Are You Always At Fault in a Single-Vehicle Accident?

Last Updated on September 1, 2020

When insurance companies assess accident claims, one of the most important factors they look at is who was at fault in the accident. When there are two parties involved in the accident, one person can be entirely at fault, or in some cases, will share fault in the accident. However, when there’s only one party involved, determining fault gets a little more complicated.

You’re not automatically found at fault if you are involved in a single-vehicle accident. However, there are many instances where an insurance company can prove fault for these individual accidents, which can reduce your chances of getting an insurance payout. The best way to avoid fault in a single-vehicle accident is to gather as much evidence as you can to give the insurance evaluators a clear idea of what happened. Here’s what you need to know about single-vehicle accidents and how insurance companies determine fault.

When Does an Insurance Company Cover Single-Vehicle Accidents?

Are You Always At Fault in a Single-Vehicle Accident?Single-vehicle accidents normally happen when drivers hit an inanimate object, like a tree or a telephone pole, instead of another car. Single-vehicle crashes are actually very common, as there are so many different factors that can cause them. However, not all insurance policies actually cover single-vehicle accidents. If you only have the liability coverage required by your state, you likely won’t be covered in a single-vehicle accident. This is because liability coverage only pays for your liability costs if you hurt someone else in an accident or damage their property – it doesn’t cover your own damages.

However, if you have collision coverage, you likely will be covered in the event of a single-vehicle accident. Collision coverage is not legally required, but it’s a worthwhile investment. It covers your property damage if you get into a collision, whether that’s a single-car accident or an accident with another party. You also might receive coverage if you have personal injury protection, or PIP insurance. PIP insurance is required in a few states but is optional in most. PIP is designed to pay for your medical expenses if you are injured behind the wheel, including in single-vehicle accidents.

Comprehensive coverage also may be able to help you if you are in a single-vehicle accident, depending on what type of accident it is. Comprehensive coverage is designed to cover damage to your vehicle that happens from forces outside of your control, like vandalism, weather, and more. If the accident happens because of weather conditions or an animal, your comprehensive coverage may be able to help you. Comprehensive coverage is often sold with collision coverage. While it’s not required by law, it is highly recommended by most insurers.

When Can I Be Found at Fault in a Single-Vehicle Accident?

Even if you have collision or PIP coverage, there are still instances where you can be found at fault, which will affect your future insurance premiums, your standing with the DMV, and even the total payout amount from your insurance company. Some of the reasons why you might be found at fault in a single-vehicle accident include:

  • Driving drunk or otherwise under the influence. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is extremely dangerous and is illegal throughout the US, as it impairs your motor skills and judgment. If you’re found to have been drunk or high during the time of the accident, you will almost certainly be found at fault.
  • Texting while driving. Using your cell phone while on the road is extremely dangerous. Looking away from the road even for a second can result in an accident. Because of this, texting while driving is now illegal throughout the US. If you’re found to have been texting or looking at your phone leading up to the accident, you will likely be found at least partially at fault. Consider getting a hands-free headset if you absolutely need to use your phone in the car.
  • Negligence. If you aren’t following the rules of the road and driving recklessly, you can be found at fault in an accident. There are many different forms of negligence – it could be something as simple as running through a stop sign or not signaling appropriately. Following the rules of the road is the easiest way to avoid any kind of accident, so be sure to practice safe driving habits.

When Won’t I Be at Fault in a Single-Vehicle Accident?

There are also many instances when you can be found not at fault in a single-vehicle accident. In these scenarios, you’ll need to be able to prove to your insurance company exactly what happened so they can reasonably determine that you were not at fault. Here are a few instances where you can be found not at fault in an accident.

  • Swerving to avoid another car, an animal, or flying debris. If you were swerving to avoid an accident and ended up crashing into a tree, for example, you would likely not be found at fault for the accident. This is particularly true if you’re swerving to avoid another driver who is under the influence or is otherwise practicing negligent driving behavior.
  • Potholes or other maintenance issues with the road. Roads need to be maintained to a certain degree in order for them to be safe to drive on. However, when a road isn’t properly maintained, it could cause you to hit a pothole, debris in the road, or something else, which could lead to an accident.
  • Weather issues. In some cases, you could be found not at fault for an accident it was caused by extreme weather outside of your control. For example, a severe storm could impair your visibility, or there could be a patch of ice on the road that was impossible to avoid.
  • Manufacturing defect on the car. A manufacturing defect could cause issues with the brakes or acceleration, leading to a crash. If there was no other way the crash could have been avoided, you could be found not at fault in the accident.

Keep in mind that it can be difficult to prove these things without concrete evidence. Particularly in the instance of weather or maintenance issues, your insurance company could say that you should have been driving more carefully. Right after an accident happens, you should always take as many photos as possible if you are physically able. You should also talk to nearby witnesses and get their contact information. When you get home, write down a full, detailed account of the accident, and get a copy of the police report if there is one. All of these documents can help you prove to your insurance company that you are not at fault.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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