Insurance laws are set by each state. A few states have enacted no-fault insurance laws. In those states, each driver is responsible for the damages from an accident, regardless of who is at fault.
However, most states continue to hold drivers responsible for damages if they cause an accident. California is an at-fault insurance state for car accidents. Let’s look at the differences and similarities between the at-fault and no-fault insurance systems.
How Does No-Fault Insurance Work After a Car Accident?
In states with no-fault insurance laws, drivers must purchase a minimum amount of no-fault car insurance coverage.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is the most common type of no-fault car insurance. However, Medical Payment Coverage (MedPay) is another type of no-fault insurance.
After an automobile accident, each driver files an insurance claim with their no-fault insurance company. It does not matter who was at fault for the cause of the accident.
No-fault insurance generally pays for all or a portion of your medical expenses. It may also reimburse you for some of our lost wages. You are responsible for paying the medical bills not covered by your PIP coverage.
However, PIP and other no-fault insurance policies do not compensate you for other economic damages. It does not compensate accident victims for non-economic damages or “pain and suffering.”
No-fault insurance laws generally prohibit drivers from suing other drivers; no-fault coverage is the only remedy. Many no-fault insurance states have exceptions that allow accident victims to sue at-fault drivers.
The ” serious injury” threshold is a common exception to the no-fault insurance system. If a person sustains serious injuries in a car crash, they can sue the at-fault party for damages. It depends on the state law whether drivers must have liability insurance in addition to their no-fault coverage.
California’s At-Fault System for Car Accident Claims
California law requires all drivers to purchase minimum amounts of liability insurance. Liability insurance compensates accident victims for damages when an insured driver causes a traffic accident.
According to California law, each car owner must provide proof of financial responsibility before registering their vehicle. Proof of financial responsibility is:
- Auto insurance in required amounts
- Surety bond for $35,000
- A cash deposit of $35,000 with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)
- A self-insured certificate issued by the DMV
Liability insurance pays for damage caused by bodily injury and property damage. The minimum amount of insurance required for California drivers is:
- $15,000 for bodily injury or death to one person
- $30,000 per accident for bodily injury and/or death
- $5,000 property damage
When you file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company, it investigates your claim. If the company agrees that its insured driver caused the accident, it may pay the claim. However, insurance companies always try to undervalue claims to save money.
Therefore, you might consider seeking legal advice from a personal injury attorney. A lawyer can help you avoid insurance tactics that could lower the value of your case.
What Do I Prove in an At-Fault State to Win a Car Accident Claim?
In at-fault states, you have the burden of proving the other driver caused the accident. Most car accident claims require you to prove the elements of negligence. Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care to avoid harming another person.
The elements of a negligence claim are:
- Duty – The other driver owed you a duty of care
- Breach of Duty – The other driver’s actions breached the duty of care
- Causation – The breach of duty was the direct and proximate cause of the car accident and your injuries
- Damages – You sustained damages because of the breach of duty
Your evidence must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the other driver is at fault for the cause of the car crash. That means you prove there is a greater than 50% chance the other driver caused the car wreck.
Most car accidents are caused by driver negligence. Examples of causes of car crashes include:
- Impaired driving
- Failing to follow traffic laws
- Drowsing driving
- Reckless driving
- Distracted driving
A car accident lawyer investigates the cause of a car accident to gather evidence and identify all parties liable for damages. The attorney might consult with expert witnesses during the investigation. If you prove your case, you are entitled to compensation or damages.
What Damages Can I Receive for a Car Accident Claim in an At-Fault State Like California?
You can recover economic and non-economic damages. Non-economic damages are considered “pain and suffering” damages. These damages include:
- Diminished quality of life
- Emotional distress
- Physical pain
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Permanent disabilities and impairments
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Mental anguish
You can also recover reimbursement for the financial losses you incurred. These losses are your economic damages and include:
- Past and future cost of medical treatment
- Long-term nursing care
- Out-of-pocket expenses
- Loss of income and benefits
- Diminished earning potential
The amount you receive depends on the facts of your case. In some cases, the jury might award punitive damages. However, a punitive damage award is rare. You have a higher burden of proof to meet.
Also, you must prove to the court that the party who caused your injuries acted with malice, fraud, or oppression. Punitive damages “punish” this behavior to deter the defendant and others from engaging in the conduct in the future.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers
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Contact our law firm to schedule your free case evaluation with an experienced car accident attorney in Los Angeles, CA. We provide free, confidential assessments of your legal options.