What Happens When You Are At Fault for a Car Accident in San Diego, CA?

California uses a fault-based insurance system. If you bear the fault for a car accident in San Diego, CA, you are liable for the damages resulting from the accident.

You will also have no recourse to recover compensation for your injuries. You could pay for your medical expenses and the medical expenses of anyone else injured in the accident.

Here is some information about what happens when you are at fault for a car accident in San Diego.

Car Insurance in California

To understand the consequences of causing a car accident, you must understand how car insurance works. California uses a fault-based insurance system. Under this system, every vehicle owner in California must buy bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance.

California requires you to buy BIL insurance with policy limits of $15,000 for injury or death to one person or $30,000 for injuries or deaths of multiple people. The insurance industry refers to this as a “15/30 policy.”

Consequences of Causing a Car Accident in California

Depending on how the accident happened, you could face both criminal and civil liability for causing a car accident. For example, you could get arrested and face DUI charges after causing a drunk driving accident. The victims of the accident could also sue you for the injuries and property damage you caused.

The main civil consequences of a car accident include:

Liability for Injuries 

When you cause a car accident, the accident victims file claims against your BIL coverage. If your insurer agrees that you were at fault, it will pay those claims up to the policy limits. If the claims exceed your policy limits, you become financially responsible for the excess expenses.

For example, suppose that you cause a car accident that injures one person. If the victim claims $10,000 in damages, your insurer will cover the entire claim. But if the victim claims $20,000 in damages, your insurer will pay the first $15,000 of the damages, and you must pay the remaining $5,000. The accident victims could sue you to force you to pay.

You Must Pay Your Medical Bills

A common misunderstanding about car insurance is that it will cover your injuries if you get into a car accident. But BIL coverage was not intended to protect you. Instead, insurers designed it to protect you from liability.

If you get into a car accident, your BIL coverage will not cover your injuries.

If you caused the accident, you also cannot seek injury compensation from the policies of the other drivers involved in the accident. BIL policies only cover claims from those who are not at fault for an accident.

You will have three options to pay your medical bills after you cause an accident:

Your health insurance will pay for medical treatment for your injuries, regardless of who caused the accident. But you may need to pay a deductible or co-pay, depending on your coverage.

Auto insurers offer Medpay coverage as an optional add-on to your car insurance policy. If you buy Medpay coverage, your insurer will reimburse you for your medical costs up to your policy limits.

Shared Fault for Car Accidents

If the other drivers blame you for a car accident, you should consider talking to a lawyer. One of the best legal strategies to minimize your liability is to identify other possible causes of the accident.

Under California’s comparative negligence doctrine, you can reduce your share of liability for a car accident if other drivers also share fault.

Suppose that a jury assigns 40% of the fault to the other driver. You would only need to pay 60% of that driver’s damages. This defense can help you keep your exposure below your insurance policy limits and save your finances.