If you’ve been involved in a car accident as a passenger or occupant in the vehicle, you may be surprised to learn who is liable for your medical bills. Many people assume the at-fault driver is responsible for paying the expenses for all injured parties in the accident, but in no-fault states like New Jersey that isn’t the case.
What is PIP?
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance is mandatory in New Jersey for anyone who owns a vehicle. This is also the case in New York and Florida, who also have PIP insurance mandates. In these states, all motor vehicle owners are required to purchase Personal Injury Protection in order to register a vehicle. If you own a vehicle and thus have PIP coverage, the first insurer to cover your medical bills would be your own PIP coverage -- this goes for anyone involved in the accident. The driver of the car you were riding in, the other driver, each passenger -- all would first go through their own PIP insurance.
What If You Don’t Have Auto Insurance?
As mentioned above, if you have car insurance in New Jersey, you have PIP coverage. If you don’t own a car, the policy of a family member with whom you reside may apply and can be used. In the case where the passenger does not have auto insurance and doesn't live with a family member who does, the medical bills may be paid for by the PIP coverage of the driver with whom you were riding.
What If Your Medical Bills Exceed Your PIP Coverage Amount?
In New Jersey, drivers are only required to carry $15,000 in PIP coverage. In New York, the minimum requirement is much higher-$50,000. $50,000 may sound like considerable coverage but it could be barely enough to cover medical expenses in the event of a moderate let alone serious injury. A $15,000 policy would only scratch the surface.
After exhausting your PIP benefits, if the accident was due to driver negligence, you may be able to hold the at-fault driver liable and utilize their liability coverage, if they have it. This can cover medical expenses, as well as other losses like missed wages and pain and suffering. The at-fault driver may also carry property damage liability coverage which would pay for damage to any of your personal property that was damaged due to the accident.
Examples of Negligent Driving
Negligent behavior behind the wheel comes in many forms. Drivers owe a duty of care to operate their vehicle in a safe manner on the road to other drivers, their passengers and pedestrians. Examples of behavior leading up to the car accident that could indicate the drive acted negligent include:
- Failing to obey traffic signals or signs
- Driver fatigue
- Driving aggressively
- Drunk driving
- Drugged driving
- Distracted driving
It's also possible that both drivers share some of the liability in an accident in which case insurance companies will assign a certain percentage of fault to each driver. If that’s the case, your claim could be more complicated and you should definitely speak with a car accident attorney about your options.
What Should You Do If You Were Injured as a Passenger in a Car Accident?
Especially in cases of serious injury, you should contact a personal injury lawyer who specializes in car accident cases. An experienced car accident attorney can build a case and advocate for fair compensation for your losses. Even if you’re only dealing with our own PIP coverage, an insurance company may be pressuring you to settle quickly or denying or devaluing your claim. A lawyer will negotiate with insurance companies and can often secure higher compensation amounts than going it alone.
Brandon J. Broderick, New Jersey Car Accident Lawyers
Working with a lawyer with extensive experience in car accidents can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Why risk being unfairly compensated and not having recourse to fix it? When you hire a personal injury lawyer from Brandon J. Broderick, you are assured a passionate team fighting for your best interest and putting your needs first. We work on contingent fees that are only collected if we win your case. If we don’t win, you don’t pay.
Contact Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, for a free consultation. With our proven track record of success with car accident settlements and our commitment to client care, we can turn your setback into a comeback.