As an accident injury attorney in Maryland, it is my job to help people who have suffered injuries from traffic accidents. Most of my clients have basic auto insurance that helps cover medical expenses related to accidents. But I find that many of my victims have waived their rights to PIP insurance coverage. Without that extra coverage, my clients miss out on thousands of dollars in potential reimbursements. I do not want that to happen to you.
What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP)?
Known as Personal Injury Protection, PIP insurance coverage is a type of safeguard you can add to your auto insurance policy.
In most states, including Maryland, the personal injury protection coverage is abbreviated and known as PIP. However, in some states like Virginia, it is known as MedPay.
PIP is NOT liability or bodily injury insurance. It is also NOT related to property damage from a traffic accident.
Instead, PIP is a “no-fault” insurance coverage that kicks in when you are injured in a car accident. The best part? PIP insurance coverage provides reimbursements for expenses related to your injuries even if the accident was your fault OR even if the at-fault driver’s insurance is covering your injuries!
What Does PIP Cover?
So what exactly does PIP insurance cover? Typically, PIP will reimburse you for one or many of the following four things related to your car accident:
- Medical Expenses – Primarily, almost all PIP protection plans cover medical expenses: doctors’ appointments, hospital visits, physical therapy, etc. Any time you have a bill from a medical provider who treated you for injuries related to your accident, those bills can be covered and paid for under this PIP plan.
- Lost Wages – Lost wages can sometimes be paid by PIP, too. Insurance companies will often prioritize reimbursements for your medical expenses. If you have PIP money left after medical expenses have been covered, though, you may also claim a percentage or portion of your lost wages.
- Funeral Expenses – If this is a wrongful death claim where the injury to your insured family member resulted in death, then you can also ask for funeral expenses to be covered under PIP.
- Care Expenses – If you are left immobile or confined to your house after the accident, you may also be able to get PIP to cover care expenses. These include help with household chores or personal care tasks like bathing.
You have access to payments for any of those four things under PIP whether the accident was your fault or not. But be careful. Not everything is covered under this list, and not all these amounts (if they are excessive) are covered. You must check your plan.
How Much Does a PIP Claim Cover?
PIP insurance coverage is not like bodily injury coverage where you can recover tens of thousands of dollars or more. Umbrella policies do not work for PIP, either.
Typically, PIP claims offer coverage of $2,500 or $5,000. If you have a good insurance company, they might offer $10,000, but you must ask.
Most agents will not encourage you to buy PIP. They will try to get you to waive it. If you do not, they will say, “Get $2,500. That’s the standard.” Yes, that may be the standard. But what if you go to the ER and need diagnostic tests? Your $2,500 is already spent.
As a personal injury attorney in Maryland, I have my own PIP insurance coverage at $10,000. To me, it is worth the premium it costs to make sure I have up to $10,000 to put toward my expenses if I am in a traffic accident, especially if it happens to be my fault.
How Do You Access PIP Insurance Coverage?
After you have been injured in a car accident, you must file a claim with your OWN insurance company to access PIP insurance coverage benefits.
Specifically, you must call your insurance company and request a PIP application. It does not come to you automatically. You cannot say, “I have PIP. Insurance owes me money. They’ll send me a check.” That is NOT how PIP works. You must take affirmative steps to receive your PIP benefits.
Fill out a PIP application form even if your insurance agent or company has your personal information or the information about your accident on file.
Not only do you have to fill out an application, but you must also file for PIP benefits within one year of your traffic accident. If your accident happened on February 1st of this year, you have until February 1st of next year to file.
But honestly, if you have been injured, you should fill out the PIP application sooner, rather than later. That way, you can receive reimbursement for expenses and bills as they are occurring.
Does a PIP Claim Affect My Insurance Premiums or Coverage?
Often, my clients worry about filing a claim if they have PIP insurance coverage. They fear that doing so will raise their premiums or lower their future coverage, especially if they are the victim in the accident.
However, Maryland Insurance Code Ş19-507(c) prohibits insurance companies in Maryland from raising your premiums or coverage rates because of a PIP claim even if you were at fault.
Most states have similar or the same insurance laws. Therefore, whether the car wreck is your fault or not, filing a PIP claim should NOT affect your insurance coverage or premiums.
Just check your state provisions to be sure.
Is PIP Insurance Automatically Included in Auto Insurance Policies?
Now that you know how to file a PIP claim and how much money you can recover, you need to know how to sign up for PIP insurance.
You MUST “opt in.”
Just like the PIP claim application, it is not going to happen by itself. Your agent will not just add it to your policy when you sign up for auto insurance.
Is PIP Insurance Coverage Worth the Extra Money?
As I mentioned before, most insurance companies will try to get you to waive PIP Insurance. They suggest this as a way to save money, lower your premiums, or lower your costs. They will tell you they can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
But in my opinion, you should not give up thousands of dollars to save a couple hundred. This is an investment.
Most people think they will not be in a car accident, and hopefully, you will not. But when and if you are, you really want this coverage.
If you waive it, you cannot get it. If you waive it, you cannot access PIP money if you are injured in an auto accident. That means you cannot even get PIP from an at-fault driver’s insurance company if you are a pedestrian.
On the other hand, if you opt into it and are in a pedestrian accident, you are entitled to PIP coverage from the at-fault driver.
Whatever you do after you read this blog, I hope that you call your insurance company and tell them immediately, “I need to get PIP. Have I waived it, and if I have, how do I opt in?”
I have created a PowerPoint presentation and short video that goes into more detail about PIP insurance coverage, and I encourage you to watch it HERE. Send it to your friends and family. Make sure they are informed, covered, and protected, too.
Virginia Vile Tehrani
is the attorney owner of Tehrani Law, LLC, which is an accident injury law firm based in Maryland and Northern Virginia that helps victims of traffic accidents and practices civil litigation. You may reach her at (301) 322-8155 or by email at email@example.com.