Can I make a personal injury claim for a car accident in a no fault state?

Question

Can I make a personal injury claim for a car accident in a no fault state?

Answer

If you live in one of the dozen or so no-fault states and you have been in a car accident, you might still be able to file a personal injury claim against the other driver, but your case will need to meet certain thresholds in place in your state before you can take that step.

First, it’s important to understand that one of the purposes of the no-fault insurance system was to limit costly liability claims between drivers in the first place. So, while it’s possible to step outside of the no-fault system and file a car accident lawsuit against the driver who caused the crash, it’s far from an automatic option.

As you probably know, if you’re involved in a car accident in a no-fault state, you are required to turn to your own car insurance policy for any injury claim stemming from the accident. It doesn’t matter who caused the accident (hence the term “no-fault). Many cases start and end there, with an injured driver receiving a settlement from his or her own insurer. The settlement can include compensation for things like medical expenses and lost income (up to a certain amount), but it will not include payment for pain and suffering and similar non-economic damages.

But every state has a threshold at which an injured person can step outside of the no-fault system and file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver. That claim (which could take the form of a personal injury lawsuit) would allow the injured person to recover the full spectrum of damages, including compensation for pain and suffering.

So, what are these thresholds? There are two types: one focuses on the seriousness of the injuries, and the other considers the cost of medical expenses incurred due to the accident. Every no-fault state uses one or the other threshold, and a few states use both. For details on the rules in your state, check out No-Fault States: Monetary Thresholds and No-Fault States: Serious Injury Thresholds.

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