California Revises Insurance Regulations Regarding Fault

rear-end accidentIn a move that could affect whether some California motorists qualify for good-driver discounts, state officials have amended auto insurance regulations to make it simpler for coverage providers to determine whether a motorist was principally at fault in an accident.

The amendments, which were approved this week by the state Office of Administrative Law, also allow insurers to use any evidence they have to show that a “driver’s acts or omissions caused the accident.” In the old regulations, there was a set of six circumstances under which a driver would not be considered at-fault, no matter what.

California drivers are considered to be principally at fault if their actions–or lack thereof–were a substantial factor in the accident and if they were are at least 51 percent to blame for the crash.

Implications for Good-Driver Discounts

Under the updated rules, California motorists are ineligible for good-driver discounts if they have one violation point on their records or were principally at fault in a crash that resulted in death, bodily injury, or at least $1,000 total in property damage during the previous three years. The former property damage threshold was $750, and it only applied to damages suffered by any one person involved.

The Department of Insurance said the property damage threshold had to be revised to account for inflation and the fact that damage to more than one person may now be counted.

Coverage providers are authorized to assign one violation point for each crash resulting in property damage that a driver is found to have been principally at fault.

Eligibility for the good-driver discount was originally outlined in Proposition 103, the consumer protection legislation passed by California voters in 1988. Regulators say the legislation, which introduced a broad array of regulatory controls on insurers, have made it easier for many consumers to obtain the cheap auto insurance in California that they are entitled to.

When Golden State motorists qualify for the discount, their premiums should be at least 20 percent below what they would have paid otherwise.

Changes to How Insurers Access Drivers’ Information

In addition, the amendments clear the way for insurers to rely solely on Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) and Insurance Services Office (ISO) database reports containing information on at-fault determinations.

“With this additional information, an insurer’s use of CLUE reports should be a reliable source” that help insurers in producing “timely” quotes for drivers, according to a news release from the department.

Insurers will also no longer be able to rely solely on DMV reports that lack the information needed to make at-fault determinations.

Also added was a consistent procedure that a driver’s insurer must follow after an accident—and that any subsequent insurers must adhere to—in determining at-fault status. That process includes providing written notice to the policyholder about the result of the insurer’s investigation and any determination that was made, along with the basis for that decision.

The amendments also prohibit insurers from finding drivers to have been principally at fault solely for failing to provide enough information.


About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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