Fixing Your Car: Who Pays for Vehicle Damage in a No-Fault State?

There isn’t just one answer to who pays after an accident in a no-fault state. Here we present three options to get you back on the road.

If you are unlucky enough to have suffered a car crash, you have many things to worry about. Hopefully, you weren’t hurt, but if you were, your health comes first.

After your health, your mind turns to your vehicle. Was it damaged? Even worse, has the crash made it inoperable? Who pays for car damage if you live in a no-fault state?

There’s never just one answer. Often you will look to the at-fault driver’s insurance, your own coverage, or a lawsuit.

Across the 50 states, insurance and traffic laws vary. In 12 states (including densely populated Florida and New York), there are no-fault laws. No-fault insurance laws require motorists to turn to their own insurance company for most injury claims.

This article will talk about those insurance laws, how they affect who pays for damage to your car, and what you can do to protect yourself.

Do No-Fault Car Insurance Policies Cover Vehicle Damage?

Person checks off car damage information after accident

Your no-fault policy will cover your injury claims, no matter who caused the car accident. Your no-fault policy will not cover your vehicle damage unless you purchased extra coverage.

Your no-fault policy must include property damage liability coverage to pay for vehicle damage to the other driver’s car if the crash was your fault. Your liability coverage won’t pay for damage to your car.

No-fault car insurance policies try to keep personal injury lawsuits out of court. They do this by making both parties in an accident submit personal injury claims to their own insurance companies.

No-fault states require motorists to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. PIP only covers injury claims.

The procedure under a no-fault policy is different from a typical accident insurance claim. Without a no-fault policy, the at-fault driver’s insurance company pays all injury claims.

Motor vehicle damage is not part of PIP coverage. So, if you’re in a no-fault state, your insurance company will pay the medical bills and lost wages related to your bodily injury, but will only pay for car repairs if you elected to purchase coverage for that purpose.

Even though your PIP policy does not insure against damage from an automobile accident, you can still be compensated. There are three places to look for help with serious car damage: your insurance, the at-fault driver’s insurance, or a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

Option 1: Your Collision Coverage and Comprehensive Coverage

Person drags key across car

The first option for repairing your vehicle in a no-fault state is to make a claim against your own insurance policy’s collision coverage.

Collision coverage pays for damage caused by an accident with another car or object, like a deer or a fence.

Another option is to use your comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive auto coverage covers more kinds of damage to your vehicle, like vandalism or damage not caused by a collision.

The distinction between collision and comprehensive coverage is not always clear.

Imagine you are driving behind a gravel truck. A rock falls out and damages the front of your car. That would likely be a comprehensive claim, not a collision claim.

Similarly, if your neighbor knocks over a tree that falls on your car, that would also be a claim under comprehensive coverage.

This route will require you to call your insurance company to make a claim against your collision or comprehensive vehicle coverage. You will also most likely have to pay your deductible before coverage kicks in.

While collision and comprehensive coverage can be useful, it’s not cheap. Insurance premiums are higher when there is more coverage. You’ll need to decide whether the added protection from your own insurance company is worth the added cost.

Collision and comprehensive coverages are usually optional. However, if you have a car loan or lease, you will likely be required to carry collision and comprehensive coverage to protect the lender’s collateral.

If your insurance company pays for car damages caused by another driver, your insurer will try to collect what they paid from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, a process called subrogation.

The subrogation process doesn’t require much effort from you, other than cooperation with your insurance company as it attempts to recoup their costs and your deductible.

Option 2: The At-Fault Driver’s Auto Insurance Policy

Man on iPhone sitting in driver's seat

The second option for getting your car damage taken care of is to make a property damage claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance.

While a no-fault insurance system requires you to go to your own auto policy for less serious injury claims, there are no such restrictions on property damage.

Of course, when you make a claim against the other driver’s insurance policy, you will have to establish that the other driver was at fault. The other insurance carrier will probably want to investigate, or at the very least it will demand proof of its insured’s responsibility.

You can make this process quicker if you come prepared. Make sure you take the proper steps immediately after the accident. These include checking for injuries, taking pictures of the accident, getting insurance information, talking to witnesses, and more.

Get a copy of the police report showing that the other driver was liable. You can also check to see if nearby businesses or property owners have security video footage of the accident.

Option 3: Bringing a Lawsuit

Lawyer argues case before jury with judge in background

The last option for handling damage to your vehicle is also the most expensive and time-consuming: a lawsuit. It may be necessary, though, particularly if you’re dealing with an uninsured motorist (UM) and do not have UM coverage with your own insurance company.

A no-fault insurance system requires you to meet certain thresholds to bring a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver. There are, however, no such limits on a property damage claim.

Think it through before filing a lawsuit. If you sue for property damage and there is even a possibility that you will sue for personal injury, you should bring those claims together.

Depending on your case and the laws in your state, the at-fault driver may argue in court that you have waived the right to bring the claims that you did not assert from the beginning. Don’t put yourself in this position.

Also keep in mind that, should you bring a lawsuit for property damage, you will likely not be paid for a long time, especially if you take your case to trial. You could be waiting a year or more to get your money, and many accident victims cannot wait that long. You must also consider the emotional cost and time a lawsuit takes, which will be substantial.

Before bringing a lawsuit, it would be wise to consult with a personal injury attorney. If you’re in a no-fault state, the attorney will be familiar with PIP insurance issues and car crash claims.  The purpose of such a consultation is to protect yourself and prevent mistakes.

Get Your Car Back on the Road

Car accidents are stressful and disruptive enough without adding property damage into the mix. When an accident damages your car, or leaves you without a car, it affects everything.

An accident can snowball into a monster problem that can threaten your well-being, job, and security. It’s important to make sure you get your car, and your life, back on track as quickly as possible.

Whether you live in an at-fault state or not, you have the same options when it comes to getting the money to fix your car. Working with insurance companies or filing an auto accident lawsuit isn’t anybody’s idea of a good time. But these steps are important to making you whole and erasing the negative impact a car crash has on your life.

For legal advice on this situation, please contact a qualified accident attorney in your state.

Matthew Carter, Esq. has been a licensed attorney since 2004. He’s admitted to practice law in California and Nevada, where he was awarded the rating of AV – Preeminent. Matthew has successfully handled a variety of personal injury and wrongful death cases, as well as trials, appeals, and evidentiary hearings throughout state and federal... Read More >>