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What Is the Difference Between an At-fault and a No-fault State?

Each state has autonomy in determining the laws surrounding fault and liability in the event of a car accident involving two or more drivers. Most states have enacted either a fault or a no-fault system (some states have created a blended system, using “choice” at-fault laws). Consider the difference between an at-fault and a no-fault state, and how where you live can affect liability and damages after a crash. 

No-Fault States: Injured Parties Recover Damages Regardless of Fault

In a no-fault car insurance state, injured parties recover damages regardless of fault through their no-fault auto insurance policy, which is typically referred to as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. No-fault coverage pays for medical expenses, and may even cover property damage and lost wages depending upon the state, no matter who caused the crash. In many states, there is an injury or medical expenses threshold, where drivers who suffer serious harm/medical expenses can step outside of the no-fault system.

Fault States and Torts

In a fault state, drivers are responsible for paying for the accidents they cause. This means that if you cause a crash and suffer $2,000 worth of damages, you cannot seek compensation for this from the other driver (and your own policy will only pay for damages if you maintain certain coverage types). In a fault state, also called a tort liability state, car accident victims injured as a result of others’ actions can file a claim with the insurance of the at-fault driver, or can file a lawsuit directly against the at-fault driver. The downside to living in a fault state is that you have to prove the negligence of the other driver in order to recover damages; the benefit is that you can seek the full value of damages suffered, well beyond medical expenses alone.

You Need to Work with an Experienced Car Accident Attorney after a Crash

After a car accident, it is important that one of the first things that you do is to call a lawyer who understands your state’s fault/no-fault laws and can assist you in filing a claim. You will need to start gathering evidence and building your case as soon as possible to preserve your right to your full damages amount – working with an attorney, especially one who has the resources to hire accident reconstruction and other experts, is essential.


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