When a personal injury claim is related to an auto accident, car insurance is typically the first line of defense for both injured parties and those legally responsible for the injuries. In most cases, the injured party is able to recover for their injuries simply by filing a claim against the responsible party through the responsible party’s auto insurer.
Assuming the responsible party’s insurer pays out and the policy offers enough coverage to pay the claim in full, the process can stop there. Injured parties may also have the option of making a claim for their injuries with their own insurer depending on the coverage they carry. Either way, throwing car insurance into the mix of a personal injury claim can substantially affect the process and outcome of the claim.
Understanding Car Liability Coverage
Liability coverage is the portion of your policy that pays for other’s injuries in an auto accident that you cause. Liability coverage has several different aspects to it, including property damage you cause to the other party in an at-fault accident. However, the portions relevant to personal injury claims are bodily injury liability limit per person injured, and bodily injury liability limit per accident.
Bodily injury per person injured sets a maximum benefit for each party who is injured in an accident you cause, up to the limit of your policy. Bodily injury per accident sets a limit for what the insurer will pay for all the injuries associated with one accident. Where you might run into trouble as a plaintiff or as the responsible party is if your per-person or per-accident limits fail to cover the total medical bills.
For example, say you’re injured in a car accident, and your medical bills total $75,000. However, the at-fault party has an auto insurance policy with a per-person bodily injury limit of $50,000, meaning you would still be on the hook for $25,000 unless you then sued the responsible party to recover the rest.
Personal Injury Protection Car Insurance
One of the shortcomings of auto liability coverage is that it does not cover your own personal injury expenses. For those benefits, you’ll need a policy with personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments coverage, depending on what the carrier calls it. Also referred to as no-fault car insurance, PIP pays for your medical bills after a car accident, no matter who was at fault.
Some states require PIP coverage to protect motorists from the delay associated with personal injury claims and to reduce the amount of litigation related to car accidents. Generally speaking, PIP may limit your right to sue other parties. Depending on your state’s laws, you might not be able to sue if you make a PIP claim unless serious injury or death occurred, or your damages exceeded a coverage limit.
Clearly, the interaction between auto insurance and personal injury claims can be complicated. Car insurance agents can only tell you so much about the personal injury process. For in-depth questions, you need to talk to a personal injury attorney. For a free consultation about your car accident related personal injury claim, give us a call at 1-800-ASK-FREE.