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Is California A No-Fault State For Car Accidents?

If you are considering filing a vehicle accident claim, you may have come across the terms “fault state” and “no-fault state.” These refer to two different sets of auto insurance rules. It’s important to understand which rules apply in your state and how they affect your insurance policy as well as your injury claim.

California is a fault state, or in legal terms, a tort state. California law requires that you must prove that someone else was at fault in your accident before you can claim compensation.

Difference Between No-Fault States and Fault States

Under the “no-fault” insurance system, it doesn’t matter who was at fault in a vehicle accident. Each driver must claim from his/her own insurer to cover losses such as medical bills. This is why in no-fault states, drivers are usually required to carry an additional insurance coverage called Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which pays for their own costs if they get injured.

By contrast, the fault-based insurance system examines who may be at fault in an accident. The party that caused your injuries is responsible to pay for your losses, but you must first prove that he or she was at fault. Though this may seem like additional trouble to do, it actually comes with certain advantages (which we explore below). California, as well as majority of the other states in the US, have opted to follow the “fault” insurance system.

Advantages of the Fault-Based System In California

One of the obvious advantages in a fault state is that you are not responsible for anyone’s damages as long as you were not at fault in the accident. This impacts your insurance premiums. In a no-fault state, a motorist’s premiums can increase even if he or she was not at fault – but only involved – in a crash. But in a fault state, premiums can increase only for the motorist who caused the accident.

Being in a fault state also frees you from significant restrictions when it comes to pursuing your recovery. In no-fault states, it is almost impossible to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. This is primarily because your own insurer would have to cover you for your basic losses. While this means you can quickly receive payment for some medical costs, it also makes it difficult for you to pursue greater compensation.

No-fault states typically allow you to sue only if your medical expenses exceed a certain threshold. In Minnesota, for instance, the threshold is at $4,000; in Utah, it’s $3,000. If your medical bills are lower than that, you won’t be able to sue for other forms of damages. It is also common for no-fault states to bar you from suing for “pain and suffering” compensation altogether.

In a fault state like California, you do not have to worry about these restrictions. Here, you may claim or sue for the maximum compensation you deserve, covering not only your medical costs but also your lost wages, pain and suffering, and other non-economic damages.

No-Fault Insurance in California (Optional)

Even though California is a fault-based state, you are free to purchase PIP insurance coverage here. We commonly refer to this as med-pay insurance. If you get injured, your PIP coverage will kick in regardless of who was at fault in the accident. However, you will still be under the state’s fault-based system, which means you will still be able to file a lawsuit if necessary.

Pure Comparative Negligence in California

Note that there is another significant principle that affects motor vehicle accident claims in California. The “pure comparative negligence” law looks at the share of fault that each party – including the injured – has contributed to the accident. If you were partly at fault, your compensation could be reduced accordingly. If, for example, you were found to be 10 percent at-fault, your compensation would be reduced by 10 percent.

This comparative negligence principle operates alongside the fault-based insurance system in California. You may be able to claim against an at-fault party, but it is also possible for you to receive a reduced payout due to your own share of fault.

Contact Us If You’ve Been Injured

If you’ve been injured in a car accident, protect yourself and to fight for the maximum amount you deserve, contact Hamparyan Personal Injury Lawyers today by calling (619) 550-1355 for a free consultation.


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