Does a No Fault Accident go on Your Record? [2021]

Honest Policy

Honest Policy

no fault accident

Key Takeaways:

  • You can be at fault in a no-fault accident.
  • A no-fault accident may go on your driving record, even if you didn’t cause it.
  • Your insurance company may raise your premiums after a no-fault accident, particularly if the accident resulted in a paid claim.

Questions Answered:

Led Zeppelin said it’s nobody’s fault but mine — and your car insurance provider is likely to agree. A no-fault accident may or may not show up on your driving record, depending on who actually caused the accident and on the laws in your state. But even if the accident isn’t on your driving record, you may see a rise in your premiums anyway — particularly if the insurance company paid out on the claim.

What is a no-fault accident?

The no-fault concept is a creation of state law. About a dozen states in the U.S. have “no-fault” legislation, which is designed to make it easier for people to get help with their medical bills after a car accident. Crashes that occur in no-fault states and result in only minor damages normally end up being no-fault accidents. This doesn’t actually mean no one was at fault, however. It does mean that the people injured in the crash get reimbursed for medical expenses from their own insurance carriers, regardless of who caused the accident.

PIP and PDL insurance

Of course, that reimbursement only happens when both drivers have the appropriate coverages. That’s why the states with no-fault legislation require drivers to carry no-fault insurance. That usually takes the form of personal injury protection or PIP coverage. PIP pays for your medical expenses and the medical expenses of your passengers, up to the limits outlined in the policy. PIP may also cover other related expenses, such as lost wages or childcare if your injuries from the accident prevent you from performing those tasks.  

Some no-fault states also require property damage liability or PDL coverage. Unlike PIP, PDL puts the financial responsibility on the person who caused the accident. If you cause an accident and damage someone else’s car, your PDL pays to repair that vehicle.  

Twelve states plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, have no-fault legislation, as shown in the table below.

Washington, D.C.

Kentucky

New Jersey

Florida

Massachusetts

New York

Hawaii

Michigan

North Dakota

Kansas

Minnesota

Pennsylvania

Utah

Puerto Rico

 

If you live in one of these states, you usually have to show proof of PIP coverage when you register a vehicle. Florida, for example, requires a minimum of $10,000 of PIP plus $10,000 in PDL.[1]

How are no-fault accidents different from at-fault accidents?

Imagine you’re driving to the beach with your best pal Bob. Bob runs a stop sign and t-bones another car. You suffer a neck injury and the driver of the other car comes away with a laceration that needs stitches.

  • In an at-fault state, Bob’s bodily injury liability insurance should pay for your medical bills and the other driver’s medical bills. Note that Bob’s bodily injury liability insurance would not pay for any injuries Bob might sustain, however.
  • In a no-fault state, Bob’s PIP coverage pays for your medical bills. If Bob is also hurt, his PIP coverage covers his medical bills, too. The other driver files a PIP claim with his or her own insurer to pay for the stitches.

The purpose of a no-fault system is to help injured parties get their medical bills paid quickly and without court involvement. In the Bob scenario, the other driver doesn’t have to chase after Bob or his insurance company to secure funding for those doctor’s visits. And while the insurance company may still investigate the incident and decide who was at fault, that investigation shouldn’t delay payment on the PIP claim.

The no-fault system is most advantageous in situations where the at-fault driver is unreachable or has no insurance. Someone who’s injured in a hit-and-run, for example, can settle the medical bills right away — without having to wait for a police investigation to identify and track down the driver who caused the accident.  

Can a no-fault accident be your fault?

Yes, a no-fault accident can be your fault. Oddly enough, fault is still an important concept in no-fault states. In our scenario above, Bob was clearly at fault. For that reason, the accident will show up on Bob’s driving record no matter where he lives. The accident may also show up on the other driver’s record, but this depends on state law. For example, Florida lists accidents on your record if a citation was issued, which normally means you did something to cause the accident.[2] Michigan law is similar.[3] In Pennsylvania, though, all accidents are kept on your record, regardless of fault.[4]

How long will a no-fault accident stay on my record?

Usually, a no-fault accident will stay on your record for three to five years — but the specifics are determined by the laws in your state. Generally, smaller accidents and tickets will roll off your record after three years, while major violations can stick around for much longer. Often, it’s the violation, rather than the accident, that lingers. For example, if you cause an accident because you were driving recklessly, the reckless driving violation might remain on your record for 10 years or more.

Will my insurance premiums go up?

Your insurance provider may increase your rates after a no-fault accident, whether or not you were at fault. That’s more likely to happen if the insurer paid out money on your PIP claim. But know that a history of accidents is a red flag to any insurance company, even if those accidents were caused by someone else.

You might be a very conservative, law-abiding driver, but if you’re also accident-prone, insurance carriers will charge you a premium. That’s why it’s smart to assume the “nobody’s fault but mine” perspective when it comes to driving. Even if you’re not technically causing accidents, you might be doing something else to put yourself in harm’s way — such as driving late at night or driving an older, bulky vehicle that’s hard to maneuver. The takeaway? While it’s useful to know if no-fault accidents affect your driving record, it’s even more useful to strategize on avoiding accidents altogether.  

Sources

[1] Florida insurance requirements. (2019, September 25). Retrieved December 31, 2020, from https://www.flhsmv.gov/insurance/

[2] Questions about driving records. (2019, October 07). Retrieved December 31, 2020, from https://www.flhsmv.gov/driver-licenses-id-cards/general-information/questions-about-driving-records/

[3] Michigan no-fault accident FAQs: What you need to know. (2020, June 09). Retrieved December 31, 2020, from https://www.michiganautolaw.com/car-accident-lawyer/faqs/no-fault-accident/

[4] Does a car accident appear on your record if you’re not at fault in PA? (2020, November 10). Retrieved December 31, 2020, from https://www.reifflawfirm.com/does-a-car-accident-appear-on-your-record-if-youre-determined-not-at-fault-in-pa/

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