Personal Injury Protection or Tort Law: What Car Insurance Do You Have?

There are millions of car accidents each year in the United States where people suffer injuries that require medical treatment. The National Safety Council estimates that vehicular accidents result in 4.5 million “medically consulted injuries.”

If you or a passenger in your car is hurt in an accident, who pays for the medical expenses? Well, it depends on what state you live in, and what kind of insurance you have. Thirteen states in the U.S. require Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance, while others simply offer it as an add on to your auto insurance. If you live in a state that requires PIP, then your own insurance company will pay for your expenses related to the accident, even if the other party is at fault. This is also known as “no fault insurance.”

PIP insurance covers medical expenses from a car accident, ambulance fees, lost wages due to injury, rehab costs, as well as funeral expenses and survivor benefits in the case of a fatal accident. The point of PIP is to provide prompt payment for injuries caused by a car accident. Insurance companies pay out PIP claims no matter who is at fault, saving both parties from the burden of a lengthy liability lawsuit. 

States that require Personal Injury Protection insurance:

While no-fault insurance doesn’t assign blame for a car accident, each state’s car insurance laws set “thresholds” for when you can sue and seek legal redress. Usually if your PIP coverage maxes out, you can file a lawsuit for the at fault party’s bodily injury liability coverage to cover your remaining expenses. 

Neither PIP nor liability insurance pay for damage to your own car. In order to cover those costs you need to have full coverage insurance, which includes comprehensive and collision coverage.

States that don’t require PIP have a tort liability system, where the driver who is at fault has to pay for the other party’s losses from an accident, including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and property damage. There are 38 states that operate on the tort system.   

Tort coverage means a driver can sue for pain and suffering after a not-at-fault accident. The driver does not need to prove pain and suffering past a certain threshold – a lawsuit can be filed claiming inconvenience and ongoing pain.

Full tort insurance is usually more expensive than no-fault Personal Injury Protection insurance. In some states you can elect for limited tort, which limits what and how much you can sue for. 

No matter what state you live in it’s important to have a basic understanding of car insurance. Whether you have no-fault, Personal Injury Protection insurance or full tort coverage, you should know who is responsible for payment of medical expenses and other costs associated with a vehicular accident. 

Also, you should be familiar with what legal resources you can take and when you can take them after you’ve been involved in an injury accident.

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