After a car accident in California, police, insurance adjusters and, if necessary, lawyers attempt to determine who was “at fault” for an accident. The goal of this process is to determine which party in an accident should be held responsible for any damages resulting from the accident. In many cases, deciding who was at fault is relatively simple. If one driver was speeding, running through a red light and changing lanes all at the same time, the case is easy to decide. More often, questions of fault are nuanced and end up being settled as percentages. Driver A might end up accepting 40% of the blame, while Driver B accepts 60%. But what happens when one of the drivers was truly not at fault at all?
First, these types of accidents are relatively rare. Even a collision in which one driver rear-ends another can end up with shared fault. If the rear-ended driver forgot to turn on his traffic lights, didn’t stop at exactly the right spot on the road, or was distracted, that driver will end up sharing at least part of the blame.
But, assuming a driver involved in a traffic collision is found to be not at fault for an accident in any way, the other party is held liable for all damages resulting from the accident. That means at fault driver is responsible for paying for any repairs, medical bills, lost wages and other costs incurred by the driver who was not at fault. If the at-fault driver was insured, the insurance company will likely foot most of the bill. If the at fault driver was not insured, then the innocent victim has two choices: either use the court system to force the perpetrator to pay, or simply give up. In rare cases, it may be possible to obtain funding for repairs and medical bills from the state in lieu of compensation from an uninsured driver. A finding of “no fault” can still be advantageous even if no compensation is available because it may help driver’s avoid insurance rate increases.