No Fault Accident: What it Means and How to Protect Yourself
If you’ve been involved in a car accident, then you might have heard that your accident is covered by the no-fault system. This can be confusing for many people. After all, we mostly understand that an accident can lead to a lawsuit against the defendant, but what does a no-fault accident entail? In a no-fault accident, who pays?
Don’t worry! No-fault accidents aren’t as complicated or confusing as they might seem at first glance. That being said, we do encourage you to contact us at 1-800-THE-LAW2 for further guidance. We’ll connect you to an experienced attorney in our network for a free consultation to evaluate your claims and advise you on next steps.
But let’s continue.
What is no-fault car insurance, and how does a claim work?
In the United States, a small minority of states impose a system known as “no fault.” In accordance with this system, if you get into an accident, you’ll have to turn to your own insurance policy for compensation. You are not entitled to sue the defendant for compensation, even if they are at-fault. This is quite different than the standard system, as a no-fault case ignores liability.
Quick note: no-fault insurance policies are often referred to as personal injury protection, or PIP policies. They tend to provide minimal coverage.
In a minor “not at fault” collision claim, you can recover most of your losses through your insurance policy. Where the system doesn’t quite work is if you have suffered serious injuries that require more than “minor” compensation. Fortunately, there are legal pathways to a full recovery, but you’ll want to work with an attorney for proper assistance on how to proceed with a lawsuit. Simply accepting the no-fault path could result in you recovering as little as $20,000 for a $100,000+ claim — so don’t resign yourself to the no-fault option!
Is there any way to bring a car accident lawsuit in a no-fault state?
Yes, it’s possible under certain circumstances, and in fact, it’s advised in many cases. If you’re involved in a no-fault car accident, then, in order to bring a lawsuit, you’ll have to qualify for one of the exceptions. There are two primary exceptions:
- The accident resulted in a “serious injury” as per the legal threshold, or
- The accident led to medical expenses that calculate above the legal threshold.
Confused? Don’t be! We’ll briefly clarify what these two exceptions entail.
Consider the “serious injury” threshold. Even in no-fault states, those who suffer serious injuries are entitled to sue the defendant-driver and obtain compensation. The essential issue is whether the injuries qualify as serious.
Definitions of seriousness vary from state-to-state, but as a general rule, a serious injury involves significant, or permanent, disruptions to bodily functions, disfigurement, and other similarly-severe damage. Disabilities that last as short as three months often qualify as serious. And in the state of New York, for example, a fracture injury is enough to qualify as “serious” for the purpose of a no-fault exception.
Now consider the “medical expenses” threshold. In some no-fault states, you are free to pursue a lawsuit against the defendant if the medical expenses (linked to the accident) are greater than a specified threshold amount. This can be as little as $3,000 in some states, so the threshold is quite low! In many car accident scenarios, the exception will apply, giving you freedom to pursue a lawsuit.
What should you do if you get into a car accident in a no-fault state?
If you get into a car accident in one of the no-fault insurance states, there are a number of steps that you should take. Some of these steps are universal to all car accident scenarios, while others are specific to the no-fault dynamic. When considering what to do, be aware that your circumstances should determine your choices. So without further ado, here are some general steps to follow:
- Secure emergency medical attention
- If not severely injured, jot down eyewitness contact information
- Avoid extensive discussion with the driver who hit you
- Avoid discussion with the insurance companies until you have hired an attorney
- Cooperate with law enforcement, though it’s better if you have an attorney
- Hire an attorney
- Evaluate your damages
- Submit your no-fault insurance claim
- If your damages are not fully covered by no-fault insurance, explore options for a lawsuit
- Negotiate a settlement to secure compensation funds
- If a fair settlement is impossible, move forward with litigation
Phew, that’s a lot to keep in mind! We understand that it can all be a little bit overwhelming to deal with. That’s one of the many reasons why it’s worth working with an attorney at an early stage. Experienced attorneys provide both advocacy and guidance. They will give you clarity on next steps, and will work closely with you to ensure that your best interests are protected along the way.
Does a no-fault accident go on your record?
Yes, it will. In a no-fault state, you’ll have to submit a claim for reimbursement with your insurance company to obtain compensation. This claim for reimbursement will go on your driving record, whether or not you were actually at-fault for the accident.
Bear in mind that the record for a car insurance claim is not permanent. Depending on the state jurisdiction, and the severity of the accident, the claim will go on your record for anywhere from two years, to five years or more. If possible, it’s worth talking to an attorney about how the claim will impact your driving record and what sort of consequences you may face as a result.
Which states impose the mandatory no-fault system?
A minority of states follow the mandatory no-fault system. In these states, you must turn to your own car insurance coverage for a recovery, no matter the fault of the drivers. This can be limiting, but there are many exceptions to these limitations, so it’s important to pursue your claim to the fullest extent regardless of the state you’re in. The no-fault states are as follows:
- New York
- North Dakota
Beyond that, only three jurisdictions employ a hybrid system. In the hybrid system, you can choose between the different options, no-fault included. These jurisdictions are Washington DC, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
In scenarios where there’s a serious injury, you’ll likely want to move forward with a traditional car accident lawsuit. Circumstances vary quite a bit, however, so it’s worth talking to an attorney about what steps make the most sense for you.
Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 for a Free Consultation Today
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, then you may have a right to sue and recover compensation under the law. Pursuing compensation isn’t always straightforward. There are twists and turns, and barriers to overcome. Certainly, the insurance companies, and your legal opposition, aren’t going to pay without some strategic back-and-forth, first.
We encourage you to take these important steps towards recovery alongside a trusted attorney. Contact 1-800-THE-LAW2 to get connected to an experienced car accident attorney in our network. Consultation is free, and there’s no obligation to continue if you decide that it isn’t the right path for you. However, do be aware that all claims have a deadline, so it’s important that you contact us for an attorney as early as possible!