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No-Fault Auto Insurance and Other Auto Liability Systems

No-Fault Auto Insurance and Other Auto Liability Systems

State auto liability insurance laws fall into four broad categories: no-fault, choice no-fault, tort liability and add-on. 

The major differences are whether there are restrictions on the right to sue and whether the policyholder’s own insurer pays first-party benefits, up to the state maximum amount, regardless of who is at fault in the accident. 

These alternative systems have evolved over time as consumers, regulators and insurers have sought ways to lower the cost and speed up the delivery of compensation for auto accidents. The term “no-fault” auto insurance is often used loosely to denote any auto insurance program that allows policyholders to recover financial losses from their own insurance company, regardless of fault. 

But in its strictest form nofault applies only to state laws that both provide for the payment of no-fault first-party benefits and restrict the right to sue, the so-called “limited tort” option. The first-party (policyholder) benefit coverage is known as personal injury protection (PIP). 

Under current no-fault laws, motorists may sue for severe injuries and for pain and suffering only if the case meets certain conditions. These conditions, known as a threshold, relate to the severity of injury. 

They may be expressed in verbal terms (a descriptive or verbal threshold) or in dollar amounts of medical bills, a monetary threshold. Some laws also include minimum requirements for the days of disability incurred as a result of the accident. 

Because high threshold no-fault systems restrict litigation, they tend to reduce costs and delays in paying claims. Verbal thresholds eliminate the incentive to inflate claims that may exist when there is a dollar “target” for medical expenses. 

However, in some states the verbal threshold has been eroded over time by broad judicial interpretation of the verbal threshold language, and PIP coverage has become the target of abuse and fraud by dishonest doctors and clinics that bill for unnecessary and expensive medical procedures, pushing up costs. 

Currently 12 states and Puerto Rico have no-fault auto insurance laws. Florida, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have verbal thresholds. The other seven states Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota and Utah use a monetary threshold. 

Three states have a “choice” no-fault law. In New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Kentucky, motorists may reject the lawsuit threshold and retain the right to sue for any autorelated injury. 

The Different Auto Insurance Systems 

No-fault: The no-fault system is intended to lower the cost of auto insurance by taking small claims out of the courts. Each insurance company compensates its own policyholders (the first party) for the cost of minor injuries, regardless of who was at fault in the accident. 

(The second party is the insurance company and the third is the other party or parties hurt as a result of the accident.) These first-party benefits, known as personal injury protection (PIP), are a mandatory coverage in true no-fault states. 

The extent of coverage varies by state. In states with the most comprehensive benefits, a policyholder receives compensation for medical fees, lost wages, funeral costs and other out-of-pocket expenses. 

The major variations involve dollar limits on medical and hospital expenses, funeral and burial expenses, lost income and the amount to be paid a person hired to perform essential services that an injured non-income producer is unable to perform. 

Drivers in no-fault states may sue for severe injuries if the case meets certain conditions. These conditions are known as the tort liability threshold and may be expressed in verbal terms such as death or significant disfigurement (verbal threshold) or in dollar amounts of medical bills (monetary threshold). 

Choice no-fault: In choice no-fault states, drivers may select one of two options: a no-fault auto insurance policy or a traditional tort liability policy. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania the no-fault option has a verbal threshold. In Kentucky there is a monetary threshold. 

Tort liability: In traditional tort liability states, there are no restrictions on lawsuits. A policyholder at fault in a car crash can be sued by the other driver and by the other driver’s passengers for the pain and suffering the accident caused as well as for out-of-pocket expenses such as medical costs. 

Add-on: In add-on states, drivers receive compensation from their own insurance company as they do in no-fault states, but there are no restrictions on lawsuits. The term “add-on” is used because in these states first-party benefits have been added on to the traditional tort liability system. 

In add-on states, first-party coverage may not be mandatory and the benefits may be lower than in true no-fault states.
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1 komentar untuk "No-Fault Auto Insurance and Other Auto Liability Systems"

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