The at fault party has to pay for damages they cause through their negligence. This includes property damage, medical bills, and pain and suffering. There are limitations, so read on.
A good way to illustrate the importance of fault in a collision is to compare a single car accident with a two car collision.
Driver A is driving too quickly and loses control on a rainy curvy road and piles into a telephone pole. The driver is injured. Does the driver receive any money for pain and suffering? What about medical bills? Damage to the car? How about the owner of the telephone pole?
In the single car accident the driver’s coverage depends on the insurance policy coverage in effect at the time of the accident.
Property damage to the driver’s car? Lenders require it, but many people drop that coverage as their cars age, so the answer is probably; but no guarantee. If the car is uninsured, there is no money to repair your car. It was the driver’s fault; there is no one else to collect from and no insurance if you don’t buy the coverage.
Medical bills? PIP covers you and passengers even if the accident is your fault. So, yes is the answer, but only up to the limit of PIP (personal injury protection). The more you buy, the better protected you are. There is a balance, but higher PIP coverage usually does not cost a great deal more. Most people carry a minimum $10,000 PIP; which can be exhausted in the ER room. You better have good work or private medical insurance if you don’t want to go bankrupt with your medical bills. It is a terrible bind for lower or middle income families; so you have to be smart where you spend your money. If your medical bills exhaust PIP coverage and you do not have medical insurance (or it’s a high deductible policy) you could be in a world of hurt.
Telephone pole owner? Yes; the liability portion of your car insurance will pay for the damage done to the property owned by someone else; why? Liability insurance is designed to pay others for accidents that are your fault; and here, the accident was the driver’s fault.
Pain and suffering for the driver? Not a dime. Remember, the accident was the fault of the driver. But I had my leg amputated because of the accident. Not a dime. The driver died; not a dime. Life insurance or accidental dismemberment insurance, maybe if the driver had it; but nothing from your car insurance policy.
Driver B is approaching an intersection on a standing green light at a reasonable speed when out of nowhere gets t-boned in the intersection by Driver A who runs a red light. Wham!!
For Driver A, see above for the single car accident analysis. Instead of a telephone pole, driver A hit driver B.
Driver B has coverage from his own policy and from the policy of Driver A.
Driver B’s car gets repaired or replaced by Driver A’s insurance liability coverage. Driver B has medical coverage from his own PIP and ultimately from Driver A’s liability coverage. If Driver B’s liability coverage exceeds Driver A’s coverage, Driver B will be able to make a claim against his own policy for uninsured or underinsurance coverage. So when you buy high liability coverage who are you protecting? Yourself and your family and your passengers. Driver B may get pain and suffering compensation as well, depending on the level of coverage of Driver A and Driver B and the amount of medical bills that it takes to bring Driver B back to health.
It is nasty out there. You can be in a world of hurt even with insurance if you are hit by an uninsured or underinsured at fault party. With the cost of medical treatment these days, the amount of money available for pain and suffering has taken a big hit.
Complicated? Kind of. Need a lawyer? Absolutely.