"No-fault" car insurance is so named because benefits are available under your own insurance policy after an accident regardless of who was at fault for the crash. Because fault need not be proven in order to receive compensation, it's common to assume you do not need the assistance of a car accident lawyer to handle a no-fault insurance claim.
However, for some no-fault car accident claims, the assistance of an attorney may prove to be a big asset. This is particularly true if you suffered serious injuries that might qualify you for stepping outside of the no-fault system and filing a liability claim to lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident -- or if the insurance company refuses to settle your claim in good faith. In this article, we'll look at some common ways car accident attorneys can help withno-fault car insurance claims.
No-fault insurance laws in many states are complex when it comes to injury claims. For instance, some states allow injured individuals to seek compensation from another driver whether via a third-party insurance claim or in a personal injury lawsuit -- but only if the injuries meet a certain threshold of severity, or the claimant's medical bills pass a certain dollar threshold.
An attorney can help claimants establish that their injuries meet whatever "serious injury" threshold is in place in the state for taking a car accident claim outside of the no-fault system. This can be crucial to getting a satisfactory result after an accident, because once a claim is outside of no-fault, the injured person is able to collect compensation for non-economic damages like pain and suffering. And, if it's already clear that your claim is one that won't be subject to the restrictions of the no-fault system -- you've suffered permanent debilitating injuries, for example -- you'll want to have an attorney to represent your interest as the claim proceeds and things get more contentious and complex.
Personal injury protection (PIP) benefits are intended to cover the medical expenses for policyholders who are injured in car accidents. In most no-fault states, PIP benefits extend not only to the individual who purchased the policy, but also to members of that individual's family who have no PIP benefits of their own, such as children. In addition, PIP benefits in many states cover policyholders and their dependents not only in the family's own vehicles, but also when they are passengers in another person's vehicle or when they are hit by a car in a pedestrian or bicycle accident.
Because PIP benefits rules can be complicated, obtaining a fair settlement when it comes to PIP benefits can be difficult -- especially if compensation is sought in an accident that did not involve the policyholder's vehicle. An attorney can help you understand exactly how your PIP benefits apply, which laws govern these benefits in your state, and how to obtain a fair settlement for your injuries.
In some states, PIP benefits cover lost income from work for a limited time in addition to covering medical bills associated with a car accident injury. States that use this model typically "cap," or limit, the amount of wage replacement an injured person may receive from his or her policy and for how long. If your insurance company refuses to work with you in good faith to pay the full amount of wage replacement you are due, an attorney can help you get the necessary compensation.
In a claim based on a no-fault insurance policy, the parties involved in the car accident are typically known as the "first party" and "second party." A "third party" is another person or entity such as an auto manufacturer whose conduct contributed to the accident. For instance, if a defective tire causes a vehicle to swerve and sideswipe a bicyclist, the bicyclist and driver are the first and second parties, and the manufacturer of the defective part is a third party.
Third-party claims are typically not covered by no-fault insurance. Instead, a person injured by the actions of a third party may need to go to court to seek compensation from that party. A car accident attorney can handle every step of this process, from drafting a demand letter to representing an injured person at trial.