| Read Time: 3 minutes | Car Accidents

Knowing whether you live in a no-fault or an at-fault state is essential in the unfortunate event you are involved in a car accident.

The difference between the two states determines who is responsible for your injuries and losses after a collision. If you suffered injuries and property damage in a car accident, you may be eager to pursue damages against the party responsible.

Fortunately, California permits injured victims to seek damages against the party that caused their accident. But what does this mean? Is California a no-fault state or an at-fault state? 

Is California a No-Fault State? 

No, California operates under a tort system rather than a no-fault system for auto insurance. In California, the at-fault driver in a car accident is responsible for covering the damages, including injuries and property damage, incurred by others involved in the accident. Unlike no-fault states, where each party’s insurance covers their own expenses regardless of fault, California’s system holds the at-fault party accountable for the costs.

As an at-fault state, the person at fault for the collision must pay for the resulting injuries and property damage caused in an accident. To recover compensation, you must be able to identify the driver and establish their fault. 

What’s the Difference Between No-Fault and At-Fault States? 

In at-fault states, parties involved in a car accident can sue each other for their injuries and property damage in car accidents.

They must file their claim through the at-fault party’s car insurance. In some situations, the liable driver’s auto insurance policy may be inadequate to cover the costs of a victim’s damages. To recover the difference, the injured party may file a lawsuit against the liable driver individually

In no-fault states, those injured in car accidents require drivers to file claims through their own car insurance policies for damages up to a certain amount.

Most drivers in no-fault states are legally required to carry personal injury protection car insurance or PIP. After an accident, those suffering injuries in an accident must file claims with their auto insurance carriers.

Regardless of fault, the injured party’s PIP coverage pays for their medical expenses and lost wages resulting from the accident. Compensation for property damage losses comes from comprehensive or collision coverage in car insurance policies. 

How is Fault Determined in California Car Accidents? 

In California, as an at-fault state, fault is established in car accidents in one of two ways. 


Establishing fault under the theory of negligence requires proving the four elements of duty, breach, causation, and damages. 

  • Duty. All drivers have an obligation to operate their vehicles in a reasonable manner, obey traffic laws, drive safely, and maintain awareness of road conditions. 
  • Breach. A breach occurs when a driver fails to uphold this duty of care. Examples of a breach would be running a red light or speeding through a construction zone. 
  • Causation. A breach of a driver’s duty of care must be the cause of an accident. A driver failing to stop at a stop light and causing a collision would prove this element. 
  • Damages. You must have suffered harm due to the collision. 

The elements of negligence appear relatively straightforward. However, proving these elements usually requires the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney.

Statutory Negligence 

Proving a driver’s fault through statutory negligence requires proof that the driver violated the California Vehicle Code or other statute. At the scene of an accident, a reporting law enforcement officer creates an accident report.

This report may include details about whether the at-fault driver violated any laws, including speeding or driving under the influence. Establishing a violation of a law holds them responsible for the accident and your losses. 

Without an attorney, any victim injured in an accident risks their claim failing and losing out on compensatory damages they are entitled to receive.

Car accidents are often catastrophic and life-changing experiences, and getting the financial support you need and deserve is crucial. 

Contact Us 

At Peerali Law, we craft innovative and creative legal solutions in wrongful death and complex catastrophic personal injury matters.

The core of our practice is built around the belief that persistence, passion, and creativity bring outstanding results to our clients.

Peerali Law has secured millions of dollars for its clients at a time when this financial support is desperately needed.

Contact the legal team at Peerali Law today to get a free consultation and learn how they can help you with your case. 

Author Photo

Kristopher earned his J.D. at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law where he was a member of the Review of Law and Social Justice honors law journal and was awarded several scholastic honors.

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