Is California a No-Fault State?

Two drivers arguing over the whose fault the collision between their vehicles is.

In the realm of insurance and accident claims, the term “no-fault” refers to a system where the individuals involved in an accident are typically compensated by their own insurance company, regardless of who is at fault for the incident. 

Under a no-fault system, injured parties can receive benefits such as medical expenses and lost wages from their own insurance provider, without having to establish fault or pursue a legal claim against the other party.

California is not a no-fault state. Instead, California operates under a fault-based system. This means that when it comes time to determine each person’s responsibility in causing the accident, you’ll need to establish fault. Then, the at-fault party (or their insurance company) will typically be responsible for covering the damages and losses suffered by the other party.

Under California law, individuals who have been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence have the right to seek compensation through a personal injury claim. This fault-based system allows the injured party to hold the at-fault party accountable and pursue appropriate legal remedies.

In this way, it’s important to make sure you secure strong legal representation after an accident — regardless of whether you’re at fault. At Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law we can help you go over all of your options by providing you with a confidential, no-obligation case review. All you have to do to schedule your first appointment is call (559) 878-4958 or contact us online.

Does a No-fault Accident Go on Your Record in California?

In California, the term “no-fault accident” can be a bit misleading because, as mentioned earlier, California operates under a fault-based system. 

However, it’s important to clarify the term in the context of insurance claims. A “no-fault accident” typically refers to an accident where no party involved is found to be at fault or where fault is shared equally among the parties. A skilled California personal injury lawyer can help you understand complex legal and insurance terms.

Reporting Requirements for Accidents in California

Regardless of fault, California law requires any drivers involved in an accident to report the incident. 

Moreover, according to the California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 20008, if an accident results in injury or death, or if it causes property damage exceeding $1,000, the involved parties must report the accident to the California Highway Patrol or the local police department within 24 hours.

Reporting the accident helps ensure that proper documentation is created, and it allows for an official record of the incident. This record can be important for insurance purposes and potential legal actions.

How Do Accidents Impact My Insurance Record? 

While fault plays a significant role in determining liability and compensation in California, the fact that an accident is deemed “no-fault” or where fault is shared equally may still have implications for insurance records. Even if you were not primarily at fault, being involved in an accident can impact your insurance premiums, regardless of fault determination.

Insurance companies consider various factors when determining premium rates, including the frequency of accidents you’ve been involved in, regardless of fault. It is essential to review your insurance policy and consult with your insurance provider to understand how a no-fault accident may affect your specific coverage and rates.

How Do No-Fault Accidents Affect My Driver’s Record in California? 

In California, every driver has a driver’s record maintained by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The driver’s record contains information about a driver’s history, including traffic violations, accidents, and license suspensions. It serves as an essential document for insurance companies, employers, and law enforcement agencies to assess a driver’s reliability and driving history.

According to the California DMV, “Every vehicle collision reported to DMV by law enforcement will show on your driver’s record unless the reporting officer says another person was at fault.” 

When it comes to no-fault accidents in California (where fault is not attributed to any specific party or fault is shared equally among the parties), if no traffic violations were committed, the accident itself typically does not go on your driver’s record.

However, it’s crucial to note that while the no-fault accident may not be explicitly recorded on your driver’s record, other information related to the accident, such as the date, location, and parties involved, may still be documented in the accident report filed by law enforcement agencies. Any claim you file with your own insurer, such as for a collision policy, will also become a part of your record, potentially causing your premiums to increase.

What Is “Fault” In An Accident? 

In the context of accidents, ‘fault’ refers to the legal responsibility or liability attributed to one or more parties for causing the accident or resulting injuries. Fault is typically determined based on the concept of negligence, which means the failure to exercise reasonable care; or behaving in a manner that does not align with what a reasonably prudent person would do in similar circumstances.

To establish fault, you’ll need to demonstrate that the party responsible for the accident breached a specific duty of care, and that this breach directly caused the injuries or damages suffered by the other party. Understanding fault is crucial because it ultimately determines which party is responsible for compensating the injured party in a personal injury claim.

How Is Fault Determined in California? 

In California, fault is determined through a careful evaluation of the facts and circumstances surrounding the accident. The state follows a comparative negligence system, specifically known as ‘pure comparative negligence.’ 

This means that each party involved in an accident can be assigned a percentage of fault based on their contribution to the incident. Comparative negligence allows liability to be split; even if both parties involved in the accident share some degree of fault.

The California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 1714 establishes the general framework for liability and negligence in the state. It states that individuals are responsible for their negligent acts (or omissions) that result in injury or death to others (or damage to property). 

Understanding Comparative Negligence 

Under pure comparative negligence, even if you are partially at fault for an accident, you can still recover compensation for your damages. However, your compensation will be reduced by your percentage of fault.

For example, if you were involved in a car accident and it is determined that you were 20% at fault while the other party was 80% at fault, your compensation would be reduced by 20%. So, if your total damages amounted to $10,000, you would be eligible to recover $8,000 ($10,000 – 20% = $8,000).

The comparative negligence rule emphasizes the importance of gathering evidence and presenting a strong case to establish the other party’s higher percentage of fault. 

This underscores the significance of working with a personal injury lawyer who can assist in collecting evidence, analyzing the circumstances of the accident, and advocating for your rights to ensure an accurate determination of fault and fair compensation.

What’s the Difference Between a No-Fault and Fault-Based System? 

The key distinction between no-fault and fault-based systems lies in how compensation is handled after an accident. In a no-fault state, each party involved in an accident seeks compensation from their own insurance company, regardless of fault. This often leads to quicker resolution and reduces the need for lengthy legal battles. At the same time, low policy limits and a lack of coverage for things like pain and suffering can leave victims uncompensated for certain losses.

In contrast, a fault-based system, like the one in California, requires the injured party to prove that the other party was at fault for the accident and that their negligence directly caused the injuries or damages. This may involve collecting evidence, presenting arguments, negotiating with insurance companies — or pursuing a personal injury lawsuit.

While a no-fault system can streamline the claims process, it may also limit the injured party’s ability to seek additional compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. 

In a fault-based system, however, individuals have the opportunity to seek full compensation for all applicable damages, including medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and intangible losses.

Why Should I Work With a CLawyer After an Accident?

After any accident — regardless of whether you’re found to be at fault — there will be advantages to working with a skilled attorney. Below, we’ve outlined the benefits for every situation. 

Benefits for Someone Accused of Fault for the Accident

  1. Protection of Legal Rights: Even if you were found at-fault for the accident, it’s crucial to have legal representation to ensure your rights are protected. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through the legal process, advise you on your legal obligations, and help you navigate any potential legal consequences resulting from the accident.
  2. Negotiation and Settlement: A skilled personal injury lawyer can negotiate on your behalf with the other party’s insurance company or legal representation to minimize the impact of the accident on your financial (and legal) situation. They can advocate for fair and reasonable settlement terms and help you avoid being taken advantage of during the negotiation process.

Benefits for Someone Not Found at-Fault for the Accident

  1. Establishing Liability: If you were not found at fault for the accident, a personal injury lawyer can gather evidence, interview witnesses, and build a strong case to establish the other party’s liability. They will work to prove that the other party’s negligence caused the accident and resulting damages, which will increase your chances of receiving fair compensation for your injuries and losses.
  2. Maximizing Compensation: A personal injury lawyer can help you pursue the full and fair compensation you deserve. They will assess the extent of your injuries, consider all relevant damages (medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.), and negotiate with the insurance company to ensure you are appropriately compensated for the harm you have suffered.

Benefits for Someone Partially at Fault for the Accident

  1. Mitigating Comparative Negligence: If you are found partially at fault for the accident, working with a personal injury lawyer will be even more important. They can advocate on your behalf to ensure your degree of fault is accurately assessed. By minimizing your percentage of fault, they can help you maximize the compensation you are entitled to, even in the presence of comparative negligence.
  2. Legal Expertise and Strategy: A personal injury lawyer can draw on their expertise to develop a strong legal strategy tailored to your specific circumstances, present compelling arguments, and navigate the complexities of the legal system to ensure your rights are protected and your interests are represented.

Reach out to an Experienced Car Accident Attorney Team in California

No matter where you fall on the spectrum of ‘fault’ after your car accident, make sure to reach out to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Even if you think you’ve got things under control, you’ll never want to face off against the opposing party’s insurer or attorney on your own. 

At Singh Ahluwalia Attorneys at Law, we’re here to help. We can go over all your options in a free, confidential, no-obligation case review. All you have to do is call (559) 878-4958 or contact us online to schedule your appointment today.