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What Does It Mean to be a No-Fault State?

Car insurance laws are complex and can often be confusing to motorists. Many drivers know California law requires car insurance and purchase coverage according to recommendations from the insurance company. However, many motorists don’t know how to proceed when an accident happens to them. The model of insurance law a state follows will affect the claims process and how a victim receives compensation following an accident. Two types of insurance models exist: no-fault and traditional fault, or “tort liability” forms.

No-Fault States

Twelve states in the United States currently follow a no-fault system for car insurance, including Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. No-fault states have fundamental differences from tort liability states, including:

The Nature of the Claims Process

In a no-fault state, drivers will file a claim with their own insurance company to compensate for medical bills and lost wages, no matter who is at fault for an accident. No-fault states require motorists to buy personal injury protection (PIP), which kicks in when a person sustains injuries in a car accident. This fund will automatically compensate for a person’s medical care when he or she needs it. Following a car accident, an insurance company simply pays out a claim in accordance with the terms set forth in the policy, regardless of whether a driver is at fault for an accident.

Property damage claims, however, still work on the notion of fault. When a car accident involves only property damage, an insurance company will still determine fault for the crash and the at-fault driver’s insurance company will compensate for the damages. A San Bernardino accident attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.

The Payout Timeline

Proponents of the no-fault system say that claims spend less time tied up in court, so victims of car accidents can get the compensation they need sooner. When a driver files a claim with his or her own insurance company, the time to receiving a claim is generally shorter, though there still may be some back and forth involving property damage. Supporters say this helps both the victims and an overburdened court system.

Can Victims Step Outside the System?

In some cases, victims of serious car accidents can step outside the no-fault system and file a claim against an at-fault driver. The laws vary from state to state, but generally a victim must incur a serious injury like death, permanent disfigurement, or loss of function of a major organ or bodily function.

Tort Liability States

Aside from the 12 states that follow no-fault rules, the rest of the United States follows a tort liability, or fault, rule when it comes to car accident claims. This means drivers file claims against an at-fault driver to compensate for both property damage and injuries incurred during a car accident. This seems like a fair method of doing it, but drivers often must fight with insurance companies to receive a fair payout for their injuries, pain, and suffering.

Shared liability rules exist in most states that may affect a claim payout as well. Under the rule of comparative negligence, any driver who is partially at fault for an accident may receive a reduction commensurate with his or her degree of fault. For example, a driver who seeks $200,000 in damages who is 10% at fault for an accident may only be eligible to receive $180,000.

California is a tort liability state when it comes to car accidents. This means an attorney is essential if a driver sustains injuries in a car accident. A San Bernardino personal injury attorney represents a client’s best interests and aggressively negotiates to achieve a fair settlement.