If you cause an accident in a tort state, you must pay for any damage you’ve caused. Tort states require drivers to carry liability auto insurance to cover injuries they cause to others and for damages they cause to someone else’s car, house, fence, etc.

The details and regulations in the insurance space for a tort system vary from state to state. Find out about your state’s tort or no-fault system by contacting your state’s insurance regulatory body for consumer information.

Keep reading this guide to learn everything you need to know about tort states, tort insurance and no-fault insurance states.

Key Highlights
  • In a tort state, if you’re at fault for a car crash then you are responsible for paying the other driver’s medical bills.
  • Under the tort system, someone must be found to be at fault for causing the accident.
  • In tort states, drivers are required to carry liability insurance to cover the property damage and injuries they cause to others in an accident.
  • Tort states do not require drivers to carry additional coverages, like personal injury protection and medical payments coverage.

What is the definition of tort insurance?

Tort insurance is an auto insurance system in which drivers can seek compensation from the other party who caused the accident. Any state with a tort system requires drivers to carry liability insurance to cover the injuries they might cause to others in an auto accident.

Unlike the tort system, drivers in a no-fault state need to purchase liability insurance to cover their own and their passengers’ bodily injuries and property damage.

What is no-fault auto insurance?

No-fault insurance is a type of insurance coverage that will pay for your medical costs and/or loss of income when you get in an accident, regardless of who was at fault.

In some states, drivers are required to carry no-fault auto insurance, while it is optional in other states. The no-fault states are Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Utah, as well as Puerto Rico.

Check out our detailed guide Which states are no fault and what does it mean

What is the difference between tort state & no-fault insurance state?

States are either a tort state or a no-fault state. Most states are under a tort system; only 12 states are referred to as “no-fault.”

What is a no-fault insurance state?

In a no-fault insurance state, if you are involved in an accident, you will have to file an insurance claim with your own insurer regardless of who caused the accident.

States that follow the no-fault policy require drivers to buy personal injury protection (PIP). Insurance companies pay for their policyholder’s injuries and property damage, no matter who was at fault.

Jason Turchin, Esq. Attorney with the Law Offices of Jason Turchin in Weston, Fla
Jason Turchin, Esq.
Attorney with the Law Offices of Jason Turchin in Weston, Fla

“In a no-fault state, the law generally requires the injured person’s own insurance to pay for their own medical expenses up to a coverage limit, and only at a percentage of the reasonable expense amount,” says Jason Turchin.

“The at-fault person’s insurance would be responsible for the balance. The injured person would only be entitled to money for pain and suffering from the at-fault person if they have certain injuries.”

What is a tort state?

A tort state is one in which at-fault drivers in a crash are responsible for paying the other driver’s medical expenses. The at-fault driver must also pay for additional damages, such as loss of wages and “pain and suffering.”

If you live in a tort state, you may not be required to buy additional car insurance coverage, such as personal injury protection and medical payments coverage. In that case, it’s up to you to decide whether to buy extra coverage.

Jason Turchin, Esq. Attorney with the Law Offices of Jason Turchin in Weston, Fla
Jason Turchin, Esq.
Attorney with the Law Offices of Jason Turchin in Weston, Fla

“In a partial tort state, or limited tort, vehicle owners can opt into no-fault coverage, but may forfeit certain rights if they get into an accident. This could include giving up the right to sue for pain and suffering, but the injured person would get the benefit of medical treatment regardless of who was at fault,” Turchin says.

In a tort state where no-fault coverage is not available, the at-fault person’s insurance may be responsible to pay all damages to the injured party. This may include all medical expenses and pain and suffering.

You may decide to rely on your health insurance to cover potential car crash injuries instead of buying extra medical payments coverage. Contact your health insurance company if you are unsure about your coverage.

Under the tort system, a driver must be found to be at fault for causing the accident. The at-fault party is then held responsible for the damages sustained. Comparative and contributory negligence laws help to determine fault and if one or more than one driver can be found at fault for an accident.

Check out the article Are MedPay and PIP mandatory medical coverages

Here’s how tort insurance works

Every state that adheres to the tort system has options such as full or limited tort that you can choose when obtaining your car insurance policy.

Limited tort: With limited tort, you normally cannot sue for pain and suffering unless you sustain a serious or permanent injury.

Full tort: If you’re injured in a car accident and it’s not your fault, then there are no restrictions on suing the person who caused the crash. You can file charges for damages like lost wages, suffering and pain.

In some states, drivers are allowed to choose between the limited and full tort car insurance system, while in other states it is mandated by law for all drivers.

“Drivers should review their insurance policy with their agent or insurance professional to understand what coverages they have,” says Turchin. “Too often, people don’t really understand all of their coverages until they look at their policy after an accident when they need it most.

Understanding your coverage now can help you make a better-informed decision on what coverages you are opting out of or which others you could buy now to protect you in the event of an accident.”