After slamming into a parked car and shattering the bones in your legs, you finally understand the dangers of sending text messages while driving. In fact, you'll have a few months to think about it as you lie in bed with your legs in traction. You were the one who failed to pay attention, so you're likely the at-fault party. But can you file an injury claim if the car accident was your fault? Provided you have the right kind of coverage, the answer is usually yes. In any event, it's important to know exactly what your policy covers before you need it.
The following will help you learn more about filing injury claims when you are at fault for an accident, including a primer on no-fault insurance laws, personal injury protection, and medical payments coverage.
Injury Claims in No-Fault States
Roughly a dozen states have what are known as "no-fault" liability laws for motor vehicle accidents. In these states, motorists purchase a no-fault insurance policy, which covers medical costs, physical therapy, lost wages, and other expenses related to injuries sustained in an accident regardless of who was at fault. This is also referred to as "personal injury protection," or PIP. Vehicle damage is not covered by no-fault insurance; for that, you would need to purchase collision coverage. But your required liability coverage would cover damage to the other party's vehicle.
The limits of no-fault (or PIP) coverage depend on the terms of your specific policy, listed on the declaration page.
While Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania give motorists the option to choose between no-fault and standard liability insurance, the following are strictly no-fault states (*U.S. territory):
PIP Coverage Outside of No-Fault States
Even though PIP insurance coverage is mandatory in no-fault states, it is offered in most other states as well, including California, Illinois, North Carolina, and Texas. See Legal Minimum Car Insurance Coverage by State to learn more about the coverage requirements in your jurisdiction.
As discussed earlier, PIP covers a fairly wide range of expenses related to bodily injuries sustained in a car accident. So while you can file an injury claim if a car accident was your fault for medical expenses, keep in mind that PIP also typically covers lost wages, long-term physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, transportation to medical appointments, funeral benefits, and other such expenditures. State laws set limits on what PIP must cover based on what is considered reasonable.
But regardless of whether you live in a no-fault state, PIP coverage is based only on the needs of the claimant, fault notwithstanding.
Medical Payments Coverage
Another type of coverage in which fault is no concern is "medical payments coverage," which -- as its name suggests -- is limited to medical payments for you and your passengers (as well as any family members driving the insured vehicle at the time of the accident). This means that it covers hospital bills, doctor visits, and medications, but not the other related expenses that are generally covered by PIP coverage.
Even if you have comprehensive health care coverage -- which generally covers hospital care and doctor's visits -- medical payments coverage in your automotive policy can help with copays and also extends to your passengers.
Ask an Attorney About Your Injury Claim
The bottom line is that you certainly may file an injury claim for a car accident if it's your fault, and in some states that may be your only recourse. Insurance coverage can be complicated, especially if you're still shaken up by a recent incident. Get insight by talking to a skilled motor vehicle accidents attorney.
Contact a qualified auto accident attorney to make sure your rights are protected.