What to Know About Fault in California Car Crashes

California is one of the highest-ranking states for car crashes. In 2022, it experienced 3,563 deaths linked to motor vehicle collisions.

This sobering number naturally has compelled many people to seek financial compensation for the physical and psychological damages they suffered.

In the state of California, the law adheres to an at-fault system. This means the court decides who shoulders the blame when a vehicle crash has occurred.

But what exactly is a fault and how does the court determine it?

What is a Fault?

The fault is attributed to anyone who appears to be responsible for a harmful act against another person. It could take the form of either physical, financial, or psychological damage.

In most instances involving a vehicle collision, the fault is determined when negligence is involved.

How is Fault Determined in California?

As mentioned earlier the law dictates that California is an at-fault state during the investigation of a vehicle incident. The court is responsible for deciding who is at fault and who should therefore receive compensation.

Because of this, you may have to hire a car accident lawyer in California to represent your case. There is a lot of legal paperwork and red tape involved, especially if you have to negotiate with an insurance company.

A good lawyer can serve as an advocate for you, and ensure your position is properly defended, so you receive the highest possible compensation if that applies. The attorney can also act as a liaison between you and the insurance company or companies, so you never have to speak with them directly.

How is Compensation Decided?

When a car crash occurs, each driver involved will file a claim with his or her insurance company. Each state’s deadline for the statute of limitations in such cases, but in California, it is 10 days if damages exceed $2,000.

This means you have only 10 days after a crash to report the event to your insurance company. The company will then take your claim to an adjuster.

That person will consider all the evidence provided to it–such as police reports, medical bills, documentation of the scene, and other damages that might have occurred. Then the adjustor will provide an estimate of what the total compensation payout would be.

Once the court has determined the fault and set compensation, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will have to pay the cost of the damages. But occasionally, the victim doesn’t believe he or she has been given the amount of compensation they deserve.

When that’s the case, the victim can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver to obtain additional compensation. Again, you’ll have to hire legal representation to take this course of action. It’s not an easy process, so you shouldn’t have to navigate it alone.

What If the At-Fault Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance?

It’s crucial, when a car crash happens, that you obtain the other driver’s contact information and document everything that occurred at the scene of the accident. The most critical piece you’ll want to get is all of the other driver’s insurance details.

Sometimes, the other driver doesn’t have insurance. That could form the basis for additional compensation or fines.

According to the Auto Insurance Laws of California, every driver is required to have a minimum car insurance coverage of:

  • $5,000 in property damage
  • $15,000 in bodily injury per person
  • $30,000 for more than one person

Additional fines for driving without insurance depend on whether it’s your first offense. The fine could range anywhere from $500 to $1,000. You could also have your driver’s license suspended for up to four years.


Emotions run high after you get in a vehicle collision. It’s easy to point fingers and blame the other people involved.

But it’s in your best interest to let the law address fault on its own. It would be a poor idea for you to give the court any reason not to decide in your favor because you chose to add fuel to the fire.

Always make sure to consult with an attorney in cases when an extreme personal injury has occurred, or the crash resulted in death. The lawyer will have the necessary experience and professionalism to advocate for you.