Insurance agencies in the United States will often determine fault in car accidents. Fault is generally determined by the police report following an accident, and the insurers will then negotiate amongst themselves who pays what damages. But is California a no-fault state?
California’s regulations on car accidents are different compared to regulations from other states. Learn what no-fault insurance is and what its implications are for California residents.
What Is the Difference Between a No-Fault State and At-Fault State?
No-fault insurance is an automobile insurance system that limits the ability of a party to file a lawsuit against another driver in the event of an auto accident. In no-fault states, each driver’s own car insurance policy pays for their damages regardless of who is at fault. Is California a no-fault state? California is not a no-fault state.
When you are in an accident in an at-fault state, you may be able to recover damages from the at-fault driver, if you can show that their negligence or recklessness caused your injuries and property damage. Depending on the facts of the case, both parties could potentially be found negligent and liable for damages.
What Is No-Fault Insurance?
No-fault insurance, also known as personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, is a type of car insurance that covers you in the event of an automobile accident regardless of who is at fault. It pays for medical expenses and lost wages resulting from an accident. No-fault states require drivers to carry PIP coverage on their auto insurance policy.
How Is Fault Determined after a Car Accident in California?
Since California is an at-fault state, the process to qualify for compensation is different. To qualify for compensation, you must prove to the jury, judge, or your insurance provider that the other driver was at fault—or negligent—for causing the accident.
When a state is an at-fault state it means that common law negligence plays a role in determining who is liable for damages after an accident. Negligence occurs when someone fails to act with the same level of care that a reasonable person would have under the same circumstances. If you can prove that the other driver was negligent in their actions and that their negligence is what caused the accident, you may be able to recover damages from them.
To establish negligence under the rules of common law, you must prove the following:
- Duty of Care: The driver had a duty to operate their vehicle with reasonable care. Reasonable care is what a reasonably prudent driver should do under similar circumstances to ensure the safety of other drivers and passengers on the road (e.g. drive safely and responsibly, obey traffic laws, etc.).
- Breach of Duty: The driver breached their duty of due care by failing to act as a reasonably prudent person under similar circumstances.
- Causation: The driver’s breach of their duty directly caused the damages and injuries suffered by you.
- Damages: The accident caused you physical injury, mental injury, and/or property damage.
Another way parties can establish negligence is to show that the other driver violated a statute or the California Vehicle Code. In this case, a driver can be held liable for failing to comply with the law, otherwise known as Negligence Per Se.
For example, a police report can be used to help establish that a driver violated a law under the Vehicle Code. If a driver is found to have violated a law, then that driver is automatically deemed to be negligent per se, e.g., “as a matter of law.”
Examples of common violations that may establish a “negligence per se” action include:
- Failing to yield when turning left
- Driving under the influence (DUI)
Also known as California’s comparative fault law, comparative negligence divides fault between two parties. Under this law, each driver involved in an accident is assigned a percentage of the blame for what happened, and their insurance companies are responsible for paying out what is due accordingly.
For example, in a personal injury accident lawsuit both the plaintiff and defendant can claim that due to negligence, the other is at least partially responsible for the accident. The jury will then decide what apportionment of fault percentage is due to the injured party’s own negligence and reduce the amount of damages attributable to the at-fault driver by that percentage amount.
What Happens to My Insurance after a Car Accident in California?
All drivers in California must carry what is known as “liability insurance” which covers the cost of damages to another person in an accident that was caused by the driver. The minimum required amount of liability coverage under California law is the following:
- $15,000 for injury or death per person in an accident you cause
- $30,000 for injury or death for more than one person in an accident you cause
- $5,000 for property damage in an accident you cause
If you are found to be “at fault” for the accident, your insurance company has 40 days to investigate a claim from a car accident. They may investigate what happened and what percentage of fault is due to each driver.
If the other party is found to be at fault, then your insurance provider pays out what is due. If your insurance company needs more time, they must notify the victims of the car accident every 30 days. After determining an agreed payment for the damages, payment must be made within 30 days.
Your insurance will pay out what is due to the other driver up to your policy limits. However, if the cost of damages exceeds what is covered by your policy, you may have to pay out of pocket. To protect yourself even more, consider carrying more coverage than what is required by law.
Protect Yourself and Your Family With Mellor Law Firm
If you’ve been injured in a car accident and feel the other driver is at fault, you should contact a car accident lawyer as soon as possible. At Mellor Law Firm, our team of experienced attorneys will fight for what is due to you and your family.
We will investigate what happened, build a strong case, and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. We can help you determine if you are entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, or other damages related to the accident.
Contact our attorneys today to get started on your accident claim. We’re here to help guide you through this process and to help you get what is rightfully yours.