Auto insurance can be baffling – all the more so when you’re trying to navigate an insurance claim after a car accident. One common source of confusion is the distinction between no-fault versus at-fault insurance.
How do at-fault and no-fault states differ?
California, like the vast majority of states, has a fault-based system when it comes to car accidents. Here’s what that means:
- In no-fault states, each party injured in an accident gets compensation from their own insurance, regardless of who was at fault. Drivers in these states are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, which provides coverage for their injuries.
- In at-fault states like California, injured parties must get compensation from the insurance of the party who was at fault. If you were at fault, your insurance will cover your injuries as well as those of other parties involved in the accident.
Of course, insurance is complicated, and these basic categories are just the tip of the iceberg.
How fault is determined
Because fault matters in California, a big issue in auto accidents is determining who caused or contributed to the accident. This is where things get messy.
If someone runs a red light and hits your car, it’s pretty clear that they were at fault. But not all accidents are so straightforward.
What if the car in front of you suddenly slams on its brakes and you rear-end them as a result? What if they had to brake suddenly because someone in front of them was trying to avoid an accident? Multicar pileups are just one example of how fault determinations can quickly become complicated.
Why evidence is so critical for fault determinations
Insurance adjusters will investigate the accident to assign fault. They will look at all of the available evidence, including:
- Police reports
- Traffic cams
- Witness statements
- Accident reconstruction tools
Because they can easily jump to assumptions, misinterpret the evidence, miss important evidence or fail to take into account all of the evidence, they aren’t always accurate in assigning fault. That’s why you should have an attorney on your side to look out for your interests and ensure that you don’t unfairly shoulder the blame.