Who Pays for Car Damage in a No-Fault State?


Just because a car accident happens in a “no-fault” state doesn’t mean someone’s not to blame, and that person – the at-fault driver – is still responsible for paying car damages for the driver who isn’t at fault.

In most car accidents, blame can usually be assigned to a driver and if there is damage to the car, a driver will be blamed, even in no-fault states.

“Technically speaking, ‘fault’ and ‘blame’ are two very different things,” said Joseph Morrison, senior associate attorney at Mullen & Mullen, with offices in Texas and Missouri. “Even if an accident occurred in a no-fault state, blame still has to be assigned.”

There are 12 states, as well as Puerto Rico, that require no-fault insurance, which covers bodily injury. The goal is to limit high-dollar lawsuits related to injuries. Car damage is easier to quantify than bodily injury, and much less expensive to pay for.

The average personal injury insurance claim from a car accident is $21,000, the average per-vehicle car damage claim is $4,700.

At-fault drivers can pay for the other person’s car damage either out of pocket or through property damage liability insurance and pay for their own car repairs with collision insurance or out of pocket.

» More About: What Is a No-Fault State?

Does No-Fault Insurance Cover Car Damage?

No-fault insurance – officially, personal injury protection (PIP) – does not cover property damage, whether it’s to the cars involved or any other objects that may have been in the way or sustained damage in the accident.

PIP, required in the 12 no-fault states, covers bodily injury to the policy-holder and their car’s passengers, no matter who is at fault for the accident.

Car damage in an accident is covered by property damage liability insurance, which is also required in no-fault states. The driver who is at fault is responsible for covering car repairs and other property damage from the accident.

How to Pay for Car Damage in a No-Fault State

Drivers in no-fault states need additional insurance to pay for car damage and other property damage, since their PIP does not cover it. Drivers in no-fault states are also required to carry property damage liability insurance, which will pay repairs, up to the coverage limit, for any car involved in an accident they are at fault for.

Drivers who are at fault are also responsible for paying for the damage to their own car, whether with insurance or out of their own pocket.

If you are not at fault, you can pursue payment from the at-fault driver through their insurance company or through a lawsuit. If you opt to sue the other driver, be sure that it’s worth your while, since it may take a long time to get the money to repair your car.

Use Your Collision or Comprehensive Coverage

Collision coverage is an add-on that pays for repairs to your own car if you’re at fault in an accident, after the deductible is paid. Comprehensive coverage pays for damage caused by unforeseen circumstances, like hail, or a tree limb falling on the car.

Use Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage

In a perfect world, all drivers would have the property damage liability insurance, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage will pay for damages to your car when the other driver is at fault but doesn’t have car insurance.

Make a Property Damage Claim Against the At-Fault Driver

At the accident scene, get the at-fault driver’s name, phone number, and auto insurance information, including policy number – all necessary to file a property damage claim. Your insurance company can do it, or you can file it yourself. Call the at-fault driver’s insurance company or check its website for guidance. Since you may have to prove the other driver is at fault, it could get complicated and prolong any payout.  “The very least a lawyer can do for you is help you file a no-fault insurance claim,” Morrison said.

Filing a Lawsuit

No-fault states have thresholds for filing a bodily injury claim, but not for property damage. If your car’s damage is extensive and the at-fault driver’s insurance company is resisting a claim, hiring an attorney who can navigate state laws and deal with insurance companies will help ensure you get the compensation you need.

Maureen Milliken

Maureen Milliken has a three-decade career as a journalist at daily newspapers and publications that focus on business and consumer finance. She covered several beats during her newspaper career, including local and state news, features on prominent public officials and several years running a sports department. She is a subject expert on topics that include consumer debt, consumer credit, labor issues, financial abuse, rural development, and legal matters resulting from accidents in the workplace and on the roads. She is adept at presenting complicated topics in an easy-to-read format that helps readers understand the topic's impact on their lives … and their pocketbooks!

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