What Is Personal Injury Insurance in California?

Thanks for visiting the Sally Morin Law personal injury website. Today we are here to tell you the basics about personal injury insurance in California and what you need to know to get the proper coverage for you and your loved ones.

Liability insurance is mandatory in California

Typically, there are two firm facts that most motorists agree upon. Those are that: 1. No one likes insurance (especially paying for it); and 2. No one wants to be involved in an accident! These two facts are interrelated, because it is compulsory to take out liability insurance for any street-legal motorized vehicle in California, whether you think you are likely to ever have an accident or not. At the same time you would never want to be in a situation where you did get into an accident and you weren’t insured. Liability insurance covers the possibility in which you are at fault and cause an injury to someone else, but what about personal injury insurance that protects YOU if someone else is at fault?

Personal Injury Insurance outside of California (in the "No-Fault States")

Personal injury insurance, also called personal injury protection insurance, or PIP, for short, is a type of insurance that protects you from the costs associated with a traffic accident, whether you are at fault or not.

In 13 U.S. states, like Florida, Kentucky and Kansas it is compulsory for all drivers to take out PIP. Usually, the requirement for personal injury cover is in addition to liability insurance. The reasoning behind compulsory PIP cover in these states is to limit the number of personal injury lawsuits, court time taken up by such lawsuits and the amount of compensation which can be demanded in such lawsuits. Most PIP insurance covers:

  • the cost of personal medical treatment;
  • compensation for lost earnings;
  • funeral expenses in the event of a fatality to those covered by the insurance policy.

If you are in one of the states where compulsory PIP insurance is necessary, then this generally precludes you from suing another driver who may have been at fault if you are injured in an accident. This kind of insurance is also called no-fault insurance and states where PIP is compulsory are called no-fault states.

Personal Injury Insurance (PIP or Med-Pay) in California

Personal injury insurance (PIP, but often referred to as med-pay insurance) is an option in California and all other states other than the 13 states mentioned above. This means that it is available, but not compulsory. If you do decide to take out PIP insurance in California, you may be able to carry your insurance with you while out of the state, i.e. retain PIP cover while you drive in any other state. This depends on your insurance provider.

There are several reasons why PIP is considered an attractive option and other reasons why it is may not be a good value for you and should be avoided.

The advantages of Personal Injury Insurance (PIP or Med-Pay)

There are many good reasons to get proper personal injury insurance, but a few highlights are:

Personal injury insurance (med-pay) will provide essential compensation regardless of who is at fault for your accident.

Med-pay coverage will kick in and pay for the items listed above whatever the reasons for the accident. It doesn't even matter if you caused the accident. 

PIP is paid more quickly than third party insurance.

PIP (med-pay) will be paid out much more quickly than waiting for a personal injury claim to be resolved quite some time later. A personal injury claim may take months or even years if a lawsuit is filed.

It will pay even if you "lose" your case.

Not to mention, your case could fail if the amount of evidence you have that the other driver was responsible for your injuries is insufficient to convince the insurer or a judge if the lawsuit goes to court. That sort of outcome could leave a seriously injured accident victim out of pocket and struggling to survive financially. With PIP (or med-pay) you won't be left high and dry.

Other advantages of PIP

It is also great to have this personal injury insurance coverage when when you have been injured by:

  • an uninsured driver;
  • an underinsured driver; or
  • a hit and run driver.

The first two situations can be alleviated by taking out uninsured and / or underinsured accident insurance, which are more difficult to use than PIP, but in many cases drivers are unaware that they have this sort of insurance. In some cases, it is only when a personal injury attorney has examined an accident victim’s insurance coverage (check your "declarations page now") that it is discovered that he or she actually does or doesn't have insurance to cover them in the event that they are injured by an uninsured/underinsured driver.

In the case of an injury caused by a hit and run incident, there is very little that can be done unless the hit and run driver is found by the police and brought to justice. Even if this does eventuate, there would still be a need for the at-fault driver to have sufficient liability insurance. Whatever the charges made against the hit and run driver by law and enforcement authorities it is not going to really help you, the injured victim. So, do yourself a favor and make sure you have personal injury insurance (med-pay, uninsured and underinsured) coverage today!

It also covers your passengers.

Note that not only does this coverage help you, but it also covers any passengers you have in your vehicle or riding on your motorcycle. If if provides you with peace of mind knowing your loved ones will also have protection, definitely look into your personal injury insurance coverages ASAP.

Disadvantages of Personal Injury Insurance

Personal injury insurance can be quite expensive and does add to the cost of car insurance. [Side rant: It really makes me angry that people will spend thousands of dollars a year to protect their vehicles, but not to protect their health! Think about what's important to you when you evaluate your insurance budget.] Of course, the additional cost in an optional state like California must be weighed up against the potential advantages.

A PIP claim payment is likely to be a lot less than that obtained by a personal injury claim because payment for any pain and suffering damages is not included. Pain and suffering compensation in a personal injury lawsuit can be several times greater than the actual combined compensation for medical costs and loss of earnings. However, if the person who caused the accident doesn't have good insurance coverage, you still won't get compensated for your pain and suffering. So, med-pay coverage is a "guaranteed" coverage.

You are free in California to choose whether to take out PIP cover or not, but you should choose carefully (and determine your priorities) before deciding one way or another. Here at Sally Morin Law we have over 20 years of experience with personal injury cases and have found that our clients with personal injury insurance fair the best in the end.

If you or your loved one has suffered serious injury in a personal injury accident, get a free online case evaluation from our team of legal experts now.

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