What Is an At-Fault Accident?

Car Accident with Injuries
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Definition: If you are "at-fault" for an accident, this means that you caused the accident to take place, either through an action of your own, such as accelerating into another vehicle or by failing to take an action, such as by failing to stop at a red light. Whether or not you “meant to” do something, if you are the cause of the accident, you are still at fault. If the insurance company and/or police deem you 51% or more at-fault, then you are considered to have caused the accident. A ticket from a police officer is not required in order to be at-fault according to the insurance company.

If you are in a single vehicle accident, it is more than likely than not that you are at fault (it’s pretty hard to get a tree or a pole to show up in court).

Examples: If you hit, slide off the road, and hit a tree, you are considered to be because you did not have control of your vehicle at all times. If you hit a pothole, you are also considered at-fault, because this is a single vehicle accident that is avoidable. The only time you are not at fault is if another vehicle hits you while you are following all of the rules of the road.

At Fault Accidents and Car Insurance

Tort States: Most states are tort states. At-fault cars are the ones responsible for all the damages caused by the accident. Medical, pain and suffering, physical damage, and property damage are covered by the car insurance policy of the at-fault car. Penalties work the same in all states, a three-year rate increase for filing an at-fault claim is to be expected. A preferred insurance carrier will most likely not renew your policy if it is your second at fault claim within three years, even if you have a plan with accident forgiveness.

States: Medical payments car insurance most often refers to the medical coverage provided in the policy. A minimum amount of personal injury protection (PIP) coverage is required depending on your state's laws. Only the medical portion pays out regardless of fault. Your policy covers you.

Collision Coverage: The at-fault driver’s car insurance policy would be responsible for paying for pain and suffering as well as physical damage to another vehicle and property damage. Expect an at-fault accident claim to raise your rates for about three years depending on your insurance carrier.

Michigan: Michigan is extra special and not just because of the Pure Michigan ad campaign. No fault coverage refers to both medical and collision coverage. All medical and collision claims must be filed on your own policy regardless of fault. No collision coverage then the most you can collect from the at-fault driver is $1000 by filing a mini tort claim. Filing a not-at-fault collision claim on your own policy in Michigan usually comes without penalties. Filing an at-fault claim will result in an increase lasting approximately three years.

The best defense against a rate increase related to an at-fault claim is accident forgiveness coverage. It is an extra you pay for (whether or explicitly as a line-item add-on to your policy or through higher premiums) which will allow for one at fault claim to be filed without an increase in insurance premium. Not all insurance carriers offer the coverage and it is debatable whether it is worth purchasing. Research your options to help determine if this coverage is right for you.