Insurance can be tricky, especially since the laws and policies differ from state to state. You might’ve heard the term “no-fault state” before, but what does that mean for your auto insurance?
Is Texas a no-fault state?
It’s important to understand your coverage and your rights so you can make informed decisions about your car insurance policy. In this post, we’ll give you an in-depth explanation of no-fault, comparative fault, and everything in between, including the rules and regulations that apply to Texans.
In the event of an accident, reach out to an experienced Houston car accident lawyer for help ASAP. We won’t just inform you of your rights; we’ll protect them too!
What does fault/no-fault mean?
When it comes to car insurance, every state has its own unique requirements and limits. There are “no-fault states” and there are “comparative fault states.” These come with their own set of rules and subcategories.
“No-fault” auto insurance laws require every driver to file a claim with their own insurance company after an accident, regardless of who was at fault.
The no-fault system is intended to lower the cost of auto insurance premiums by preventing claims from going all the way to court, thereby streamlining the victim compensation process. Instead of putting them through a lengthy courtroom battle, insurance companies will partially compensate their own policyholders after an accident.
If you get into an accident in a no-fault state and get hurt or damage your car, you will file a claim with your own insurance company. This is known as a first-party claim. Then, your car insurance will help you pay for your medical bills, car repairs, and other damages, regardless of who was found at fault in the accident.
You read that right: in a no-fault state, your car insurance will help you out even if you caused the accident.
Additionally, in states with no-fault laws, every driver must purchase personal injury protection (PIP) as part of their auto insurance policy. PIP covers you and your passengers’ medical expenses and loss of income — after your deductible and up to a certain limit, that is.
The minimum amount of personal injury protection varies from state to state. In states with the most comprehensive PIP coverage, the policyholder can be compensated for medical bills, lost wages, funeral costs, and other out-of-pocket expenses.
Note: no fault systems only address compensation for physical injuries. Under a no fault system, your insurance will help pay for your medical bills even if you caused the accident. However, property damage claims (like paying for car repairs after an accident) are still rooted in fault.
Under no fault laws, victims can also sue the other driver for more severe injuries and for pain and suffering, but only if their case meets certain conditions, known as a threshold. This threshold refers to the severity of injury and/or the total monetary amount of the medical bills. (Some laws also include minimum requirements for the days spent recovering/missing work as a result of the accident.)
Comparative Fault States
Texas is not a no fault state. Texas is a “tort state,” also known as a “comparative fault” state. What does this mean?
In a comparative fault state, you compare who is more at fault. If a driver is found to be primarily at fault for an accident, they must take financial responsibility for it. Liability insurance exists to help cover accidents like these.
What’s the Difference Between “Pure” and “Modified” Comparative Fault?
Car accidents can be complicated. Determining liability can be even more of a headache.
Sometimes the fault in a car accident is obvious, like when a drunk driver slams into you at a red light.
Other times, however, you and your car accident attorney may have to deal with a lot of finger-pointing and passing of blame.
Often, errors from more than one person contribute to a car crash. When both drivers are partially at fault, they may be able to sue each other for their injuries.
Here’s where all the legal jargon comes in! Comparative fault systems branch into three different subcategories:
- Pure contributory negligence
- Pure comparative fault
- Modified comparative fault
Under pure contributory negligence, if you are responsible for even 1% of the accident, you could be prohibited from recovering any compensation. Put simply, under contributory negligence rules, a person is not legally entitled to any compensation if they are at fault for any part of the accident. Harsh!
Applicable in: Alabama, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Pure Comparative Fault
Under pure comparative fault, your settlement award may be reduced depending on the percentage of fault attributed to you. However, a person involved in an accident can recover a small portion of damages, even if they are declared to be 99% at fault.
Example: if you are 90% responsible for a car crash, and you suffered $100,000 in damages, you may still be able to receive $10,000 from the insurance company.
Another example: you came to a rolling stop, not a complete stop, at an intersection with a stop sign. A car on a perpendicular path was speeding and t-boned you. You may be found to be 25% responsible for the accident. You could recover 75% of the bills and other damages incurred from the accident (On the other hand, a person who was rear-ended by someone while they were at a complete stop at the same stop sign might be found 0% at fault, and could recover 100% of their damages).
Applicable in Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington state.
Modified Comparative Fault
Sometimes known as “proportionate responsibility,” modified comparative fault rules acknowledge that the negligence of multiple parties may contribute to an accident, but the focus is on who is more responsible for an accident.
An at-fault driver is entitled to compensation only if they are determined to be less than 50% at fault (or 51% in some states, as you’ll see below.)
Example: if a court decides that you are 35% at fault and your damages totaled $100,000, you could still receive $65,000.
However, if the court decides you are 51% at fault in a modified comparative negligence situation, you are not entitled to any compensation, as the majority of the blame falls on your shoulders.
There are two very small variations on modified comparative fault:
- 50% Bar Rule: An injured victim cannot recover if they are found to be 50% or more at fault. If they are found to be 49% or less at fault, they can recover, although their recovery will be reduced by their degree of fault.
- Applicable in: Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia.
- 51% Bar Rule: A victim cannot recover damages if they are found to be 51% or more at fault. However, the damaged party can recover if it is 50% or less at fault, but that recovery would be reduced by its degree of fault.
- Applicable in: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Here, in Texas, we use the Modified Comparative Fault Rule and the subsequent 51% bar rule. So if a person is injured in a car accident in Texas, they cannot recover damages from the other party if they are 51% or more at fault for the accident.
Perplexed by all this talk of percentages? The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Chapter 33 explains the details of proportionate responsibility.
Determining Liability in a Houston Car Accident
To get compensated for accident-related expenses in a comparative fault state like Texas, you must first determine who was liable for your car accident.
A Houston car accident lawyer can help you prove fault with some or all of the following methods:
- Photos: They say a picture’s worth a thousand words! Photos of your vehicle damage, the accident scene, and injuries are very valuable for your case.
- Video: Even if you don’t have a dashcam, your lawyer may be able to access surveillance footage of your crash.
- Witness testimony: Your lawyer can reach out to people who may have witnessed your accident and record their retelling of it.
- Mobile phone logs and other records: Cell phone records can give your case a boost. For example, by obtaining these records, your lawyer may be able to prove the other party was texting at the time of the accident.
- Police reports: Calling police at the scene of an accident is always a good idea, even if you don’t think you need help. Why? They will generate an accident report and sometimes assign fault right then and there. You or your lawyer can obtain a copy of this accident report later.
- Medical documentation: Your medical bills are proof of your injuries and associated expenses.
- Expert opinions. Car accident lawyers often enlist the help of crash reconstruction experts and other investigators to piece together exactly how your accident happened.
By diligently collecting this evidence and connecting you with resources after your crash, your Texas car accident lawyer can help strengthen your case while you focus on recovering. If you try to build your case alone, you may miss out on crucial evidence or be taken advantage of by insurance companies who are trying to protect their bottom line.
I was in a car accident in Houston & it was not my fault. What are my options?
If you are found to be 0% at fault, you are entitled to pursue 100% of the damages you suffered, including medical bills, lost wages from time taken off work, auto repair, rental vehicle expenses, and more.
Contact a Houston car accident attorney to learn more about how to start your case!
I was in a car accident in Houston & it was my fault. What are my options?
If you were partially responsible for a car accident, contact a car accident lawyer in Houston. Under Texas car accident law, you still have options. It all depends on how much of the accident was your fault.
Texas is a comparative fault state. This means if you are hurt in a car accident and are found to be less than 51% responsible for the accident, you can collect money from the at-fault driver and their insurance company.
However, keep in mind your settlement may be reduced by your degree of fault.
Example: If you are determined to be 20% at fault for an accident with another driver and you suffered $100,000 in damages, you and your attorney could still pursue $80,000 in compensation.
Unfortunately, Texas at-fault accident laws state that a victim cannot recover damages if they are found to be 51% or more at fault.
Car Insurance Requirements in Texas
Texas law requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. The minimum amounts are as follows:
- $30,000 in injuries per person per accident (max total of $60,000 per accident)
- $25,000 in property damage per accident
Expenses can quickly surpass these default numbers, and you may need the help of a car accident lawyer in order to obtain what you really deserve.
Our Top-Rated Houston Car Accident Lawyer Is Ready to Help
- Texas is not a no-fault state.
- Texas is a comparative fault state, also called a “tort state.”
- If you are hurt in a Texas car accident and are found to be less than 51% responsible for the accident, you can collect money from the at-fault driver and their insurance company, but the settlement may be reduced by your degree of fault.
- You cannot recover any damages if you are found to be 51% or more at fault for a Texas car accident.
- Texas drivers must carry liability insurance.
If you’re still confused and dealing with the aftermath of a car wreck, an auto accident attorney can make all the difference.
No matter what type of accident you were in, an experienced Houston car accident attorney at our firm is here to help. With decades of experience in a variety of practice areas here in Houston, we’ve got the skills and resources you need to make a full recovery.
If you have questions, we have answers. Reach out now or call 713.804.7675 for a free consultation.