Every decision you render is always at your discretion based on the evidence that is submitted and is binding unto the parties. That said, we continue to see inconsistencies where either partial liability has, in fact, been proven by the evidence but no award is given or liability has not been proven but an award is given. This article is intended to clarify any confusion concerning “driver vs. driver” and “50/50” cases to help improve decision quality and consistency.
Liability decisions involving driver vs. driver and 50/50 claims are entirely different determinations. A driver vs. driver claim is where both parties have conflicting versions of the accident with no independent evidence (i.e., witness statement, point of impact) to corroborate either one. Each carrier stands by its insured’s version. The classic example is a red light/green light situation with front corner-to-front corner impact.
An appropriate arbitration ruling in these types of cases would be that the Recovering Party did not prove liability, and as a result, no award will be issued. Why? Neither company has met its burden of proof. Who ran the red light and caused the accident? This question cannot be answered because there is insufficient evidence to support one party’s version over the other. As the arbitrator, you cannot simply compromise the claim and award 50%. Liability must be proven.
There are driver vs. driver claims where there are favorable factors, however. In the red light/green light scenario, point of impact may be to the Responding Party’s rear quarter panel, indicating the Responding Party had control of the intersections—the Recovering Party was the striking vehicle and had the last clear chance to avoid the impact. Point of impact could sway you to render a decision favorable to the Responding Party if it makes the Responding Party driver’s version of the accident more credible. If this is the case, you need to clearly explain this rationale in your Explanation of Decision.
What constitutes a 50/50 claim is a claim where the loss details are not in question; the evidence supports that both parties are equally at fault. The classic 50/50 accident involves two vehicles both backing from adjacent parking spaces with rear impacts to each or two vehicles both changing lanes and side-swiping each other. An appropriate ruling in these types of cases, if the evidence supports that both drivers were equally negligent, is the Recovering Party proved liability at 50%, as both parties contributed to the loss.