How car insurance pays for an accident that’s not your fault
Who caused the accident is probably the single most loaded topic in car insurance. Car accidents result in expenses that must be paid, sometimes running into millions of dollars, and whoever is responsible normally needs to pick up the bill. If you’re involved in a car accident that you din’t cause, you have several options for getting a payout from a not-at-fault car insurance claim.
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When would I be not at fault for a car accident?
In the field of car insurance, liability is considered exclusively in relation to car accidents. There are plenty of other situations where your car can be damaged through no fault of your own, ranging from vandalism to fire or hail. This is usually covered by comprehensive car insurance, but you may have to pay a deductible.
When two or more cars are involved, the percentage of liability is often shared between the parties. However, there are some situations in which only one driver is likely to be considered completely at fault, unless unless there was any action you could have taken to prevent the accident, such as swerving or applying the brakes.
- Admitting liability at the scene. In the aftermath of any accident, if Driver A says something like “I didn’t see you” or even apologizes to Driver B in the presence of witnesses, courts frequently consider this to be an admission of liability and Driver A will automatically be found at fault.
- Intoxication. Fault will typically be assigned to a driver who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, if the other driver is not intoxicated in any way.
- Getting rear-ended by another driver. If someone runs into the back of your car, they will almost always be considered at fault.
- Failing to obey a yield or stop sign. If it can be proven that the other driver failed to give right of way to you and you were driving legally, they will usually be found at fault.
- Running a red light. If another driver collides with you as a result of failing to obey a traffic signal, they will be found at fault in most cases.
Should I make a claim after a not-at-fault accident?
If you’re debating making a claim, the most relevant factor is whether you can get the other driver to pay for the damage.
- If the other driver can be found at fault: approach the other driver to cover damages through their insurance.
- If the other driver is uninsured or underinsured: it might make sense to claim on your own insurance if you can’t pay for damages out of pocket.
- If the damage to your car is less than your deductible or the other driver can’t pay: it’s usually not worth making a claim.
Which states have no-fault insurance?
Several states are considered “no-fault” states when it comes to car insurance:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
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Do I make the claim through my insurer or the insurer of the at-fault driver?
If you have comprehensive insurance yourself, the only situations when you can approach the other driver’s insurer directly is if the other driver has died or cannot be located. Under virtually all other circumstances, your initial point of contact needs to be the driver who is at fault.
You have the option of assigning a lawyer to act on your behalf, and if the other driver decides to claim on their insurance, the insurance company will most likely contact you to request information and possibly access to your car so its representatives can make an independent assessment of the damage.
Does my level of insurance impact what I can claim?
Comprehensive insurance usually covers you for all types of damage to your vehicle, regardless of whether or not you’re at fault. If your insurer agrees that the accident was completely the other driver’s fault, you may be entitled to claim under a third party policy.
Many insurers stipulate that the other driver must not have insurance that can cover the damage to your vehicle for you to make this kind of claim, and the maximum benefit you will receive is usually $5,000. You will usually be expected to provide the other driver’s name, address and registration number.
What info do I need to make a claim?
- Record the other driver’s details. Your insurer will need their name, address and phone number, as well as the registration number of the car they were driving.
- Make notes at the scene. Write a brief summary of what took place as soon as possible after the accident. Accounts that are recorded immediately after an incident are called “contemporaneous evidence” and they hold a lot of weight in court.
- Ask witnesses for their contact details. If possible, ask any witnesses present to also jot down their description of what happened at the time of the accident.
- Take photos of the scene. Pay particular attention to not only the damage your vehicle sustained, but the final resting positions of all the cars involved, any skid marks and damage to surrounding objects such as traffic lights. Add GPS tags to your photos if you have the option.
- Submit any footage of the event. If you have a dash cam recording of the accident, this will also be very valuable for your insurer.
Will a claim affect my premium or my no claims discount?
In most cases, if your insurer agrees that the accident was caused exclusively by the other driver, you will not be penalized even if you make a claim. Check the specific conditions listed on your policy for circumstances when your no-claim discount will be affected.
Will my car be repaired or written off?
It is up to your insurer to choose when your vehicle can be written off, or whether your car will be repaired or declared a total loss. If there is any question about whether or not your car can be repaired well enough to be safe to drive afterwards, you have the right to obtain an independent assessment.
A statutory write-off means that your car will never be safe to drive again, no matter how much repair work goes into it. A repairable write-off means that the cost of repairs exceeds the sum insured, and normally your insurer will keep the vehicle and pay you its agreed or market value.
Making a claim after a car accident is almost the same whether you’re at fault or not. If you’re found to be not at fault for a car accident, you’ll typically receive your payout from a write-off or repairs from the other driver’s insurance. Follow the best process to get your claim handled smoothly, including documenting everything at the scene of the car accident and avoiding implying guilt, even with a simple “Sorry” to the other driver.
After successfully completing your claim, you should be back on the road in no time. Consider making any changes you might need to your comprehensive and uninsured coverage, and compare all your options to find the best car insurance coverage for you.
Frequently asked questions about no-fault insurance
Read more about no-fault car insurance