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Car insurance claims for not-at-fault accidents
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 didn’t cause, you have several options for getting a payout from a not-at-fault car insurance claim.
How does no-fault car insurance work?
No-fault or not-at-fault car insurance means your insurer pays for your damage and medical bills after an accident. The other driver’s insurance pays for their damages. It doesn’t matter who caused the accident.
Personal injury protection (PIP) is a form of no-fault coverage, since it covers medical bills and lost income for the driver and passengers regardless of fault. Contrast this with liability coverage, which is based on who caused the damage to determine what percentage of fault and cost is assigned to each driver.
No-fault insurance also limits the right to sue or file claims against another driver, except for extreme cases with serious injuries or lost wages.
When would I be considered not at fault for a car accident?
In the field of car insurance, liability is considered exclusively in relation to car accidents. You can face several other situations where your car is damaged through no fault of your own, ranging from vandalism to fire or hail. Such damages are usually covered by comprehensive car insurance, but you may have to pay a deductible.
When would a driver be considered completely at fault?
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 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. Regardless of if you make a claim, you may still be required to report the crash to the authorities.
When you’re deciding whether to make a claim, consider:
- If the other driver can be found at fault. Approach the other driver to get their information. Make a claim through your insurer. Then the other driver’s insurance will pay out damages.
- If the other driver is underinsured. Consider making a claim for major damages if you have underinsured coverage. It might make sense to claim on your own insurance if you can’t pay for damages out of pocket.
- If you don’t meet your deductible or the other driver can’t pay. It’s usually not worth making a claim. You may still need to file a report though, and it may establish good faith to alert your insurance company of the crash.
Compare car insurance providers with no claim discounts
Which states have no-fault insurance?
Several states are considered no-fault states when it comes to car insurance, which means each driver goes through their own insurance for bills after an accident, regardless of fault.
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
What is at-fault insurance?
Other states use an at-fault system, also called a tort liability system. In this type of system, the person who pays for both drivers’ damages is the driver who caused the accident.
Minimum personal injury protection requirements by state
States that require personal injury protection are considered no-fault states.
|State||Personal Injury Protection|
|District of Columbia||Optional|
Do I have to choose at-fault or no-fault insurance?
Only three states allow you to choose your insurance type: Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. In these states, you can opt out of no-fault coverage. By default, drivers waive their rights to sue for extra damages.
Why do some states have no-fault insurance?
Every state sets different car insurance laws, and no-fault coverage is one difference across many states.
The goal of no-fault insurance is to pay for damages without the need for insurers and lawyers to fight over fault and who pays for what. Without the back and forth about fault, drivers can get claims paid out faster, in theory.
How much is no-fault insurance?
On average, insurance in no-fault states is slightly higher, at $1,526 per year compared to $1,411 for at-fault states. Not only is there an extra cost to add PIP, these states also require higher coverage maximums in general.
Do I make the claim through my insurer or the insurer of the at-fault driver?
If you have comprehensive insurance, the only situation 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. If the other driver decides to claim on their insurance, the 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.
Will a no-fault 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.
Making a claim after a car accident is almost the same whether you’re at fault. 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
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