Auto Insurance

What Does At-fault Mean In a Car Accident?

If you caused a car accident, you may be deemed negligent and considered “at fault.” In most states, the at-fault driver is responsible for paying out the insurance claim for the other vehicle involved, though there may be exceptions or other considerations depending on the circumstances of the accident.

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To be “at fault” means that you, the driver, are responsible for the accident. At-fault accidents may occur through: 

  • Speeding
  • Rear-ending another vehicle
  • Texting while driving

In most states, the at-fault driver is responsible for paying out the insurance claim for the other vehicle involved.

What Is an At-fault Car Accident? 

If you did something that caused a car accident, you may be deemed negligent and considered “at fault.” Other examples where you may be considered at fault are: 

  • Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs and/or alcohol 
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road
  • Violating a pedestrian’s right of way

For those living in an at-fault state, your auto liability insurance may cover, up to the coverage limit, the other party’s car repair expenses and any medical bills from the car accident. To repair your own car, that coverage may be through collision insurance.

Types of Fault 

There may be cases where you may not be entirely at fault. For example, a driver runs a red light. At the same time, you may be distracted by your phone while trying to pass through the intersection. You both hit each other and are now both partially at fault. When determining who is at fault and thereby responsible for paying for damages, insurers may use one of the following:

  • Pure Contributory Negligence: This doctrine may restrict the accident victim from receiving any compensation if they contributed to the accident in any type of way. For example, if you, the pedestrian, cross the road negligently and a driver hits you, you may not be able to receive compensation due to negligence.
  • Pure Comparative Fault: Unlike pure contributory negligence, this doctrine allows the accident victim to receive compensation. For example, even if you were at fault 99% of the time, you may still receive 1% in compensation for damages from the other party. 
  • Modified Comparative Fault: During an accident between two drivers, insurance carriers may assign a negligence percentage to the drivers, such as 60/40. The determination could lead to how much the driver’s insurance may pay out to the other party. For some states, you may not be able to receive compensation if you have been rated 50% to 51% or more. 

What Is a No-fault Car Accident? 

Unlike an at-fault state, If you get into an accident in a no-fault state, each driver’s medical costs are covered by their Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. PIPs, also known as no-fault insurance, may cover the accident victim and their passengers’ lost wages and medical expenses. Other compensation towards the vehicle, such as repair bills, may be paid out by the negligent driver’s insurer.  

How Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Works 

PIP insurance is a part of auto insurance and is mandatory in no-fault states, but optional to purchase in at-fault states. You may purchase a PIP policy when purchasing your other auto insurance, such as collision and liability coverage. A PIP policy helps cover medical expenses for both the driver and their passengers.

PIP may provide coverage for the following: 

  • Rehabilitation from an accident: If you need the care to help you get back to your daily life, PIP may provide coverage for rehabilitation.
  • Lost wages from being unable to work: In the case that you aren’t able to work and have lost income due to an accident, PIP may be a supplement income until you recover
  • Home care expenses: A PIP policy may cover at-home care. This would allow a nurse to visit and care for you at home. 
  • Funeral expenses and accidental death benefits: A PIP policy may also pay out and help with funeral expenses. An additional amount may be paid out to the beneficiaries if someone has died due to the accident. This may be included or added to the original policy and is known as an accidental death benefit. 

How to File a PIP Claim

The process of filing a PIP claim is the same for both at-fault and no-fault states. You must alert your insurance agent of the accident as soon as possible. In the majority of no-fault states, you may be required to file your claim within 30 days of your accident. You may call your insurer or file online by phone or website. Depending on your insurer, you may have an app to file it through. The average turnaround time from filing a claim to receiving reimbursement is 30 days.

When filing a claim, you may have to include:: 

  • Photos of the vehicle damage 
  • Copy of the police report
  • Proof of claim form
  • Bills for auto repairs 
  • Contact information of the other party and witnesses

Is Your State At-fault or No-fault? 

StateAt FaultNo-Fault Minimum PIP Requirement
AlabamaPIP not available
AlaskaPIP not available
ArizonaPIP not available
ArkansasPIP Optional
CaliforniaPIP not available
ColoradoPIP not available
ConnecticutPIP not available
Delaware$15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident 
Florida$10,000
GeorgiaPIP not available
Hawaii$10,000
IdahoPIP not available
IllinoisPIP not available
IndianaPIP not available
IowaPIP not available
Kansas$9,000
Kentucky $10,000
LouisanaPIP not available
Maine$2,000 per person
Maryland$2,500
Massachusetts$8,000 per person
Michigan$250,000 or opt-out
Minnesota$20,000 for medical expenses / $20,000 for non-medical expenses
MississippiPIP not available
MissouriPIP not available
MontanaPIP not available
NebraskaPIP not available
NevadaPIP not available
New HampshireOptional
New Jersey$15,000
New MexicoPIP not available
New York$50,000
North CarolinaPIP not available
North Dakota$30,000 per person
OhioPIP not available
Oklahoma PIP not available
Oregon$15,000 per person
Pennsylvania$5,000 per person
Rhode IslandPIP not available
South CarolinaPIP not available
South DakotaPIP Optional
TennesseePIP not available
TexasPIP Optional
Utah$3,000 per person
VermontPIP not available
VirginiaPIP Optional
WashingtonPIP Optional
West VirginiaPIP not available
Wisconsin PIP Optional
Wyoming PIP not available

Will Your Car Insurance Rate Increase After a Car Accident? 

Car accidents are more common than we think. On average, there are about 112,000 speeding tickets issued every day, and in 2021, there have been 42,915 deaths due to car accidents

The majority of the time, if you are not at fault for a car accident, your rates may not increase. However, it may slightly go up for some not-at-fault drivers due to their history of accidents and how the accident occurred. 

For at-fault drivers, your rate may increase after an accident. This is due to insurers seeing you as a higher risk for future accidents. How much your rates increase may depend on your claim history. For example, if you have a history of a good driving record, rarely file claims, and the accident was minor, your rates may increase just slightly. On the other hand, if your insurer sees that you have a pattern of negligent driving, there may be a jump in your auto insurance rates.