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Can I File an Injury Claim if a Car Accident Was My Fault?

Very rarely is one person 100% responsible for an auto accident. Even if the other driver hits your vehicle, there's a good chance you were partly at fault. For example, if your brake lights aren't working correctly, there's a higher chance that someone will rear-end you. The question is whether you can still file a personal injury claim if you're partly at fault for the crash.

Here, we'll do our best to answer this question. We'll explain how the comparative fault rule works. We'll also discuss the impact this can have on your insurance claim. Finally, we'll explain what kind of coverage you can expect if you get hurt in a car accident.

Insurance Claims in No-Fault States

With no-fault auto insurance, each accident victim's policy covers damages they suffer in the car crash. Each driver files a claim with their insurance company in states with a no-fault liability system. They can pursue the other driver personally if their policy doesn't cover all their damages.

After a car accident, you can expect your insurance carrier to cover the following:

  • Medical bills
  • Property damage
  • Lost income
  • Other out-of-pocket expenses

If your insurance policy doesn't cover your losses, you can file a claim with the other driver's insurance company. If the insurance adjuster doesn't pay or only pays part of your claim, you can sue the driver personally.

It's important to note that you can't sue auto insurance companies directly. But if you sue the other driver, the insurance company must defend them.

States With No-Fault Liability Laws

Most states follow a fault-based insurance system. Roughly a dozen states have "no-faultliability laws for motor vehicle accidents.

These states include:

  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah

Note: Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania allow motorists to purchase no-fault or standard liability insurance.

In no-fault liability states, motorists can purchase a no-fault insurance policy. This policy covers medical costs, physical therapy, lost wages, and other expenses related to injuries you sustain in an accident. The insurance company covers these losses regardless of who was at fault. No-fault coverage is also called personal injury protection (PIP).

Many people don't realize that no-fault insurance doesn't cover vehicle damage. Drivers must buy collision coverage to pay for property damage. Collision coverage will also cover damage to the other driver's car or SUV.

No-fault coverage limits depend on the terms of your policy. You will find your policy limits listed on your policy's declaration page.

PIP Coverage and At-Fault States

Even though PIP insurance coverage is mandatory in no-fault states, drivers in most other states carry this coverage. For example, PIP coverage is available in California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas. See Legal Minimum Car Insurance Coverage by State to learn more about the coverage requirements in your jurisdiction.

PIP covers expenses related to bodily injuries you sustain in a car accident.

PIP also covers other costs, such as:

  • Lost wages
  • Long-term physical rehabilitation
  • Acupuncture
  • Transportation to medical appointments
  • Funeral benefits

State laws limit what PIP must cover.

Medical Payment Coverage

Another type of coverage that doesn't consider fault is "medical payments coverage." This insurance covers medical payments for you and your passengers.

Some expenses you can expect your medical payment coverage to pay include:

  • Hospital bills
  • Doctor visits and co-pays
  • Prescription medications
  • Ambulance rides
  • Physical therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Durable medical equipment

Medical payments coverage doesn't cover other expenses that PIP covers, such as lost income and funeral expenses (in wrongful death cases).

What if Both Drivers Are at Fault?

Rarely is one party 100% responsible for a motor vehicle accident. In most car accident claims, both drivers are partially liable. Does this mean you can't sue if you were partly at fault? Not necessarily.

Most states follow a modified comparative negligence rule. This rule states that a plaintiff can sue for damages even if they were partially at fault. But the judge will reduce your damages by your percentage of fault.

Imagine that a motorist is texting and driving and hits you from behind. You sue them in civil court. The other driver's attorney argues that you're at fault in your car accident case. They claim that your brake lights weren't working, and that is why the defendant hit you.

Even if they can prove this, you may still walk away with compensation. The judge may find that you were 20% responsible for your serious injuries. If this is the case, the judge will reduce your damages by 20%. If you initially sued for $100,000, your damages would decrease by $20,000.

Importantly, even in states following the comparative fault rule, you must be less than 51% at fault. A handful of states let you collect damages even if you're 99% at fault, but they are few and far between.

Ask an Attorney About Your Injury Claim

If you're in a car accident and suffer serious bodily injuries, you have rights. Ideally, the insurance company will pay your total claim. If they don't, you may need to sue the other driver. This is especially true if the other driver claims you were at fault.

It's best to consult a car accident lawyer as soon as possible after the crash. They'll negotiate with the insurance companies to reach a fair settlement. They'll also help you sue the other driver if necessary.

Most law firms offer new clients a free case evaluation. This allows you to sit down with a seasoned personal injury attorney and discuss your options.

Visit Findlaw.com's car accident attorney directory to get the phone number of a lawyer near you.

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