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Is California a No-Fault State?

Each state has unique rules for handling vehicle accidents. One of the main differences between states and how they handle insurance matters is establishing fault. Certain states follow a no-fault model – is California one of them?

What Is a No-Fault State?

No-fault states require that motorists file a claim with their own insurance companies following a car accident, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. In other words, motorists seek compensation for damages from their own insurer. Under no-fault laws, motorists have personal injury protection (PIP) that helps cover the costs of medical bills and property damage.

In certain circumstances, a motorist may step outside the no-fault system and file a traditional claim. When an accident results in extremely high damages, disfigurement, or death, an at-fault motorist may be financially responsible.

No-fault states generally lessen the load on the civil court system and keep statewide costs at a minimum. However, no-fault states also pass the costs onto the consumer, as they have some of the highest auto insurance premiums in the nation.

Far more common is the traditional fault model of insurance, which is what the state of California follows. Fault states examine who caused the accident and hold them liable for damages.

California’s Fault Laws

California is an at-fault state, meaning responsible parties are held liable for damages after a collision. California’s fault laws provide injured parties with several options for pursuing an insurance claim against the party responsible for the crash. After a motor vehicle accident in California, any person who suffers an injury as a passenger, driver, or pedestrian may:

Responsibilities of California Motorists

California residents may enjoy more freedom when filing insurance claims after a car accident, but they also have responsibilities regarding coverage. Like every other state, California sets minimum insurance requirements for each of its citizens. California residents must carry liability insurance that provides:

This only applies to California’s minimum liability insurance requirements. Residents are also required to carry uninsured or underinsured policies that protect them from insufficiently covered drivers. Additionally, most insurers recommend carrying insurance with higher policy limits than those listed above. Once a motorist exhausts his or her policy limits, he or she could be financially on the hook for any balance that remains. Better insurance coverage helps protect a motorist’s assets in the event of a serious crash.

Comparative Fault Laws

California also follows a comparative fault model when determining fault in an accident. Under a comparative fault law, a person may still collect compensation for an accident, even if he or she is partially at fault. Generally, the settlement is commensurate with the driver’s degree of fault.

For example, if a person is 10% at fault for an accident and incurs damages totaling $100,000, he or she will be eligible to receive $90,000. The comparative fault law applies up to 50% – if a person is 51% at fault for an accident, then he or she claims the majority of the fault for an accident, and cannot file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company.

California insurance law allows motorists to pursue several options following a car accident. Unlike no-fault states, motorists have the ability to pursue claims against an at-fault driver and gain compensation for both the economic and non-economic damages that may arise from the crash.