Experiencing a car accident can be an overwhelming experience, and it becomes even more complicated if you have been found at fault in a crash where someone was injured.
The measures you need to take after an accident can differ based on factors such as where you live, the coverage of your car insurance policy, and your responsibility degree for the accident.
In this article, we aim to provide guidance on the essential steps to follow if you find yourself involved in an accident for which you are partially or entirely to blame. Furthermore, we will clarify the distinctions between fault and no-fault states and discuss the various types of damages that may be covered under your insurance.
Fault States vs. No-fault States: How Does Fault Affect Car Accidents?
In the majority of states, the driver at fault is held accountable for damages to the other party’s vehicle and any resulting injuries. The extent of fault significantly influences the proportion of damages covered.
For instance, being 100% at fault means you bear the full responsibility for all damages, while being 50% at fault results in your insurance covering only half the damages.
In no-fault states, each driver’s insurance is responsible for their own damages and injuries, irrespective of who caused the accident. Some states employ a hybrid system that allows drivers to file claims against the at-fault party if the accident led to severe injuries or surpassed certain monetary limits.
How Does Car Insurance Work When You Are at Fault?
When you cause a car accident, your insurance coverage becomes essential in managing the financial and legal repercussions. How your car insurance functions in such a scenario depends on the coverage you possess, your state’s regulations, and the accident’s specifics.
The following is an overview of how car insurance generally operates when you are at fault:
Liability coverage is a mandatory component of car insurance in most states. It covers the damages and injuries you cause to others when you’re at fault in an accident.
This includes property damage (e.g., repairs to the other party’s vehicle) and bodily injury (e.g., medical expenses and lost wages for the other party).
Your liability coverage will pay for these expenses up to your policy limits, but it does not cover damages to your own vehicle or your injuries.
This is an optional coverage that pays for damages to your own vehicle, regardless of who is at fault in the accident. If you’re at fault, your collision coverage will help cover the repair costs for your vehicle, subject to your deductible and policy limits.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical payments coverage
These optional coverages can help pay for your medical expenses and, in some cases, lost wages, regardless of who is at fault.
If you reside in a no-fault state, each driver’s insurance covers their own damages and injuries, regardless of who is at fault. In these states, your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage will cover your medical expenses and lost wages up to your policy limits.
In fault states, receiving compensation for your injuries and damages when you’re at fault can be more challenging. However, if you have the appropriate insurance coverage, such as medical payments coverage for medical expenses, you may still receive some compensation.
These coverages typically come with deductibles and policy limits that dictate the amount you’ll receive. Deductibles represent the amount you need to pay out of pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in, while policy limits dictate the maximum amount your insurance company will pay for a particular claim.
If you are found to be partially at fault for an accident, your compensation will be reduced proportionately based on your percentage of fault. For instance, if you are found to be 30% at fault for an accident and your total damages amount to $10,000, you would only receive 70% of the compensation, which amounts to $7,000.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage
While this coverage primarily addresses accidents caused by drivers without adequate insurance, it can also come into play if you’re at fault and the other party’s insurance is insufficient to cover their damages or injuries.
In such cases, your UM/UIM coverage may help cover the remaining costs, subject to your policy limits.
Will Insurance Fix Your Car if You’re at Fault?
If you cause an accident, your basic liability coverage may not include damages to your own vehicle. As previously mentioned, you would require collision coverage to handle the repair costs for your vehicle.
Remember that collision coverage often entails a deductible, which represents the amount you must pay out-of-pocket before your insurance comes into effect.
For instance, if your collision coverage features a $500 deductible and the total repair cost amounts to $2,000, you would be responsible for the initial $500, with your insurance covering the remaining $1,500.
Lacking collision coverage means you will be liable for the repair costs to your vehicle.
Do You File a Claim If You’re at Fault?
Yes, it’s essential to file a claim with your insurance company even if you’re at fault for the accident. Reporting the accident to your insurer is a critical step in the claims process and can help protect you from potential legal and financial consequences. Here’s why filing a claim is important when you’re at fault:
Fulfilling Your Policy Requirements
Most insurance policies require you to report any accidents promptly, regardless of who is at fault. Failing to report the accident could result in the denial of your claim and may lead to the cancellation of your policy.
Protecting Yourself from Liability
When you file a claim, your insurance company will investigate the accident and determine the degree of fault. Even if you believe you’re entirely at fault, the investigation might reveal shared responsibility between you and the other party. Your insurance company will also handle any claims filed against you by the other party, providing you with legal and financial protection.
Taking Advantage of Your Coverage
If you have the appropriate insurance coverage, such as collision or medical payments coverage, you may still receive compensation for damages and injuries even if you’re at fault. Filing a claim enables you to access these benefits and ensures that you’re not paying out of pocket for expenses that could be covered by your policy.
When filing a claim, it’s important to be honest about the details of the accident and provide your insurer with any relevant information, such as photos, witness statements, and a copy of the police report. Your insurance company will guide you through the claims process and inform you about your coverage and any potential deductibles or policy limits that may apply.
What Should You Do After a Car Accident You Caused?
1. Move to a Safe Area
If possible, move your vehicle to a safe location, like the shoulder of the road or a nearby parking lot.
2. Check for Injuries
Ensure the safety of everyone involved, including yourself. Call 911 if anyone is injured.
3. Stay at the Scene
Never leave the scene of an accident. Fleeing the scene can result in criminal charges, fines, and suspension of your driver’s license.
4. Call the Police
Report the accident, even if it’s your fault. A police report can be crucial when filing an insurance claim.
5. Exchange Information
Share your name, contact details, driver’s license number, insurance information, and vehicle registration with the other driver(s) involved in the accident.
6. Document the Scene
Take photos of the accident scene, including any damages to the vehicles and the surrounding area.
7. Contact Your Insurance Company
Report the accident to your insurance company as soon as possible. They will guide you through the claims process and inform you about your coverage.
8. Seek Legal Advice
If you’re unsure about your rights and responsibilities after causing an accident, it’s a good idea to consult with a car accident lawyer. They can help you navigate the legal process and provide guidance on any potential consequences or liability issues that may arise.
9. Keep Track of All Expenses
Maintain a record of all expenses related to the accident, such as medical bills, repair costs, and any other financial losses. This will be useful when filing your insurance claim and in case of a lawsuit.
10. Stay Calm and Cooperative
Be respectful and courteous when interacting with the other parties involved in the accident, as well as law enforcement officers and insurance adjusters. Admitting your fault or apologizing may be seen as an admission of guilt, so avoid making statements that could be used against you in a legal setting.
Knowing how to get over a car accident that was your fault can be helpful when that happens. Meanwhile, understanding the differences between fault and no-fault states, as well as the types of damages that are covered, will enable you to make informed decisions and take appropriate action.