What is personal injury protection, and do I need it?

Couple in a car together, while the passenger is reading aloud about personal injury protection on her tabletImage: Couple in a car together, while the passenger is reading aloud about personal injury protection on her tablet

In a Nutshell

Depending on your state, you may be required to purchase personal injury protection when buying auto insurance. Knowing what PIP coverage is and what it includes will help you understand what kind of protection you can expect from your car insurance if you’re in an accident.

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Purchasing personal injury protection is mandatory when you’re buying auto insurance in certain states.

PIP coverage can help pay your medical expenses if you’ve been in an auto accident. This type of car insurance may also cover lost wages and funeral expenses.

Let’s cover which states require personal injury protection coverage, what PIP coverage provides and how to file a PIP claim.



What is PIP?

PIP is a type of auto insurance that offers extended coverage for certain expenses related to personal injuries resulting from an auto accident.

What kind of extended coverage do I get through PIP?

Personal injury protection coverage is a type of auto insurance that’s available in states with no-fault or add-on insurance laws. This valuable coverage may help defray your costs if you’ve been left with steep medical expenses after a car accident. And PIP offers coverage that goes beyond medical expenses, with benefits that can help pay for some of the biggest expenses you might face after being in a crash.

In states where PIP is available, there are minimum coverage requirements. Keep in mind that with increasing medical costs, the minimum coverage may not be enough to pay your bills after an accident. If it’s an option for you, it might be a wise idea to purchase PIP coverage that exceeds the state minimum.

Do I need PIP?

The minimum coverage you need depends on the auto liability insurance laws in your state. There are four different categories of auto liability insurance laws, which vary by state.

  • No-fault — PIP is mandatory in no-fault states. Under the no-fault system, your claim is paid by your own insurance company after an accident, even if another motorist was at fault in the collision. Under these laws, there are limitations on a person’s right to sue.
  • Tort liability — With tort liability, your claim is paid by the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident, and there are no limitations on your right to sue.
  • Choice no-fault — With choice no-fault, drivers can choose between no-fault and tort liability.
  • Add-on — As with no-fault insurance, add-on insurance laws require your claim to be paid by your own insurance company, even if another driver caused the accident. But these laws differ from no-fault insurance in that there are no limitations on a person’s right to sue.

Personal injury protection is only offered in certain states. If you live in a state where PIP is required, you’ll need to purchase this type of auto insurance coverage if you want to get behind the wheel, even if your existing health insurance provides protection similar to what’s offered by PIP.

PIP is required by law in Puerto Rico and no-fault states, which are …

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah

In some other states, PIP coverage is optional. If you live in one of these states, PIP may be worth considering since it can help pay for accident-related expenses not covered by your health insurance. But take note: This optional coverage will increase your car insurance premium.

PIP is optional in Washington, D.C., and the following add-on states:

  • New Hampshire
  • South Dakota
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Check out the Insurance Information Institute to learn more about what coverage your state requires.

What about pain and suffering?

If you’ve experienced pain and suffering after an accident, many states allow you to sue for damages. But in states with mandatory PIP coverage, there are limitations placed on your right to sue.

What does PIP cover?

Just like with other types of auto insurance, what your PIP covers depends on what you pay for. And how much your PIP premium will cost depends on factors like the type of coverage you want, your age, and the make and model of your car.

Depending on what you opt for and what’s available in your state, your PIP premium may cover the expenses listed below. Keep in mind that the extent of coverage provided varies from state to state.

Medical bills

After an accident, medical bills can build up. But PIP coverage can help, by paying for your medical treatment up to the limits of your coverage. It will also cover the medical expenses of others listed on your insurance policy.

And you don’t have to be in a car or behind the wheel to qualify for this coverage. Your PIP coverage may even apply if you’ve been struck by a car while walking or riding or bicycle.

Lost wages

If you’re unable to work because of an injury from a car accident, you may not have the income you need to pay your bills and put food on the table while you recover. In certain cases, PIP insurance will cover your lost wages during this time.

Rehab costs

If you need physical rehabilitation after an auto accident, PIP insurance may provide coverage that shields you from having to pay rehab costs out of pocket.

Household services

If you’ve been incapacitated by a car accident, you may need help with things like house cleaning and yard work. If you’re a parent in this situation, you may also need assistance with childcare. PIP may provide benefits that help cover the costs associated with these services.

Death benefit

If you die in a car accident, PIP coverage may provide a death benefit for your family. This payout can be used by your family members to cover medical and funeral expenses.

PIP vs. medical payments coverage

Medical payments coverage is a type of car insurance policy that can help you pay your medical bills after an accident. In some ways, it’s similar to PIP: It covers costs associated with things like doctor visits, hospital stays, surgery, X-rays and professional nursing.

But medical payments coverage, unlike personal injury protection, typically doesn’t provide protection for things like lost wages, household services and rehabilitation costs — and there’s no death benefit. To get that type of protection, you’d need to invest in a PIP policy.

And unlike PIP, medical payments coverage is never mandatory — it’s always optional in the states that offer it. In states where PIP coverage is available, medical payments coverage may not be offered. Depending on your state’s law, you’ll usually have the option of purchasing either PIP or medical payments coverage, but not both.

How do I file a PIP claim?

If you were driving at the time of an accident, you’d file your PIP claim with your insurance provider, regardless of who was at fault in the collision. If you were a passenger in a vehicle that was involved in a crash, you’d file a car insurance claim with the insurance for the driver of the car you were riding in, even if that motorist didn’t cause the accident.

To prevent fraud, states such as New York have put limits in place that shorten the window for submitting PIP claims. Be sure to check the rules in your state. If you’ve been in an accident, time may be of the essence when filing your PIP claim.


What’s next?

Personal injury insurance may come in handy if you’re ever in an accident.

Depending on your state, it may be a mandatory requirement. But in those states where PIP is optional, it’s worth looking into the costs and coverage options PIP offers. You may find it’s worth the expense when you’re dealing with the aftermath of a crash.


About the author: Warren Clarke is a writer whose work has been published by Edmunds.com and the New York Daily News. He enjoys providing readers with information that can make their lives happier and mor… Read more.