Is California a No-Fault State for Accidents?

September 30, 2020 Posted In Uncategorized

Whether you live in a fault or no-fault state is important in terms of how you must handle the auto insurance process after a vehicle collision. The insurance company that will be responsible, or liable, for your damages depends on the fault law in your state. The fault law could also impact how much you can recover financially. California is not a no-fault state. It uses a fault-based insurance system. If you need help navigating California’s insurance rules or an injury claim, contact a car accident attorney near you for legal advice you can trust.

What Is California’s At-Fault Negligence Law?

California is not a no-fault state, but a fault state. It is in the majority in that it allows all injured auto accident victims to seek financial recoveries from guilty parties. In fault states, injured victims can file insurance claims and/or lawsuits against parties that are negligent, careless or reckless. If someone else’s negligence caused your car accident in California, you will have the power to bring a claim against that person’s car insurance company. All drivers in the state must carry certain amounts and types of vehicle insurance to ensure everyone’s ability to pay for damages.

  • $15,000 for bodily injury or death to one person
  • $30,000 for bodily injuries or deaths per accident
  • $5,000 for property damage liability per accident

After a collision between two vehicles in California, the driver who caused the crash will use his or her insurance to cover the other party’s damages. In a no-fault state, all drivers are typically required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance on top of liability insurance. PIP insurance is what covers each driver’s own personal injuries and vehicle damages, regardless of fault. In California, however, you will only file a first-party insurance claim if you caused the car accident. If you believe the other driver is to blame, you will file a claim with his or her insurance company instead.

At-Fault vs. No-Fault Laws 

Fault vs. no-fault refers to the type of auto insurance system a state has in place. Only 12 states in the US use pure no-fault insurance systems. In no-fault states, it does not matter who is responsible for causing a car accident. All injured victims will seek benefits for their physical injuries and property damages through their own insurance providers regardless of fault for the collision. In a fault state, on the other hand, accountability for the crash matters.

In a fault- or tort-based car accident state, the party at fault for causing the car accident will bear financial responsibility for all related damages. The driver or party who did not cause the accident will seek benefits from the at-fault driver’s insurance provider. It is necessary in a fault-based insurance state, therefore, to identify who or what caused the crash. The majority of states use fault laws, with a few that use hybrids of both types of laws. In a hybrid state, drivers have the choice of whether to purchase fault or no-fault car insurance.

How Is Fault Determined in California?

In California, you or your car accident lawyer may have to prove fault before you can receive compensation from the other driver’s insurance carrier. Proving fault generally requires evidence that the other driver breached a duty of care he or she owed to you and that this is what caused your vehicle collision. A breach of duty can refer to any type of negligence or recklessness, including speeding, drinking and driving, and driving while distracted. A lawyer can help you gather any available evidence of the other driver’s fault after a crash in California.

  • Police reports and statements
  • Moving violations against the other driver
  • Eyewitness accounts
  • Expert witness testimony
  • Photographs
  • Surveillance footage
  • Evidence from the crash site
  • Car accident reconstruction

Hiring a car accident lawyer can make it easier to determine who or what caused your crash, as well as prove the at-fault driver’s liability. An attorney can communicate with the other driver’s insurance carrier for you and provide any evidence or information the insurer may need to complete your claim. If you need assistance negotiating with the at-fault driver’s insurance company for fair financial compensation, your lawyer can do this for you, too. Another important service a car accident lawyer can provide is combatting the comparative negligence defense, which may come up if the other driver thinks you contributed to the car accident.

How to File a Car Accident Claim

After a car accident in California, stay at the scene of the crash until the police tell you it’s okay to leave. Call 911 and report the collision if your car accident caused injuries, fatalities or more than $1,000 in property damages. You should also involve the police for a hit-and-run or drunk driving accident. Start collecting information for your insurance claim right away, while still at the scene. Take photos of the site, if possible, and obtain the other driver’s contact and insurance information. Go to a hospital in the area immediately for emergency medical care.

Do not admit any fault for the auto accident. As soon as you are able, call the other driver’s car insurance company to report the crash. The insurance agent will ask you for details such as the location of the accident and whether you have any injuries. Soon after you file the initial insurance claim, an insurance claims adjuster will contact you for further information. The insurance company will ask you to fill out a Proof of Loss Form and provide evidence establishing your damages and the policyholder’s fault.

What Is Comparative Negligence?

Comparative negligence is a law in California that states that a crash victim’s financial recovery may be diminished by his or her percentage of fault for the collision. In other words, if the defendant can prove that you contributed to or caused the car accident, the courts could reduce the amount of your compensatory award. California is a pure comparative negligence state, meaning your amount of fault could be as high as 99% and you could still recover some compensation. The courts will reduce your recovery, however, by your proven degree of fault.

When to Contact a Car Accident Lawyer in California

If you have injuries from an auto accident in California, contact a lawyer for your car insurance claim. A lawyer can give you advice as to the cause of your crash and the value of your claim. If you decide to hire the attorney to represent you during insurance settlement negotiations or a car accident lawsuit, your attorney can handle legal tasks on your behalf – including defending you against a comparative negligence allegation. A lawyer can make it easier to navigate California’s fault-based insurance system after a serious car accident.

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