If you are a Washington D.C. driver and have never been involved in a car accident, you may be unsure exactly what personal injury protection (PIP) insurance is, and what it means for you.
No Fault Car Insurance in Washington D.C.
Most states require drivers to have some minimum level of automobile insurance in order to drive. However, in addition to a minimum level of liability coverage, some areas require no-fault car insurance coverage. Washington D.C. is one of a number of places that have a “no fault” car insurance system. The other states which require some level of no-fault coverage include Pennsylvania, Utah, Hawaii, New Jersey, Kansas, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, and Minnesota.
Under D.C. Code § 31–2404, each insurer must offer optional personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. It provides benefits for medical and rehabilitation expenses, work loss, and funeral expenses. PIP benefits are available only to a victim who is insured or an occupant of the insured's vehicle.
After a car accident, drivers usually exchange insurance information, and may report the accident to the police. The drivers will then contact their insurance company to report the accident, as well as the details of any other drivers involved in the incident.
In a state without “no fault” insurance, the driver who is at fault for the accident may be required to cover the other driver's property damage and medical bills. Alternatively, in Washington D.C. or other no-fault states, each driver will file an insurance claim with their own insurance company. The insurance company will then provide coverage for the property damage and personal injury damages for the person who holds the insurance policy, regardless of who was at fault.
PIP insurance may also cover a percentage of lost wages due to being out of work, funeral expenses, and some other costs. In some cases, filing a PIP claim may make the process more simple. However, in other cases, a PIP claim may limit the driver's ability to recover for all of their injuries and damages.
PIP coverage may be subject to limits. If the cost of a driver's injuries exceeds their coverage, the insurance company may not compensate the injured party completely. In the event of a serious automobile accident, where a driver or the passengers have chronic injuries, scarring, disfigurement, permanent disability, or require long-term treatment, a personal injury lawsuit may be a better option. This would allow an injured driver to be fully compensated for their injuries, pain and suffering, loss of income, loss of enjoyment, and other damages.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
Since Washington D.C. is a no-fault car insurance jurisdiction, individuals may be limited in how they can file a personal injury lawsuit involving a car accident. A driver in the District of Columbia may only have 60 days from the date of the accident to decide whether to receive PIP benefits or whether to file a civil suit against the other drivers involved.
In some cases, a driver can still receive PIP benefits and pursue legal action, where there is:
- substantial permanent scarring or disfigurement;
- substantial and medically demonstrable permanent impairment which has significantly affected the ability of the victim to perform his or her professional activities or usual and customary daily activities;
- a medically demonstrable impairment that prevents the victim from performing all or substantially all of the material acts and duties that constitute his or her usual and customary daily activities for more than 180 continuous days; or
- the medical and rehabilitation expenses of a victim or work loss of a victim exceed the amount of personal injury protection benefits available.
After an accident, you may have to make a difficult decision of whether to file a civil lawsuit, elect PIP benefits, or try and pursue both. Your personal injury attorney can give you the information so that you can make an informed decision about your case, and help you determine if you are eligible to take advantage of PIP benefits and a personal injury claim.
Washington D.C. Personal Injury Attorneys
If you were injured in an accident, contact the law firm of Gilman & Bedigian to get the help you need to file your case and get the compensation you deserve. Our experienced attorneys have years of experience handling personal injury and medical malpractice cases throughout the DC metro area. Contact our office today for a free consultation.