A common question about California auto insurance laws is, Is California a no-fault state? The short answer is no, California is not a no-fault state.
This means that the person responsible (i.e, the “at-fault” party) for the car accident has to pay for the resulting injuries and property damage. For this reason, California is classified as a “fault state.”
How Do No-Fault Laws Work?
People injured in car accidents in no-fault states must make claims through their own car insurance policies for their damages up to a certain dollar amount.
Their auto insurance offers something called personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which reimburses people for medical expenses.
Most no-fault states require PIP coverage. In most instances, people cannot pursue claims against the party responsible for the accident.
In certain circumstances, someone might be allowed to sue the responsible party if their injuries exceed a certain dollar amount or the state considers their injuries catastrophic.
No-fault states also handle property damages differently, depending on the state. Some states require people to file claims with their own insurance companies under their collision coverage if they have it.
Other states allow people to file claims under the at-fault driver’s policy for property damage coverage.
How Does Auto Insurance Work in a Fault State?
In fault states, people have the right to sue each other for their injuries and property damage in car accidents. First, they must go through the other party’s liability insurance coverage.
If the liability policy is not enough to cover their expenses, they can sue the person directly. In a fault state, the police determine who was responsible for the accident and write a report.
The person who was not at-fault files a claim with the other party’s auto insurance company.
The insurance company relies on the police report and any other evidence, such as witness statements or other documentation, to determine the policyholder’s percentage of fault. They will then proceed with negotiating a payout on the claim.
Comparative Negligence in California
Comparative negligence means that all parties in a car accident can have some degree of fault for the collision, which affects any payout on insurance claims.
The auto insurance companies look at the facts and evidence and determine what percentage of responsibility each party had for the collision.
For example, if the insurance company decides that the injured person was 20% at fault, the company would reduce its payout by 20%.
Similarly, if the case goes to trial, the jury decides each party’s percentage of fault, and any jury award for damages is reduced by that amount.
Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements in California
Drivers in California must have a minimum amount of liability insurance. Liability insurance compensates other people for their injuries or property damage in the event of an accident. The current minimums are as follows:
- $15,000 coverage for bodily injury to one person;
- $30,000 for bodily injury per accident; and
- $5,000 for property damage.
These amounts are just what is legally required of California drivers. It is also smart to have some amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance for your vehicle.
This type of coverage protects you and your passengers when you get into an accident with someone who doesn’t have enough liability coverage or the financial means to cover your costs.
Uninsured motorist coverage protects drivers if the other person is at fault, but they do not have liability insurance.
Underinsured motorist coverage kicks in when the at-fault person has car insurance but not enough liability coverage to cover the other parties’ medical expenses.
The UIM insurance covers the extra amount that the at-fault party’s liability policy does not cover. California law does not strictly require UM/UIM coverage, but it is wise to have it for your own protection.
Your personal injury attorney can advise you on how much insurance you should have for each type of policy, as well as other types of auto insurance.
What to Do If You Get into a Car Accident in California
If you are involved in a car accident, the first thing you should do is ensure that you and your passengers are safe and tend to any injuries. Call 911 if necessary for medical attention. Otherwise, call the police.
Collect the contact information for all the involved parties or witnesses. Also get the drivers’ license numbers, insurance policy numbers, and license plate numbers. If possible, take photos of the accident scene and any damage.
Contact your insurance company to notify them of the accident, and then contact the at-fault party’s insurance company to make a claim.
Get a copy of the police report and maintain records of any medical treatment or repair estimates.
Then you should call a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.
Contact the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart
Chuck Geerhart is an experienced California trial attorney who will fight for your fair compensation if you or your loved one were injured in a car accident.
At the Law Office of Chuck Geerhart, we represent victims of all types of accidents, including rideshare accidents, commercial vehicle collisions, and pedestrian accidents.
We will help you determine the value of your damages and pursue either a settlement or litigation on your behalf.
Also, we pride ourselves on giving our clients the utmost care and personal attention their cases deserve, and we only take on a limited number of cases at a time to do so.
Contact us for your free consultation.