Knowing whether you live in an “at-fault” state or a “no-fault” state is important if you ever need to file a claim or a lawsuit after a car accident. These terms describe how car insurance works in your state, whether you can sue the other driver, and how much compensation you can get.
California is not a no-fault state. Instead, California classifies itself as a pure comparative fault state. But what does that mean? Pure comparative fault means a lot for your compensation and how your personal injury lawyer approaches your case. Let’s unpack the language.
What Does Fault Mean for Insurance?
Whenever a car crash or an injury happens, someone is to blame for it. It could be one person or it could be multiple people, but someone carries the responsibility of causing the incident. This is called fault in the insurance world.
If fault lands on you, and you live in an at-fault state, then you pay for the cost of an accident. In order to keep car driving affordable, almost every state requires drivers to carry auto insurance. New Hampshire is the only exception.
In all states but New Hampshire, drivers must carry a certain amount of auto insurance. This insurance covers the costs of medical expenses and repairs after an accident. In a no-fault state, you make a claim with your own insurance company after you get hurt in a car accident.
How Much Auto Insurance Do I Need in California?
Since California is an at-fault state, you need to carry auto insurance to cover the costs of an accident. In California, auto insurance requirements are:
- $15,000 for injury/death to one person
- $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person
- $5,000 for damage to property
If the DMV does not receive proof of insurance for your vehicle, they could suspend its registration. This means you cannot drive it or park it on public roads until you get insurance again.
The minimum amounts of liability insurance are quite small compared to the potential costs of an injury accident. Since California is an at-fault state, its motorists should carry more than the minimum to give their personal assets more protection.
What Happens in No-Fault States After a Car Accident?
In no-fault states, you may not sue other drivers unless injuries meet a certain threshold. Instead, your insurance will pay you directly after you submit your bills to them. In these states, drivers are required to carry a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policy.
The details of how no-fault works vary from state to state, including when you can sue and what bills you can pay for under the policy. Most of the time, no-fault insurance only pays for injuries and medical bills, not car damage.
What if We’re Both at Fault in a Car Accident?
There are variations in how at-fault states apply the rules of fault. In California, the specific legal term is “pure comparative fault.” This is important to know about because these rules can reduce what you can recover.
In many cases, both drivers carry some amount of fault for the accident. Under pure comparative fault laws, your compensation is reduced by how much you contributed to your accident. This is stated as a percentage.
As a simple example, if you were awarded $100,000 and deemed to be 30% at fault, you would only receive $70,000. Personal injury lawyers in California must fight hard for their clients to prove their fault was minimal, or not there at all.
What Can I Do to Reduce Fault?
The simplest way to reduce your level of fault is to be a safe driver. If you stick to the rules of the road and don’t make risky maneuvers, it’s far more likely that the other driver will have greater fault if you get in an accident.
Another way to reduce fault is to speak with a personal injury attorney after your accident as soon as possible. A lawyer can give you legal advice on what to say and what not to say to insurance companies or the other party to prevent exposing yourself to liability.