When you get injured in a car accident, there are two primary aspects to your recovery. The first is your health: Whether you suffered a broken bone, a concussion, or any other type of traumatic injury, you need to make sure you receive the medical treatment you need to recover from the physical and psychological effects of the crash. The second is your financial condition: Getting the medical treatment you need is expensive, and your physical and psychological trauma can have other direct and indirect financial consequences – potentially for the rest of your life.
For most people, securing the financial resources they need for their recovery involves dealing with the insurance companies. Your health insurance carrier might cover your accident-related medical expenses, but it may also try to deny coverage based on the availability of auto insurance coverage. Either way, making sure you are able to pay your medical bills is just one component of your financial recovery. You may also need compensation for loss of income, and you may be entitled to financial compensation for your pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other non-economic losses as well.
Understanding Your Right to PIP Coverage after a Car Accident in Oregon or Washington
For many car accident victims, the recovery process starts with filing a claim for personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. While the specifics of PIP coverage vary from state to state (and even from policy to policy), there are a few hallmarks of PIP coverage of which all policyholders should be aware:
- Coverage for medical expenses and lost wages – PIP generally provides coverage for accident victims’ medical expenses and lost wages. Unlike other types of auto insurance, it does not provide coverage for non-economic losses.
- Low policy limits – Most standard PIP policies have a limit of $15,000. While this may sound like a lot of money, for many accident victims, this will cover just a small fraction of their economic losses.
- No-fault insurance coverage – PIP provides what is commonly referred to as “no-fault” insurance coverage. With no-fault coverage, your insurer is required to pay regardless of who was at fault in the accident. This is true even if you are to blame for your own injuries.
Some states, including Oregon, require drivers to carry PIP insurance. Other states, such as Washington, follow an “opt out” system which allows vehicle owners to choose not to pay for personal injury protection coverage. You can review the terms of your auto insurance policy to see if you have PIP coverage, and if so, the amount of coverage to which you are entitled.
When Should You File for PIP after a Car Accident?
Let’s assume that you have PIP coverage. Maybe you are an Oregon resident, or maybe you live in Washington and “opted in” for coverage. Should you file a PIP claim with your insurance company? If so, when is the right time to do so?
After a car accident, filing a PIP claim can be the quickest way to obtain full or partial relief from the financial effects of the collision. Since you are dealing with your own insurance company, and since PIP is no-fault insurance, the process of securing coverage should be fairly straightforward.
Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Despite the no-fault nature of PIP coverage, auto insurance companies often attempt to reduce or deny coverage to their policyholders. Some of the most common “issues” we see include:
- Waiting too long to file a claim for coverage.
- Failing to adequately demonstrate that physical or psychological injuries resulted from the collision.
- Failing to submit adequate documentation of accident-related medical expenses.
- Failing to submit adequate documentation of lost wages.
- Other claim-related deficiencies that supposedly justify insurers in denying PIP coverage.
While some PIP denials are legitimate, bad-faith denials are common as well. Additionally, even if you fail to submit the documentation required to secure PIP coverage initially, this does not necessarily mean that you have lost your right to coverage entirely. Also, don’t forget that you may be entitled to additional coverage outside of PIP. For all of these reasons, we strongly recommend speaking with a personal injury lawyer regardless of the severity and extent of your accident-related injuries.
What If My PIP Coverage Isn’t Enough?
As we mentioned above, the standard policy limit for PIP coverage is $15,000. This is the amount that drivers are required to carry in Oregon, and it is the amount of coverage purchased by most drivers who “opt in” in Washington. While $15,000 may be enough if your injuries are relatively minor, if you have been severely injured, your losses could easily be far, far more.
In any case, filing a PIP claim is generally going to be a good idea. Even with the challenges involved, it is often easier to secure PIP coverage than it is to secure fault-based coverage under another driver’s bodily injury liability (BIL) policy (or under your own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) policy). So, by filing a PIP claim, you may be able to secure at least partial coverage while your fault-based claim is pending. If you have a BIL claim, your insurance company may eventually be entitled to reimbursement for any PIP coverage it provides, but you are well within your rights to seek financial compensation from all available sources.
Unlike PIP insurance, BIL and UIM insurance provides full compensation for all accident-related losses (up to the relevant policy limit). This includes both economic and non-economic losses. Non-economic losses are often calculated by applying a “multiplier” to the accident victim’s medical expenses and lost wages, and this means that they often represent the largest portion of the victim’s financial recovery. As a result, it is critically important not to rely solely on PIP, and you should speak with a lawyer about your legal rights as soon as possible.
Speak with a Personal Injury Lawyer about Your Car Accident in Oregon or Washington
For more information about dealing with the insurance companies after a car accident in Oregon or Washington, please contact us for a free consultation. To speak with an attorney in confidence, call us today or inquire online.