What Happens if You Are At Fault in a Car Accident in California?

by Staff Blogger | October 17th, 2022

In a car accident, fault is applied to the person who caused the accident. They may have been driving recklessly, had a mechanical issue, or hydroplaned on a rainy day. Whatever caused the accident, the person at fault is responsible for reimbursing the other party’s expenses.

A car accident is a stressful and confusing event, even more so if you’re partially responsible. Discover what happens if you are at fault in a car accident in California and how the experienced team at Berg Injury Lawyers can help you reduce your liability.

How Does a No-Fault Accident Differ from an At-Fault Accident?

In a no-fault accident, neither party’s insurance is responsible for covering the costs of a car accident. Instead, both parties are reimbursed by their insurance companies, typically through Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance.

In an at-fault accident, the party deemed responsible for the collision is liable for covering the other party’s expenses, including medical bills and property damage. In an at-fault state, the negligent party’s insurance company agrees on a settlement with the injured party. Once paid, the claim is complete, and neither side can file another claim or lawsuit regarding the accident.

Who Pays for Car Damage in a No-Fault State?

Most PIP policies in no-fault states cover personal injury or liability costs, like medical bills, lost wages, or funeral expenses. However, PIP insurance does not pay for damage to property or vehicles. Instead, you must purchase separate car insurance, or uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance, to cover potential damages to your vehicle.

Is California an At-Fault State for Car Accidents?

California is an at-fault state, so the party responsible for the car accident is liable for the other driver’s damages. For instance, if you total someone’s car and are determined to be at fault, your insurance will reimburse that person for the cost of their car and any related bills they received.

California requires motorists to purchase minimum liability insurance to cover these costs. According to the CA DMV, you must carry a policy with the following coverages:

  • $15,000 for injury or death to one person
  • $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
  • $5,000 for damage to property

What Determines Fault in a Car Accident in California?

California determines fault according to the circumstances of the accident. Depending on your case, fault may be determined by the insurance company, a judge, or a jury. The state uses pure comparative negligence, a doctrine that allows one party to win damages even if they both bear liability for an accident and recover compensation.

For example, if the insurance company finds you 70% at fault for an accident, you can win damages, but they will be reduced by 70%. If the other party files a claim against you, your percentage of fault determines how much your insurance pays for the settlement.

Working with a skilled car accident attorney from Berg Injury Lawyers can help you prove the other party’s fault in the collision and minimize your liability.

Do Police Reports Determine Fault for a Car Accident?

Police reports alone do not determine fault for a car accident but can influence an insurance company or jury’s decision. Most insurers require them and use the information in the report to come to a settlement offer.

When determining fault, insurance companies evaluate multiple pieces of evidence, including the police report. The report is often the first official record of the accident, and the officer may include who they believe is at fault. However, police reports can be incorrect or incomplete, so insurance companies may not rely on them if other evidence doesn’t match the report.

How Does Insurance Decide Who Is At Fault in a Car Accident in California?

In California, car insurance companies review multiple pieces of evidence to determine who is at fault for a crash. This evidence can include:

  • The police report
  • Testimony from both parties and eyewitnesses
  • Damage to the vehicles
  • Relevant traffic tickets
  • Photos of the crash scene
  • Medical reports
  • Other evidence of the scene, e.g. damage to nearby structures

The insurance companies then decide who is at fault based on their review of the evidence. For example, if you rear-ended someone and two bystanders reported that you were using your phone, the evidence would point to you being at fault.

How Does Car Insurance Work When You Are At Fault?

California law requires liability insurance for all drivers. If insurance determines you’re at fault for the accident, your insurance will pay the other driver’s damages. Liability insurance only covers the other party’s damages, so your insurance will only cover your car and injuries if you have a collision coverage policy or Medical Payments Insurance, sometimes called MedPay.

Can I Be Taken to Court for a Car Accident?

Someone who suffered a serious injury, lost a loved one, or was unable to work because of an accident you caused can take you to court for restitution.

If you receive a summons, you must inform your insurance and contact a car accident lawyer to represent you in court.

Speak with Berg Injury Lawyers Today

If you were in an auto accident where you are partially at fault, contact an experienced auto accident attorney from Berg Injury Lawyers. We can review your case to determine your level of responsibility and help you reduce liability.

If you’re being taken to court, an experienced attorney can provide you with a strong defense against the opposing party to mitigate your percentage of fault. Schedule a free initial consultation with Berg Injury Lawyers today to discuss your case and determine your legal options.