An at-fault accident is a car accident caused by a driver being negligent or careless, and it will increase premiums by 48% on average. In most states, the at-fault driver’s car insurance reimburses the other drivers for any injuries or property damage they sustained, up to the limits of the policy. It’s also possible for multiple drivers to be at fault in an accident, in which case the state’s negligence laws will determine each driver’s financial liability.
Key Things to Know About At-Fault Accidents
- Your liability insurance will cover medical and vehicle-repair expenses for other drivers and their passengers if you are at fault in an accident.
- Insurance adjusters determine fault after an accident.
- State rules for negligence and fault determine how damages are collected.
- Car insurance premiums go up by an average of 48% after an at-fault accident.
What Happens if You Are At Fault in a Car Accident?
If you are at fault in a car accident, your liability insurance will be used to pay for the other drivers’ medical and vehicle repair expenses. However, your liability insurance will never apply to your own injuries or property damage. Instead, you will need to file a claim with your own collision, personal injury protection (PIP), or MedPay insurance coverage.
Your state may already require you to have PIP and MedPay, which pay for your medical expenses in any accident, regardless of fault. And if your car is leased or financed, your lender or lessor likely requires you to carry collision coverage, which pays to repair or replace your car after an at-fault accident.
In no-fault states, the at-fault driver’s insurer is only responsible for covering property damage expenses. These states require all drivers to have PIP, so if anyone is injured in the accident, they can file a claim with their own insurance to cover their medical bills. However, if someone’s injuries are particularly severe or their medical bills exceed a certain amount, no-fault states allow them to sue the at-fault driver for compensation.
How Much Does Insurance Go Up After an At-Fault Accident?
An at-fault accident raises insurance rates by an average of 48%, though the exact amount depends on factors such as your insurance company, your state, and the extent of the damage. If you were issued a ticket for a moving violation related to the accident, your insurance costs could go up even more.
Premium Increase After an At-Fault Accident by Insurer
|Insurer||Premium Before Accident||Premium After Accident||Increase Due to Accident|
Once your insurer raises your rate, the increase will usually last for about 3-5 years, depending on your state and your insurance company. After that period, the accident will no longer appear on your record for insurance purposes. However, even if your insurer drops the premium surcharge, it could take longer for you to re-qualify for discounts related to good driving.
One way to avoid paying higher rates after an at-fault accident is to get accident forgiveness through your car insurance company prior to the wreck. Most major insurers offer some form of accident forgiveness, whether as a paid product or a loyalty add-on.
How Is Fault Determined in a Car Accident?
When a driver files a car insurance claim after a car accident, the insurance company will send an adjuster to investigate the wreck and make a final determination of fault. Adjusters determine fault based on the legal definition of negligence, which is when a driver fails to exercise the same amount of caution that a “reasonable person” would under the same circumstances.
During the investigation, the adjuster will consider evidence related to the accident, including:
- Driver and witness statements
- Dash cam footage
- The location of vehicle damage
- The position of the vehicles based on images taken at the scene
- Citations (if there are any) that were issued after the accident
In some cases, fault is easy to determine. For example, if you rear end someone or cause an accident while under the influence, the adjuster will most likely say that you’re at fault. However, in major accidents involving multiple vehicles, it can take longer for adjusters to piece together the evidence in order to come to a final conclusion.
How Fault Affects Your Car Accident Settlement
Once the insurance adjuster officially determines fault, the at-fault driver’s insurance company can negotiate a settlement with everyone else involved in the accident. But this process isn’t always straightforward. If someone is found to be partially at fault for an accident, their ability to collect a settlement from the other driver’s insurance company depends on their state’s negligence laws and how much they contributed to causing the wreck.
Types of Negligence Laws
|Type of Negligence||Description||How Many States Use It?|
|Contributory Negligence||If you contributed to the accident in any way, you cannot collect damages from the at-fault driver.||4 plus DC|
|Pure Comparative Negligence||You can collect damages that are proportional to your share of the fault.||12|
|Modified Comparative Negligence – 50% Rule||You cannot collect damages if you are at least 50% at fault in an accident.||12|
|Modified Comparative Negligence – 51% Rule||You cannot collect damages if you are at least 51% at fault in an accident.||21|
|Slight vs. Gross Comparative Negligence||You can only collect damages if you are “slightly” negligent compared to another party.||South Dakota only|
Tips for Lowering Car Insurance After an At-Fault Accident
1. Shop around
Geico, USAA, and Travelers offer the cheapest car insurance after an accident, according to WalletHub’s analysis. But each insurance company has their own methods for calculating premiums, so it’s a good idea to get quotes from three different insurers every 6-12 months to ensure that you’re getting the best deal.
2. Consider altering your policy
You should always purchase as much car insurance as you can afford, but if an at-fault accident is making coverage too expensive, you can consider dropping optional types of insurance. You can also raise your deductible in order to pay a lower rate, but you should make sure it’s still set to an amount that you can afford.
3. Look for discounts
Even though an at-fault accident means that you won’t qualify for good driver discounts, most major insurers offer other ways to save. For example, you may be able to get a discount if you take an approved defensive driving course. You can even get discounts for setting up auto-pay or switching to paperless billing.