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At our nation’s foundational level, we operate as a federalist system – meaning that our country is composed of various states.

While retaining some degree of independence, our states all cede a certain degree of that independence and decision-making authority to the higher level of government (i.e., the federal government).

One of the main consequences of having a federalist system is that different states have different laws. Where the federal government doesn’t regulate something, the states do, and they often do so differently.

One area where the states’ differing rules are readily apparent is the laws surrounding car accidents.

The different states have different insurance requirements, including various regulations on determining who pays for car accidents and why. We call these fault systems.

There are two main types of fault systems in the US today: at-fault and no-fault systems. As a driver in California, it is essential to know where our state lies on this spectrum. More importantly, it is crucial to understand how these rules work in California.

Here, to help our clients and readers, Farzam Law Firm breaks down at-fault and no-fault liability systems.

To speak to a member of our team, contact our California car accident lawyers today.

What Is a No-Fault State?

A no-fault state is one in which the question of fault never arises in determining liability in car accident claims. That is because the question is irrelevant.

Regardless of who causes an accident, each party’s liability insurance policy covers its own damages. So who pays for an accident in a no-fault state? The answer is typically both parties

No-fault states usually require drivers to carry the minimum liability coverage for both property and personal injury damages.

The minimum coverage typically ranges from $10,000 to $100,0000 for bodily injuries and $10,000 to $50,000 for property damage.

If the damage goes beyond a given threshold in a no-fault state, parties to an accident can still recover their damages—just not through their insurance company.

Instead, parties whose damages exceed policy amounts can file a claim in civil court to recover the remainder of the damages they suffered.

Today, the number of no-fault states is far less than the number of fault states in the US. Currently, the no-fault insurance states include:

  • Florida,
  • Hawaii,
  • Kentucky,
  • Massachusetts,
  • Michigan,
  • Minnesota,
  • New Jersey,
  • New York,
  • North Dakota,
  • Pennsylvania,
  • Puerto Rico, and
  • Utah.

While these states (and Puerto Rico) use a no-fault liability system for car accidents, the minimum thresholds differ. As you can see, California is not a no-fault state.

What Is an At-Fault State?

California is an example of an at-fault state. The determination of who pays for a given car accident is by assessing each party’s degree of fault in the accident.

Drivers in at-fault states must still carry liability insurance policies. However, on a general level, instead of your own insurance company paying for your claim, the other party’s insurance is liable for your claim (if they are at fault).

In other words, liability corresponds directly with each party’s share of the blame for the accident.

Instead of filing a claim with your own insurance company, you file a claim with the other person’s insurance company. At its most basic level, this is what an at-fault system does.

However, there are two main types of at-fault liability systems that you should know about: modified comparative fault and pure comparative fault.

Modified vs. Pure Comparative Fault Systems

Pure comparative fault systems assign both liability as a whole and the percentage of liability purely based on the degree of fault. Conversely, modified comparative fault systems assign liability, to an extent, based on who is most at fault. In other words, there are limits.

If your percentage of fault exceeds a specific rate (usually 50 or 51%) in a modified comparative fault system, you cannot claim damages from the other party. 

To illustrate how these two different systems work in practice, consider the following example of a car accident: Party A is 90% at fault for the accident, and party B is 10% at fault for the accident. 

In a pure comparative fault system like California, party A will recover 10% of the damages they suffered from party B (or their insurance company).

Conversely, party B will recover 90% of the damages they suffer from party A (or their insurance company). The system is “pure” because the reduction in liability corresponds directly with the percentage of fault. 

On the other hand, in a modified comparative fault system, party A will not recover any damages from party because their degree of fault is above the given threshold.

Also known as a modified system of comparative fault, any party above that threshold of culpability(usually 50 or 51%) cannot recover any damages from the opposing party.

Contact a California Car Accident Lawyer Today

Since California is a pure comparative fault state, determining the percentage of fault always challenges California car accident claims.

Our team at Farzam Law Firm has years of experience working through California’s specific rules and regulations. In doing so, we have spent years helping people recover from car accidents.

We can help you prove or disprove your degree of fault, establish the other party’s responsibility, and, most importantly, make sure that you recover the maximum amount of damages allowed by law.

Whatever your individual needs are, our goal is to meet them. You can check it out for yourself, too.

Our case results and testimonials pages speak for themselves. We go to bat for our clients, and we are always proud to do so. Whatever your needs are, let us figure out how we can help.

Contact our experienced personal injury lawyers online today or call (866) 465-0490 for your free consultation!

Author Photo

Joseph Farzam

Mr. Farzam attended Santa Monica high school and worked at McDonald’s and local coffee shops to support himself. Although he worked 2 or 3 jobs, he valued education greatly and earned a bachelor’s degree from California State University, Northridge in biology, and attended the prestigious Pepperdine University School of Law. He graduated with high marks and passed the California bar exam on the first try. Mr. Farzam has received the coveted titles of Super Lawyer, Los Angeles Magazine’s Top Lawyers, and has received The Litigator Awards.  He is a proud member of the Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) and California Employment Lawyers Association (CELA).

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