In its broadest sense, "no-fault insurance" is a term used to describe any type of insurance contract under which insureds are indemnified for losses by their own insurance company, regardless of fault in the incident generating losses. In this sense, it is no different from first-party coverage. However, the term no-fault is most commonly used in the context of state/provincial automobile insurance laws in the United States, Canada, and Australia, in which a policyholder (and his/her passengers) are not only reimbursed by the policyholder’s own insurance company without proof of fault, but also restricted in the right to seek recovery through the civil-justice system for losses caused by other parties.
No-fault insurance has the goal of lowering premium costs by avoiding expensive litigation over the causes of accidents, while providing quick payments for injuries or loss of property. The victim's insurance company would only pay out the claim, while the driver-at-fault's insurance company would pay out a claim and charge that party a higher insurance premium as they are now higher risk. While this may disadvantage the victim's insurance company, as the at-fault driver's insurance company can recoup the claims quicker through raised premiums, accidents happen between drivers of both insurance companies with an equal chance of drivers from both sides being at fault, so this in theory should even out.
Critics of no-fault argue that it does not punish reckless or negligent drivers sufficiently, with only raised premiums and a higher risk rating, and no jury awards or legal settlements. Detractors of no-fault also point out that legitimate victims with subtle handicaps find it difficult to seek recovery under no-fault. In response, proponents of no-fault insurance point out that automobile accidents are inevitable and that at-fault drivers therefore should not necessarily be punished; moreover, they note that the presence of liability insurance insulates reckless or negligent drivers from financial disincentives of litigation. Also supporting no-fault insurance, in regions with high numbers of uninsured motorists, at-fault parties are often “judgment proof” (i.e., unable to pay their liability damages) in any case. Another criticism is that some no-fault jurisdictions have among the highest automobile-insurance premiums in the country, but this may be more a matter of effect than cause (i.e., the financial savings from no-fault may simply make it more popular in areas with higher automobile-accident risk).
Labels: No-fault insurance