Traffic Accidents in No-Fault vs. At-Fault States

People hurt in traffic accidents nationwide either live in no-fault or at-fault states. This variable determines whose insurance pays for each person’s property damage and medical expenses. It’s helpful to understand the distinction between traffic accidents in no-fault and at-fault states — and figure out which one applies to your injury case.

Traffic Accidents in At-Fault States

Also called “traditional” or “tort insurance” states, the law requires finding one or more drivers at fault for traffic accidents that involve injuries. (This can be confusing, since 50/50 fault is possible in certain cases.)

Drivers liable for traffic accidents in these states are responsible for all damage costs. That means they’re responsible for everyone injured in the accident’s medical expenses, too. Today, 38 U.S. states are fault-based when it comes to traffic accidents. At-fault drivers generally have car insurance policies that include bodily injury liability coverage. This policy specifically covers any injured person’s medical expenses.

Traffic Accidents in No-Fault States

When traffic accidents happen in a no-fault system, your auto insurance provider automatically pays for your damages. This happens regardless of who’s at fault, up to a specified limit. In no-fault states, drivers carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance to cover expenses incurred from traffic accidents.

One good thing about traffic accidents in no-fault states is not having to deal with anyone else’s insurance provider. If you’re driving and get into a traffic collision that injures you, PIP covers all your medical expenses and car repair costs.

These policies can be quite expensive, however. PIP policies are one reason Florida drivers generally pay more for car insurance than drivers in at-fault states do, like Wisconsin.

How Personal Injury Claims Work for Accidents in No-Fault States

Anyone injured in no-fault state traffic accidents may have a much harder time getting paid all the money they’re actually owed. Unless you’re severely hurt, no-fault states make it very hard to sue the person responsible for injuring you. That’s because no-fault insurance policies provide a guaranteed payment for damages below a certain dollar amount. In exchange, drivers give up some of their rights to sue and potentially recover 100% of their car crash costs.

On the other hand, that protects you if you’re driving and have a traffic accident. The 12 no-fault states are:

  • Florida — State law requires you to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. That means even if you get whiplash when another driver rear-ends you, you’ll still file a claim through your own provider.
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky — Drivers can choose between traditional tort and no-fault coverage when purchasing car insurance policies.
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan — This state has one of the most comprehensive no-fault auto insurance systems in the U.S. Each vehicle must carry a three-part, no-fault policy.
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey — Much like Kentucky, you could think of New Jersey as an optional or “choice no-fault state.” NJ residents can choose between traditional and no-fault auto insurance coverage.
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania — Like Kentucky and New Jersey, auto insurance policyholders can choose between full tort and limited tort (no-fault) coverage when buying their plans.
  • Utah

Related: Car Accident Insurance & Injury Claim FAQs

Laura Schaefer

Laura Schaefer is the author ofThe Teashop Girls,The Secret Ingredient, andLittler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at and