Mar 18, 2024

What Happens if I’m Partially at Fault for a Car Accident?

What Happens if I’m Partially at Fault for a Car Accident - car accident

Car accidents are all unique occurrences with a variety of different factors at play. More complex accidents involve a flurry of individual decisions before everything comes to a halt, and it’s not often clear who was at fault for each specific instance of damage.

Drivers commonly assume that playing a partial role in an accident automatically disqualifies them from seeking financial compensation. While it’s true that it can disqualify you, it may not always be that way. In some jurisdictions and under specific circumstances, personal injury protection (PIP) policies cover your damages even if it’s determined that your actions resulted in the damage.

For the most detailed information about your personal situation, contact our team for a legal expert’s opinion of your circumstances.


Does Personal Injury Protection Cover Accidents Where I’m Partially at Fault?

In “no-fault” car insurance states, all motorists are required to hold a minimum amount of personal injury protection insurance. This coverage offers financial compensation (up to your limit) for drivers involved in accidents, regardless of who’s at fault.

The list of no-fault car insurance states includes:

  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah

Outside of these states, motorists can elect for optional personal injury protection through their car insurance. It offers basic coverage against medical bills resulting from the accident. However, it’s expensive, so you might not have this coverage at the time of your accident.


What if I Don’t Have PIP Insurance?

Drivers outside of no-fault states may not have personal injury protection insurance. In these cases, insurance companies use other methods of calculating a policyholder’s negligence in an accident: pure comparative negligence, modified comparative negligence, slight-gross negligence comparative, and contributory negligence.


What Is Pure Comparative Negligence, and Where Is It Used?

The pure comparative model applies a percentage of the blame to each relevant driver, using all available evidence. Each driver collects their damages and subtracts the percentage they contributed to the accident from their total payout. 

Not every state uses this model. Here are the ones that do:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Washington


Pure Comparative vs. Modified Comparative Negligence

Like pure comparative, modified comparative negligence attributes a percentage of fault to relevant drivers. But, unlike its counterpart, motorists are only able to seek damages if they’re less than or equal to 50% at fault for the accident.

Basically, if you were more at fault than the other party(s), you’re disqualified from damages under this model. It’s one of the more popular models used by the following states.

  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming


Contributory Negligence Explained

Contributory negligence is straightforward: If you were at fault for the accident in any capacity, you’re ineligible from seeking damages. This applies to situations where you’re even 1% at fault.

Alabama, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia are the only states that leverage this method of calculating negligence. Still, it’s a complicated process that must be handled correctly. For example, an error in the insurance company’s evaluation can falsely attribute fault to an innocent driver.

In these situations, it’s recommended to speak with an experienced attorney to learn more about your legal options.


Where Is Slight-Gross Negligence Comparative Used?


South Dakota is the only state that uses the slight-gross negligence comparative model when evaluating the fault of car accidents. It’s a more ambiguous version of the modified comparative model, where the driver’s eligibility for damages hinges on whether they were more than 50% at fault for the accident.

In technical terms, you may qualify for damages if your contribution to the accident was “slight,” and you’re ineligible if your contribution was “gross.”

Although uncommon, it’s important to have confidence in the outcome of your legal situation. If you don’t, make sure to speak with a legal representative before finalizing anything.


What if I Don’t Know if I’m at Fault for a Car Accident?

If you were injured in an accident and are unsure of whether your actions contributed to the damage, reach out to our team to learn more about your legal eligibility. Complete our free, no-risk case evaluation to tell us some brief information about your case, then we’ll reach out with potential next steps.