What Is An At-Fault Accident? (2023)

Editorial Note: We earn a commission from partner links on Forbes Advisor. Commissions do not affect our editors' opinions or evaluations.

There were 38,824 people killed in motor vehicle accidents and 2.28 million people injured in crashes in 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Many of these crashes were caused by at least one driver breaking the rules of the road or making careless decisions.

When a collision occurs, it’s important to determine which driver(s) acted in a way that caused the crash. A driver whose behavior led to the accident is considered to be at fault. In an at-fault accident, the driver who was to blame is responsible for compensating accident victims for losses.

This guide to at-fault accidents will help you to understand what fault means, why it matters, and why some accidents are at-fault and others aren’t.


Looking To Speak With an Accident Lawyer? Find One Near You

Get Your Free Consultation From a Lawyer Near You.

What Is an At-Fault Accident?

An at-fault accident is a collision caused by a driver’s negligence. In most, but not all states, crash victims are able to recover compensation for injuries from the driver who caused the collision after an at-fault accident occurs.

(Video) What happens if I'm at fault in my auto accident?

Fault vs. No-Fault States

In some states, different rules apply when a crash happens. These are called no-fault states.

In a no-fault state, drivers are required to buy a type of auto insurance called Personal Injury Protection (PIP). When a crash happens, everyone involved makes a claim with their own insurer to get their injury-related costs covered by their PIP insurance. This happens regardless of who was to blame.

PIP pays for medical bills and partial lost wages up to policy limits. The driver who caused the crash is generally still responsible for covering property damage costs, but not for injury-related losses when the injuries are minor.

Within these no-fault states, a collision victim cannot sue a driver for injury-related losses unless the damage was very severe. The specific rules for when a victim can pursue a claim against the other driver vary but often focus on the severity and permanence of the injuries and/or costs associated with treatment.

What Does Fault Mean?

In car accident cases, fault has a specific legal meaning. A driver is at fault for an accident if:

  • The driver failed to fulfill his basic obligation to behave with a reasonable degree of care on the road. If the motorist behaved less safely than the average reasonable person would have, that motorist is said to be “negligent.”
  • The driver’s negligence was the direct cause of the motor vehicle accident

Many different types of behaviors can result in a driver being found to be at fault for an accident. These include:

  • Driving while drunk or on drugs
  • Speeding
  • Distracted driving
  • Failure to obey traffic signals or other rules-of-the-road
  • Following another car too closely
  • Not yielding to drivers or pedestrians who have the right-of-way

Proving Fault for a Car Accident

Determining fault is important in all collisions, even in no-fault states. Even in no-fault states, the driver responsible for the crash still must provide compensation for property damage and could still be sued for serious injuries.

And in states with at fault accident rules, the driver who caused the accident will have to fully compensate victims for both property damage and personal injuries.

(Video) What if I am at fault in an auto accident? [Personal Injury Attorney]

There are a number of different types of evidence that can be evaluated to determine who is at fault for a collision. This can include:

  • Statements from the drivers involved in the accident
  • Witness statements from observers
  • A police report written at the scene of the collision
  • Photos and videos from the crash scene
  • Skid marks on the roadway
  • The type and location of damage to the vehicles
  • Evidence from the accident scene such as blood or debris on roadways

If an accident victim wishes to pursue compensation after an at fault accident, it’s their responsibility to make a convincing case that the other motorist was to blame. An experienced car accident attorney can help victims to succeed in accomplishing this important goal in an at fault accident case.


Find A Personal Injury Lawyer In Your Area

Get Your Free Consultation From a Top Lawyer

Learn More

What Happens if Both Sides Are At Fault in a No-Fault Accident?

Sometimes, drivers share fault for a collision. If this happens, the rules about when victims can recover compensation for crashes vary by state. One of three legal rules could apply:

  • Contributory negligence: This legal doctrine applies in a minority of states. In a contributory negligence state, if a driver is even partly responsible for causing the accident, he or she can’t get compensation from the other motorist. This means someone who is 1% responsible would be barred from recovering any damages from the driver who was 99% to blame.
  • Pure comparative fault states: In states with this legal rule, victims can always pursue compensation even if they were mostly to blame. If a driver was 75% responsible for causing a crash, he could still make a claim to recover from the other driver. His compensation would just be reduced by 75%. So, if he sustained $100,000 in damages, he could recover $25,000 from the driver party to blame for the collision.
  • Modified comparative fault states: In these states, drivers who are partly responsible for their own injuries can recover compensation for a portion of damages. However, this is allowed only if the other driver was at least 50% responsible or at least 51% responsible, depending on the location

Cases where multiple parties are at fault for a collision can be especially complicated, so it’s important to get the right legal help in these situations.

What Losses Will Insurance Cover in an At-Fault Car Accident?

The compensation available after a car accident varies depending on whether it was an at-fault accident or not.

If you live in a no-fault state and your injuries are minor, you can get your medical bills paid and partial lost wages covered by Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and get your property damage losses paid for by the driver who caused the accident.

If you live in a fault state, you can pursue a claim against the driver who caused the collision and recover compensation for:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Property damage

Those who live in no-fault states and who sustain serious injuries may also be able to sue to recover these types of compensation if they meet their state’s requirements.

(Video) How to Determine Who is at Fault After a Car Accident

How to Obtain Compensation in an At-Fault Accident

If you are involved in an at-fault accident and wish to pursue a claim against the other driver, there are a few options for recovering compensation:

  • You could negotiate a settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. This would mean the insurer agrees to pay a lump sum amount and you agree to give up any further claims in exchange for the money.
  • You could pursue an injury claim in court and receive damages the court feels are appropriate if you prove your case

In many situations, you may file a lawsuit and then end up settling before the case makes it to trial. An experienced auto accident lawyer can help you to negotiate a settlement or take your case to court if doing so becomes necessary to get the compensation you deserve.

Timeline for Pursuing a Claim in an At-Fault Accident

If you are involved in an at-fault accident, you have a limited amount of time to act to pursue a claim.

There’s a statute of limitations that applies to injury cases and you must act before it or your claim is time-barred and not allowed to move forward. The exact time limit varies by location, but usually the statute of limitations is two to four years from the time of the at-fault accident.

Acting quickly is best so you can more easily collect evidence to prove your case so contact an attorney as soon as possible after a collision.


Looking To Speak With an Accident Lawyer? Find One Near You

Get Your Free Consultation From a Lawyer Near You.

(Video) What Happens If You Are Not At Fault for An Car Accident?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does fault mean in insurance?

Fault is important in insurance casse. A driver is at fault for injuries if the driver’s behavior was unreasonably careless and his negligence was the direct cause of a collision. When an at-fault accident occurs, crash victims can typically pursue a claim against the driver who caused the crash. The driver’s liability insurance would kick in to cover legal bills and pay compensation for losses.

What happens if you are at fault in a car accident?

In most states, if you are at fault in a car accident, your insurance will pay to compensate victims hurt in the collision. Your insurer will pay medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and emotional distress damages. Your insurance premiums might go up after your insurance company must pay out money to victims.

(Video) What happens if I’m at fault for a car accident

Should you admit it was your fault in a car accident?

If you suspect you are at fault in a car accident, you should talk with your insurance company and potentially a lawyer before accepting the blame. Fault can be a complicated issue because you must have been legally negligent in order to be responsible for causing the crash. Fault can also be shared in some cases, which can affect how much money your insurer would have to pay to accident victims.


What happens if you are found to be at fault? ›

If you were at fault in a car accident and you live in a fault state, you (or, usually, your car insurance) is responsible for the other drivers' damages. The other driver(s) will be entitled to file a claim with your insurance company.

How do you forgive yourself for causing an accident? ›

Strategies for Self-Forgiveness
  1. Think back. Think back to a time in your life when you felt safe and cared about someone. ...
  2. Remember the event. ...
  3. Don't avoid guilt. ...
  4. Take responsibility. ...
  5. Try to repair the damage. ...
  6. Have empathy for more than yourself.

Who determines fault in a car accident in Texas? ›

Because Texas is a fault state, after an accident, insurance companies will conduct their own investigation to determine fault. The insurer of the individual, organization, or entity found to be at fault would be the one responsible for damages compensation.

Why you should never admit fault? ›

You should not admit fault at the scene or following the incident until speaking with a car accident attorney. If you admit fault, insurance companies have legal responsibilities to cover damages. Your own insurance will have to pay for the damages to your and the other party's property.

How do you prove it wasn't my fault? ›

To prove you are not at fault in a car accident, you will need to show sufficient evidence that another party was at fault. This evidence may include the police report, eyewitness statements, photos or videos of the scene, and traffic camera footage.

Why you shouldn't apologize after an accident? ›

Your apology will be seen as admission of fault: Apologizing at the scene of the accident creates a record of that apology, which the insurance company will see. Their job is to keep you from obtaining the compensation you deserve, so you can expect them to use your apology against you as evidence of your culpability.

Is it normal to feel guilty after a car accident? ›

While not everyone who has survived a fatal car crash will experience survivor's guilt, it is important to be aware of symptoms and how to help yourself or someone you know cope with these feelings.

Should you apologize for an accident? ›

It may sound petty, but after a car accident, you should avoid apologizing to the other driver. Even if you believe that you were at fault, it's important not to assume responsibility until all of the facts are established and proper liability has been determined.

Who is usually at fault in a car crash? ›

In most instances, any driver violating traffic law will be held largely responsible for a resulting car accident. If one of the drivers is issued a citation for speeding, running a light, or another violation, he or she will most likely be primarily at fault, and carry the heaviest burden of the resulting liability.

Is Texas a no fault or at fault state? ›

No, Texas is not a No Fault state.

Texas is an at-fault state. This means that the person responsible for the accident is also responsible for paying for damages. Texas' auto laws allow injured accident victims the ability to hold liable parties accountable for the damages they caused.

How long does at fault accident stay on insurance record in Texas? ›

In Texas, car accidents on a driving record stay there for five years.

Does saying sorry admit fault? ›

If you say sorry after an accident, this could be interpreted as you admitting fault for the crash. This can be used as evidence in a personal injury case and prevent you from earning the compensation you deserve.

What is a person that never admits fault? ›

What do you call a person who never admits to being wrong? Infallible is defined as someone or something that is always perfect and correct, with no errors or mistakes. God's decisions are an example of infallibility.

Is it good to accept your fault? ›

Admitting you messed up may not always feel good, but can show to others that “we are compassionate, empathetic, sympathetic, and good listeners,” shared Dr. Hafeez, adding “It also shows that we are capable of being objective about ourselves and that we not 'perfect' or always right.”

What can I say instead of it's not my fault? ›

4 Ways to (Politely) Say 'That's Not My Fault' at Work
  • “I wasn't aware of that—thank you for letting me know.” ...
  • “The reason why I did that this way is…” ...
  • “Could we discuss this further in a team meeting?” ...
  • “I wasn't involved with this part of the project, but please tell me the correct way to handle this situation.”
Jan 2, 2019

What evidence can clear a defendant from blame or fault? ›

Exculpatory evidence is evidence favorable to the defendant in a criminal trial that exonerates or tends to exonerate the defendant of guilt. It is the opposite of inculpatory evidence, which tends to present guilt.

What is it called when you always think it's your fault? ›

Responsibility OCD: Everything Is My Fault.

What not to say after an accident? ›

Don't say “I'm sorry”

A simple “I'm sorry” can be used to show that you admitted guilt and responsibility for the accident. Even if you mean “I'm sorry you're late for work” or “I'm sorry you are hurt” – try to avoid using the words “I'm sorry”.

Why do I apologize so much even when its not my fault? ›

For many of us, saying “sorry,” especially when we're not at fault, may simply be an involuntary reaction. It could be because of a genuine desire to be polite or perhaps it's an aversion to any conflict.

What can I say instead of sorry for accident? ›

If you're unsure of what to say to someone in the hospital, let these ideas get you started.
  • “I'm so glad you're okay! ...
  • “I'm so sorry about your accident. ...
  • “You're looking great! ...
  • “It's so good to see you up and walking around. ...
  • “You are the bravest person I know. ...
  • “You inspire me to face challenges the way you do.”
Feb 23, 2023

Why did I cry after a car accident? ›

If you suffered permanent or debilitating injuries after the crash, these can also contribute to feelings of loss and depression. Being unable to move on from psychological trauma is considered a sign of acute stress or PTSD. PTSD, depression, and anxiety are common symptoms after a car accident.

Why do I cry after a car accident? ›

Car accident victims can experience PTSD

Sometimes the mood changes after a car accident are so severe they disrupt your normal life and may be signs of a more serious emotional injury, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

How long should your body hurt after a car accident? ›

After your car accident, in general, expect soreness to linger for up to six weeks. Normal pain after a car accident usually includes minor soreness. Commonly, car accident victims experience pain in the neck or back.

How do you apologize but not admit fault? ›

Empathize with the patient and family without admitting liability. Statements such as “I am sorry that this happened,” or “I am sorry that you are in such pain” capture regret in a blame-free manner. Describe the event and medical response in brief, factual terms.

Why should I not say I did something after an accident? ›

As mentioned above, if you apologize after an accident, it will create a record of the apology. This will be seen by the insurance company. Remember, insurance companies are trying to reduce what they pay out as much as possible. If you apologize, this is all they need to reduce the compensation you receive.

What is the most common type of car accident? ›

How may we help you? Rear-end collisions and angle collisions are the most common type of accidents.

How do you measure crush damage on a car? ›

Photogrammetry is one example of a forensic technology that can be used to yield reliable data where seemingly none exists. Photogrammetry provides a path for determining vehicle crush measurements, which can be used to deduce other important data including damage energy, Delta V, and vehicle speeds.

Do you need a police report for a fender bender in Texas? ›

Do I Have to Report an Accident to the Police? Texas law requires you to report a car accident to the police only if it resulted in serious injuries, death or property damage that exceeds $1,000 in value.

Should I call my insurance if it wasn't my fault Texas? ›

If an accident isn't your fault, should you contact your insurance? Definitely. There are many reasons why you still need to call your auto insurance if the wreck isn't your fault. Even if an accident is through no fault of your own and you are blame-free, you should call to make a report.

How is fault determined in Texas? ›

In Texas, fault in a three-way car accident is determined by who caused the accident. Texas is an at-fault state, meaning that anyone who caused an accident is at least partially responsible for it and can be sued for damages resulting from their wrongful actions.

Do insurance rates go up after a no-fault accident in Texas? ›

If the accident was entirely not your fault, a raise in your rate is not likely. However, many auto insurance companies in Texas offer a safe driving discount. They reduce your monthly premium if you have not been involved in any accident for a set period of time.

How long do you have to file a claim after an accident in Texas? ›

You should not wait long to report a car accident in Texas to your insurance company. You may generally have 30 days to file a claim with your insurer.

Will my insurance go up if I'm not at fault in Texas? ›

In Texas, there is no law protecting consumers from rate increases after not-at-fault accidents. In fact, insurance companies have the right to cancel your coverage after two not-at-fault accidents within a year.

Does insurance pay out if it's your fault? ›

If you are involved in an accident, your insurers will pay out for the damage to your vehicle regardless of whether or not the accident was your fault.

What happens if you are at fault in a car accident in California? ›

If you are at fault in a car accident, you will need to pay for the losses of the other driver, and anyone else injured or harmed in the crash. You would be responsible for paying medical bills and other damages.

What happens if you are at fault in a car accident in Florida? ›

Fault in Florida Car Accident Cases. The state of Florida is a “no-fault” car insurance state. This means regardless of who was to blame for the accident, drivers will recover compensation for minor injuries from their own insurer.

Can I lose my house due to at fault car accident in Florida? ›

Can You Lose Your House Due to an At-Fault Car Accident? In Florida, you cannot lose your house due to an at-fault car accident. The Florida homestead exemption, in most cases, will protect the home of the at-fault driver.

Which insurance does not pay regardless of fault? ›

Personal injury protection, also known as PIP coverage or no-fault insurance, covers medical expenses regardless of who's at fault. It can often include lost wages, too. Depending on the state where you live, PIP may be required or it may be available but not required.

How do insurance companies pay out claims? ›

Once the insurance company sends an adjuster and evaluates the damage to your home, they'll pay a settlement amount in either replacement cost or actual cash value. Replacement cost gives you funds to cover the costs to rebuild your home or repair damages using similar materials.

What is a fault claim? ›

A Fault Claim is an accident or loss where you are considered to be to blame, or where your insurance company cannot recover their costs in full from someone else. Claims made for loss due to fire or theft, damage caused by an unknown or uninsured driver and vandalism claims must be recorded as 'Fault' claims.

How many points is an at fault accident in California? ›

Major convictions, such as when you are driving a commercial vehicle, are given 3 points. Other collisions you are found to be responsible for are counted as 1 point depending on whether you are driving a commercial or non-commercial vehicle.

Is California a no-fault state? ›

Since California is not a no-fault state, injured victims must file car accident claims with the at-fault driver's insurance company. This means they must identify the driver who caused the accident and prove this driver's fault during the insurance process.

Can you go to jail for a car accident California? ›

However, if you cause a car accident that results in substantial bodily harm or death, the reckless driving charge is a Category B felony in California. A conviction for reckless driving causing injury or death because of a car accident could result in fines of up to $5,000 and up to six years in prison.

How does an at fault accident work in Florida insurance? ›

Home » Frequently Asked Questions » Car Accidents » Is Florida a No-Fault State? Florida is a no-fault automobile insurance state. This means that drivers must carry personal injury protection insurance (PIP) to pay for their medical expenses and other accident-related damages, regardless of who caused the collision.

How much will my insurance go up with an at fault accident in Florida? ›

Where Injuries Sustained? Car insurance rates are slightly higher after an at-fault accident with injuries compared to an accident with only property damage. In Florida, your rates could increase anywhere from 22% to 77% depending on your insurance company.

How many points is an at fault accident in Florida? ›

The Point System in Florida Is a Graduated System

There's a heavier six-point penalty for those who get into a car accident and leave the accident scene. The more points a driver incurs, the more likely they face serious repercussions that include financial penalties, suspended licenses, and jail time.

Who pays for car damage in Florida no-fault? ›

Due to Florida's no-fault laws, your insurance will pay for your auto repair after an accident you did not cause in Florida. However, if the costs of damages exceed your policy limits, you may qualify to recover additional compensation elsewhere.

Does insurance go up if not at fault Florida? ›

Now that you understand that no-fault does not mean that each driver is blameless, remember that insurance companies cannot raise your rates unless you are “substantially at fault” – more than 50%. This requires an investigation into the crash.

How long does a not at fault accident stay on your record in Florida? ›

In Florida, however, a crash goes on your record if you were issued a traffic citation as a result of the accident. Most stay on your record for three to five years, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.


1. The At-Fault Driver Says The Car Accident Is My Fault - What Do I Do?
(Zarzaur Law, P.A.)
2. At Fault vs No Fault Auto Insurance
(Shine Insurance)
3. What To Do After A Car Accident When You’re At Fault
4. Insurance Says You’re At Fault for Car Accident? | Virginia Lawyer Explains What to Do
5. MVAFAQ: How does turning left affect who's at fault in an accident?
(Law Office of Louis S. Haskell)
6. What Happens In A No-Fault Accident In Michigan? | Michigan Auto Law
(Michigan Auto Law - Auto Accident Attorneys)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Fredrick Kertzmann

Last Updated: 04/17/2023

Views: 5455

Rating: 4.6 / 5 (66 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Fredrick Kertzmann

Birthday: 2000-04-29

Address: Apt. 203 613 Huels Gateway, Ralphtown, LA 40204

Phone: +2135150832870

Job: Regional Design Producer

Hobby: Nordic skating, Lacemaking, Mountain biking, Rowing, Gardening, Water sports, role-playing games

Introduction: My name is Fredrick Kertzmann, I am a gleaming, encouraging, inexpensive, thankful, tender, quaint, precious person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.