If you've recently been injured in a car crash in one of the twelve states with "no fault" insurance laws, you may be wondering whether you have any recourse against the driver who truly was at fault. Although your own insurance policy's PIP (personal injury protection) coverage should compensate you for medical bills and other expenses you've incurred since the crash, this coverage may not be enough to pay for all the costs you've generated. You may also feel more than justified in trying to recover additional damages against the driver whose actions led to your injury.
So what are your options when it comes to filing a personal injury lawsuit in a no-fault state? Read on to learn more about the types of insurance coverage that will help pay your bills after an accident, as well as what you can do if your insurance limits are exceeded or you find yourself dealing with collateral consequences of your injury.
How will your medical bills and other expenses be paid following an accident?
If you suffer both vehicle damage and personal injuries during a car crash, you'll be drawing on several different types of insurance coverage. Your collision coverage should pay for your vehicle repairs (or replacement if your vehicle is a total loss), while add-on rental coverage can help fund your family's use of a rental car until yours is fixed or you've found a suitable replacement.
Your PIP coverage will pay your medical bills stemming from the accident, and this can include any physical therapy or durable medical equipment you need during the recovery process. In many cases, your insurance agency will be able to negotiate the rates charged by your various medical providers to ensure your coverage limits can stretch as far as possible before being met.
Are you allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit if you've already received some insurance funds for your injuries?
Often, particularly with minor auto accidents or high-limit insurance policies, your own PIP coverage will be more than enough to pay any medical bills and other costs generated from this accident. However, your insurance finds it hard to place a monetary value on certain things (like the ability to have a physical relationship with one's spouse)—and if you're facing a lengthy recovery or early retirement due to someone else's negligent actions, you may feel it only fair that they share a portion of the financial responsibility.
Fortunately, most states with no-fault insurance laws don't place any prohibitions on your ability to sue another driver for injuries and other collateral consequences you've sustained. For example, if you lost your job (or even lost out on a promotion) because your injuries left you unable to work, you may be able to recover lost wages or future wages; if you and your spouse divorced due to the stress of medical bills or your post-accident mobility restrictions, that can provide another avenue of recovery not usually covered by insurance.
However, there are some caveats. For example, you're not able to sue another driver if you've been offered and refused funds from your own insurance company, the other driver should be able to successfully argue that you can't waive your own insurance coverage in order to obtain a personal judgment against someone else. You may also have trouble maintaining a lawsuit against a driver who is deemed to be only half at fault in the accident if your state has adopted the theory of contributory negligence, which holds that someone who is partially responsible for an accident can only collect damages from someone whose fault was greater.
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