Small Business Brief


What Happens When You’re In an At-Fault Car Accident

In 2018, 2.71 million people sustained motor vehicle crash injuries in the United States. As if that’s not bad enough, the number of people injured in road crashes went up to 2.74 million in 2019. That signifies a 1.1% increase, representing 30,000 more injuries.

The growing number of road accidents further highlights the importance of car insurance. It’s especially crucial in an at-fault car accident, in which one driver is mostly, if not 100%, to blame for the crash.

What exactly does “at-fault” mean in car accidents? How does it differ from “no-fault” motor vehicle incidents?

We’ll answer all these questions below, so be sure to read on!

No-Fault vs. At-Fault Car Accident Laws

Vehicle registration in the US requires motorists to demonstrate financial responsibility. For this reason, the majority of states mandate auto insurance coverage. These policies help to pay for the medical costs, or property damage drivers may cause others.

No-fault states, such as Florida, require motorists to carry personal injury protection (PIP). PIP helps to cover the insured person’s medical bills in case of an accident. It should kick in regardless of who caused the accident (hence, “no-fault”).

In an at-fault state, the required insurance covers another party, not the policy owner. These states mandate bodily injury and property damage liability coverage. However, they only kick in if the claim made against them establishes the fault of the insured.

Suppose you get into a crash, and you’re certain that the other driver is at fault for it. InĀ an at-fault state, you must prove that they did cause the accident. Only then will their insurer make you a settlement offer.

Proving an at-Fault Car Accident in an at-Fault State

If you can prove that the other driver is really at fault, you can make a claim against their insurance. This is what you call a “third-party” claim, with you being the third-party.

According to a guide on this site, photos of the accident scene are imperative to proving fault. Witness testimonies and police reports are also crucial to establishing fault or negligence. These help crash victims ensure that the other driver’s insurer settles a claim.

What Happens if a Car Accident Is Your Fault?

If you live in a no-fault state and you have PIP, you’d make a claim against your own insurance. The other driver, also legally required by the state to have PIP, will do the same with their own insurer. Again, this is regardless of who caused the accident.

If you cause property damage in a no-fault state, your liability coverage should help pay for it.

In an at-fault state, the other driver must still prove that you caused the crash. Only then will your insurer pay for their medical or property repair costs.

Some states also have a “shared responsibility” law. An example is California’s “comparative negligence” car accident laws. In this case, the involved insurers would make a settlement based on the percentage of fault.

Let’s say you’re only 70% at fault for causing the accident, and the other driver is 30% at fault. Let’s also say that the other driver’s medical costs and property losses amount to $10,000. In this case, your insurer will only pay the other driver $7,000 since the other $3,000 is due to their own negligence.

Drive Responsibly to Avoid Causing a Car Accident

Always keep in mind that most motor vehicle accidents are completely preventable. That’s enough reason to be a safe driver, whether you live in a state with no-fault or at-fault car accident laws. Keep distractions away (especially your phone!) while driving so that you can reduce your odds of causing a crash.

Looking for more guides like this, especially those you can apply to a small business? Feel free to check out our other tips and how-to articles then!