The time after a car accident can be stressful, particularly if the accident was your fault. You are likely worried about your expenses regarding the other party’s injuries and property damage as well as your insurance premiums. However, your own injuries – including your means of paying for treatment – may be your biggest source of stress. What are your options regarding compensation for your injuries?
California Is a Fault State
Some states are no-fault insurance states, meaning that drivers must purchase no-fault car insurance. No-fault coverage provides compensation all parties’ medical bills, physical therapy bills, and lost wages as the result of injuries received in an accident no matter who was at fault for the accident. No-fault states include Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota and Utah.
California, by contrast, is a fault state, meaning that the state considers one driver or the other to be at fault for the accident. The state will assign responsibility for the accident to the driver that caused it. If other drivers or passengers receive injuries, they can make insurance claims to recover their expenses and the at-fault driver’s insurance company will compensate them for their expenses. In addition, injured drivers may bring personal injury suits against at-fault drivers to receive compensation.
What is PIP Insurance?
If an accident is your fault, you may still make a personal injury claim against your auto insurance if your insurance policy allows it. Even though California is a fault state, drivers may still purchase personal injury protection insurance, or PIP, similar to the no-fault insurance mandatory in no-fault states. If you have chosen to purchase PIP coverage, compensation is possible.
PIP coverage, also referred to as med-pay, is optional in California. Most PIP insurance can cover the cost of doctor visits, hospital stays, medications, and medical equipment for you and your passengers. However, PIP will not cover pain and suffering. If you caused an accident and have purchased PIP insurance in the state of California, you may make an injury claim against your PIP. Your comprehensive health insurance policy likely offers better coverage, but PIP can help address unmet needs, cover your passengers, and lower your health insurance usage.
Comparative Fault in California
If you were completely at fault for the accident, PIP insurance may be your only option to file a personal injury claim. However, if the other driver was partially at fault, you could be able to receive compensation for a portion of your expenses. In fact, the other party only needs to accept 1% responsibility in order for you to make a claim.
California is both a fault state and a comparative fault state. Comparative fault means that if your case goes to court, the court may assign fault to more than one party. In a so-called shared fault case, even if the plaintiff has accused you of causing the accident, if the court determines the plaintiff shares some of the fault for the accident, you can receive compensation for the portion of the accident that was the plaintiff’s fault.
In order to receive compensation, your personal injury lawyer must prove the plaintiff was at least 1% at fault for the accident. Perhaps the plaintiff failed to signal, failed to use vehicle hazard lights, or maintained a position in your blind spot. Your attorney will consider the circumstances of your accident and attempt to show the court that you were not 100% to blame for the accident. Your compensation will reflect the plaintiff’s percentage of assigned fault.
Even if you believe you are at fault for your accident, you may still have options regarding a personal injury claim. Contact your insurance provider to determine whether you have chosen to purchase PIP insurance. Alternatively, if you believe there is a chance the other driver must assume some fault for the accident, notify your attorney.