When a car pulled out in front of and hit Emily Duren, she wasn’t thinking about her auto insurance coverage; she was more worried about being late for work.
The next day, however, Duren woke up with what she describes as a “pounding headache” and back pain. After seeking medical care, a doctor confirmed that she suffered multiple injuries in the accident. She had seven bulging discs in her back, muscle spasms and trauma-induced scoliosis.
To date, Duren has attended over 30 chiropractor appointments. She has seen two spine specialists and has had multiple MRIs. Duren doesn’t have health insurance. This means the out-of-pocket costs of those medical services could have cost her tens of thousands of dollars.
But at the time of the accident, Duren had $10,000 of personal injury protection coverage. Seven months after her accident, she still hasn’t reached the limit on expenses covered by the protection. She’s more than grateful that she had it.
“What a lot of people don’t think about with car accidents is the fact that they go so far beyond just the accident,” Duren says. “This is something I deal with every day of my life now. Without PIP insurance, I would have no way to afford any of these medical care.”
What is PIP insurance?
Personal injury protection or PIP is an extension of car insurance that covers medical treatment. Under PIP coverage, you’re covered for medical expenses and rehabilitative costs after a car accident.
PIP insurance is no-fault insurance. Regardless of who is responsible for the accident and injuries, you’re covered.
With PIP insurance the coverage follows you. You’re covered even if you aren’t driving. For example, if you’re a passenger in someone else’s car, or you’re hit by a vehicle while on a bike or as a pedestrian.
Another benefit of PIP is that is covers lost wages as a result of an accident. If you find yourself injured to the point where you can’t work, this insurance can help keep you from falling into a financial emergency.
What PIP insurance covers
PIP insurance covers medical care received as a result of an injury incurred in a car accident. For Duren, that meant chiropractor appointments, physical therapy sessions, and more.
On top of that, PIP coverage can pay for extreme costs incurred, like funeral costs.
Expenses covered vary by state, but can include:
Severe/permanent injury coverage
Daily services stipends
Survivors’ loss, or replacement services for surviving dependents of someone fatally injured in an accident
Keep in mind that PIP isn’t the same as bodily injury protection, which is a part of liability insurance. The latter protects others who’ve been harmed in an accident that you’re involved in, not you. Bodily injury is mandatory in all states.
When determining how much PIP coverage you need, consider your own situation. Michael Newcomer, a licensed insurance broker, advises consumers to put themselves in hypothetical scenarios to help determine how much coverage they might need.
“Do you have group or individual health insurance coverage that will kick-in if an accident occurs? How many months out of work could you afford if an accident were to happen?” Newcomer says. “If you find that your PIP coverage is too expensive, consider adding a deductible to the coverage.”
Is it mandatory?
PIP insurance is mandatory in the following 16 states: Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Utah. Each state varies when it comes to the minimum coverage requirements.
There are only two states that require MedPay: Maine and New Hampshire.
In all other states, PIP or MedPay is optional. Texas is the only state that offers both.
Do you need personal injury protection if you have health insurance?
Depending on which state you live in, getting PIP coverage could still make sense — regardless of having health insurance already, according to Sa El, licensed life and health insurance agent.
In these mandatory states, if you claim for costs for treatments relating to an accident, you have to file a PIP claim first before using your health insurance.
It might feel redundant to have both, but this way you know that once you’ve exhausted the limits of PIP, you can then rely on your health insurance.
If you don’t have health insurance, you should get PIP to help with any medical costs in the event of an accident.
Medical payments vs PIP
In states where PIP isn’t an option, medical payments, also referred to as MedPay, is available. MedPay covers medical expenses for injuries related to a car accident. Texas is the only state that has PIP and med pay as options.
PIP includes coverage for immediate relatives or people under the same insurance policy. It also covers compensation for lost work wages. In contrast, MedPay will only pay for the insured’s medical bills in the case of an accident. This means that no one other than you will receive compensation, should an accident and injury arise.
MedPay is less comprehensive than PIP. MedPay covers direct medical or surgical care after an accident. But PIP covers that along with psychiatric and rehabilitation care, and more.
When can you use PIP insurance?
If you’re not at fault and the other driver’s insurance and bodily injury coverage don’t cover all your medical expenses, your underinsured motorist coverage is used to pay off the rest of your injuries.
If that exhausts, you can pay with PIP or MedPay. After that, your health insurance kicks in.
How you can get PIP insurance
If you’re looking for PIP, you can add it while purchasing regular auto insurance. For help determining how much coverage you may need, speak with your auto agent.
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