At-Fault Accidents: What Are They And What Does It Mean For Insurance?

Any driver knows that you can do your best to avoid a car accident, but they are just that, accidents and do happen. The anxiety of being in a car accident can be compounded if you’re the driver at-fault for the accident. Maybe you didn’t notice a car stopped in front of you and rear-ended their bumper, or you thought you thought the coast was clear and backed out of a parking spot only to hit another car. Whatever the situation may be, don’t panic if you’re found at fault by your insurance company- this is why you have auto insurance. 

Let’s review what an at-fault car accident is and what it means for insurance. 

What is an at-fault accident? 

An at-fault accident is an accident caused by a driver either through an action they took or failed to take. Fault is determined after an accident by the drivers’ insurance companies through police reports, statements, photos, dashcam footage, and any other evidence available. 

More often than not, determining fault can be a relatively quick process, but if it’s a multi-car accident can take insurance adjusters a bit longer to conclude who’s at fault. 

What should I do if I get in a car accident?

We can all do our best to follow the law and drive safely, but accidents can still happen. There are a few things you can do if you get in a car accident that will make the claims process go smoothly:  

  1. First and foremost, make sure you are OK, your passengers are OK, and if the other driver (s) are OK. Call for help if needed. If you sustain injuries post-accident, seek medical attention immediately. 
  2. Take photos and videos of the damage- documentation is essential! Be sure to record your interactions with the other driver if they try to file a fraudulent bodily injury claim. (Yes, this does happen.) A dashcam is a great way to protect yourself from these types of things. 
  3. Document the conditions in which the accident occurred—the weather, road conditions, time of day, etc. 
  4. Get the other driver’s information. 
  5. Notify your insurance company regardless of fault. 
  6. Be truthful to the police officer about the accident and the claims adjuster. 

Your insurance company will handle everything after an accident- be sure to help move the process along as seamlessly as possible by getting any necessary information to your claims representative in a timely fashion. Don’t be afraid to ask questions- it’s what they’re there for! 

Car accidents happen, but that’s what insurance is for, even if you’re found at fault. Your insurance policy covers a set limit to how much your insurance carrier will pay out for bodily injury, collision, and medical expenses. This is why it’s imperative for you to carry the state minimum insurance requirements and, if you’re able to, full coverage for personal liability and property damage liability- especially if you’re found at fault. If you don’t carry enough coverage, you could be sued for any extra costs. 

If you want more coverage outside what your auto insurance policy offers, you can purchase an umbrella insurance policy to extend your liability limits. On average, an umbrella insurance policy is about $150 to $300 per year, depending on how much coverage you want. 

What are examples of at-fault car accidents? 

Depending on what type of accident, it’s pretty easy for an insurance company to determine who is at fault for an accident. Here are a few examples of common at-fault accidents: 

  • Rear-ending another car
  • Driving under the influence 
  • Ignoring traffic signals (Ex. going through a red light, disregarding a stop sign, etc.) 
  • Using your phone while driving 

TGSI Tip: Texting or using your phone while driving is banned in 47 states. If you’ve caused an accident because you were using your phone or even got just a ticket- you can expect your insurance rates to go up for both. 

How is fault determined after a car accident? 

Determining negligence (fault) after a car accident is done through your insurance company and is categorized into one of three different types of negligence: 

  • Pure Contributory Negligence means the insurance company will only reimburse you if you’re found 100% blameless for the car accident. But if the other driver can prove that you were partly to blame for the accident, Ex. Stopping suddenly at a light, then you won’t get any compensation from the other driver’s insurance company. 
    • States that use this: Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington D.C. 
  • Pure Comparative Negligence means drivers are paid out based on a percentage of fault. Ex. If you’re in a car accident and found 50% at fault, you could file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company for 50% of the settlement. 
    • States that use this: Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington 
  • Modified Comparative Negligence is similar to pure comparative negligence but has a threshold of usually 50% to 51% depending on your state. 
    • States that use this: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming 

How much will my insurance go up after an at-fault accident? 

There’s no way around it; your auto insurance rate will likely increase after an at-fault car accident. Remember, one of the ways insurance carriers determine your premium is by evaluating the risk to insure you. 

On average, at-fault accidents cause a driver’s rates to increase by 48%, but that’s dependent on where you live (your state’s laws), your insurance carrier, and any contingent variables such as a ticket related to the car accident. Ex. You caused a car accident because you were on your phone and were also issued a ticket from the responding officer. Drivers can typically expect increased rates for 3-5 years after the accident, but again this varies from state to state and carrier to carrier.

You can purchase a policy add-on known as “accident forgiveness” to help save yourself from skyrocketing rates and keep good driver discounts after an accident. 

What is accident forgiveness?

Accident forgiveness is a car insurance benefit that keeps driver’s rates from increasing due to their first at-fault accident. Depending on your carrier, you can obtain accident forgiveness either through a policy add-on that you purchase or for free if you maintain a clean driving record. Most carriers have specific criteria a driver must meet to qualify for purchasing an accident forgiveness policy add-on. Talk to your insurance agent about what accident forgiveness endorsement your carrier offers and how it can work to help you save. 

How can I save on car insurance after an at-fault car accident? 

If your insurance carrier increased your rates dramatically after an at-fault accident, there are some ways you can save. 

  1. Shop your policy around
    1. One of the single best ways to save on auto insurance is to shop your policy through 5-7 different carriers for the best rates and coverage. But, this can be a tedious and confusing process. Look to professionals like TGS Insurance Agency to help you with this. Our team of agents will shop your policy through a bank of 35+ A-rated carriers to find you an auto policy packed with the coverage you want at a rate that doesn’t break the bank! 
  2. Look for discounts 
    1. Ask your insurance agent for other ways to save, even after an at-fault accident. You may qualify for other discounts! 
  3. Think about changing your policy 
    1. If your premium has increased dramatically and you’re out of options, you also could remove optional policy add-ons or raise your deductible to help you save. But don’t raise your deductible so much that you can’t afford to pay it should you need to. 
  4. Practice better driving habits
    1. This seems obvious, but being more mindful on the road will help you get your premium down faster. 

Save on auto insurance with TGS Insurance

It’s easy to save on auto insurance when you have an agency of experts in your corner working to help you stay insured with the best policy the market has to offer. Not only do we shop your policy through our bank of 35+ auto insurance carriers, but we’ll continuously shop your policy at every renewal term, so you’re always paying the lowest rate possible without ever sacrificing coverage. We even handle all of the paperwork, payment setup, and anything in between for the easiest insurance shopping experience ever. Get your hassle-free car insurance quote now and see why over 15,000 Texans trust TGS Insurance with all of their insurance needs! 

About Katie Rosario

Katie has been in the marketing industry for over 10 years and has a strong passion for writing great content. She has been writing for TGS Insurance for three years and strives to make every piece of content she works on informative and easy to read. In her spare time, she enjoys baking and spending time with her family.