Although medical expenses are only one component of available damages in many personal injury claims, they may turn out to be your most immediate need. Compensation for your medical expenses can come from a variety of different insurance sources, depending on where you live and how well you prepare in advance for the prospect of an injury accident.
Medical Payments Coverage
Medical payments coverage will cover your medical expenses arising out of a car accident regardless of who is at fault. It generally covers the following additional expenses:
- expenses for dental work
- medical expenses you suffer as a pedestrian or bicyclist
- injuries suffered by passengers
- funeral expenses if someone dies in the accident
Medical payments coverage is generally an optional coverage for your auto insurance policy. Since much of its coverage mirrors the coverage found in the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policies that are prevalent in “no-fault” auto insurance states, medical payments coverage is most popular in “fault” auto insurance states (in other words, most states).
The terms of your general health insurance policy may allow compensation for injuries suffered in an auto accident even if the accident was your fault. If your health insurance policy offers weak coverage (low claim limits, for example), you can use it in conjunction with the medical payments coverage from your motor vehicle insurance policy so that your medical payments coverage will kick in only when your health insurance reaches its coverage limits.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage compensates you when you are involved in an injury accident with an uninsured driver. Moreover, most (but not all) states also allow you to use uninsured motorist coverage for compensation in a “hit and run” accident in which the driver is never identified.
Underinsured motorist coverage is designed to compensate you for medical expenses (and other expenses such as property damage) that exceed an at-fault driver’s insurance coverage limits – after all, injury accidents can be expensive and the minimum required auto liability insurance coverage is rather low in some states. Many states require their drivers to purchase uninsured motorist coverage and/or underinsured motorist coverage, while these types of insurance are optional in many other states.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance
PIP insurance is typically mandatory in “no-fault” auto insurance states (about a dozen states). In a “no-fault” auto insurance state, you are legally barred from filing a personal injury claim against an at-fault driver’s auto liability insurance policy unless the value of your claim or the seriousness of your injury exceed certain legal thresholds. If the bar applies, you will be expected to satisfy your claim out of your own PIP insurance. A few “no-fault” optional states offer PIP insurance as well.
Auto Liability Insurance
Naturally, your auto liability insurance is designed to compensate for injuries that you caused someone else, not your own injuries. Likewise, the auto liability insurance policy of an at-fault driver who injured you can be held responsible for compensating you for your injuries. There are two ways to obtain compensation from another driver’s auto liability insurance policy – negotiation and litigation. An experienced personal injury lawyer is essential for securing adequate compensation in either case.