The determination of who’s at fault in an accident is made by insurance companies based on police reports, any evidence gathered at the scene, and the rules of the road. Most states use a standard of negligence to determine how much a driver can claim in compensation. Some states only let you recover a certain percentage, based on how much of the responsibility for the accident lies with you. Others won’t let you claim if you’re tied to even the slightest sliver of fault.
Currently, 12 U.S. states and Puerto Rico uphold a system of “no-fault” insurance, limiting the ability of an injured driver to claim compensation from the other vehicle owner’s insurance company. The upside is that your own insurance company should cover your expenses, even if you were 100% responsible for the accident.
How No-Fault Insurance Works
Under a no-fault system, you are required to hold personal injury protection (PIP) as part of your vehicle insurance policy. This is also called first-party benefit coverage. That insurance will pay for your medical bills and lost earnings if you are injured in a car accident. However, If you want to recover damage-related costs, you still have to file against the other driver unless you’ve purchased additional coverage.
You won’t be able to file a personal injury claim with your own insurance company if you live in a no-fault state, but if it’s serious enough, you can still sue the other driver. There are two ways in which you can do this, depending on which method applies to your state. A monetary threshold means that you must spend a certain amount on medical bills before you’re allowed to sue the other driver. A verbal threshold means that certain “serious injuries,” like permanent disability or disfigurement, give you the right to file a suit. If your injuries are deemed to be serious enough, you’ll be able to go beyond your PIP coverage and ask for all types of damages including pain and suffering.
Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah all have some type of no-fault laws in place, with either a monetary or verbal threshold.
Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all offer drivers the option of opting out of the no-fault system, thereby retaining their right to sue the other driver for damages if they’re responsible for the accident.
Some states, like Oregon, don’t have a no-fault system, but still require drivers to carry PIP insurance. Others, like Texas, offer optional PIP insurance for an extra layer of protection.
Pursuing a Personal Injury Claim
To launch a personal injury suit in a no-fault state, you first must meet either the monetary or verbal threshold. In other words, you’ll either must produce proof that you’ve acquired significant medical bills or have sustained injuries that meet the state’s definition of “serious.” You can’t sue the other driver for any expenses covered by your PIP insurance or make a claim for pain and suffering unless you meet your state’s requirements.
If you have been seriously injured, you can recover initial expenses from your own insurer, and then sue the at-fault driver or vehicle owner for damages, pain and suffering, and anything else your own policy doesn’t cover. That’s why consulting with an attorney after a car accident is so important. No-fault insurance laws are complicated and vary from state to state. An attorney will assess your case and determine whether or not you can move beyond the no-fault system to commence a lawsuit and receive additional compensation for your injuries. If you have questions about whether or not you may have a potential personal injury case, contact our experienced lawyers.