'm driving a helicopter. It's interstate highway during morning rush hour, not realistic to maintain half a mile distance between every car. When the car in front of me lost control like this and block the highway, I just don't have anywhere to go. Anyway, is the van driver at fault at all? In terms of payment, should his insurance pay a partial amount if not full amount for my car's damage?

Answer
I think you could make a strong argument that both drivers were at fault.  The outcome will depend on the laws of the state where the accident occurred.  In some states, if you are 1% negligent, you cannot recover from anyone else.  In other states, you can collect a percentage based on your own liability.

It is also possible this could be considered a no-fault accident in which no one had any negligence and it was caused by nature.  In this sceanrio, everyone covers their own damages.  But if this was the case, you would be out of luck because you have no collision coverage.  

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I am currently an Auto Claims Manager for a large insurance company. I have 20 years experience in the industry, having worked as a Claims Adjuster, Injury Settlement Negotiator, Claims Manager, SIU/Fraud Investigator, and Compliance Officer......I can answer questions related to any aspect of Automobile insurance claims and coverages. I can provide an inside look at how insurers operate. I always treat my customers fairly and want to help make sure you are treated fairly. However, please keep in mind that being treated fairly according to the law does not guarantee that you will get what you want. I can also answer some questions regarding Homeowner's and other types of insurance claims. I have handled all types of auto insurance claims and coverages. I am NOT an automotive repair expert but can give advice re how insurers handle complex repair issues. Please keep in mind that every state has its own set of laws pertaining to rules of the road, liability, and insurance. No one is an expert on every state. I am most familiar with laws in Maryland, DC, West Virginia, and Virginia, but will attempt to answer questions for other states. I am not an attorney an cannot provide legal advice. My advice will be my opinion based on my experience.

Experience

I am currently an Auto Claims Manager for a large insurance company. I have 20 years experience in the industry, having worked as a Claims Adjuster, Injury Settlement Negotiator, Claims Manager, SIU/Fraud Investigator, and Compliance Officer. I am not an attorney an cannot provide legal advice. My advice will be my opinion based on my experience.

Organizations
CPCU Society. Adjusters license in multiple states. International Association of Specal Investigators

Education/Credentials
I have a B.S. in Finance and have completed the AIC and CPCU designations.

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