Understanding Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage
Feeling confident behind the wheel of an automobile means much more than having the driving skills necessary to travel safely along the Baltimore-Washington Beltway or navigate the streets of Frederick, Annapolis or Bowie. Confidence also comes from the knowledge that one is covered in the event of a serious auto or commercial trucking collision.
Here in Maryland, even the most seasoned motorists may not always consider the potential dangers lurking around the next bend. As Baltimore personal injury lawyers, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, know that most people who have been involved in a severe car, truck or motorcycle wreck never imagined they would be laying in a hospital bed in the coming weeks or months. The fact is that automobile wrecks happen at the most inopportune times during our lives and being prepared for that eventuality is something of which every driver must be cognizant.
Of course, carrying the proper amount of car insurance is part of that preparedness. But of the various and sundry details of auto accident insurance, many people are confused by, or sometimes unaware of that portion of car accident policies known as “Personal Injury Protection” or PIP. While hardly a minor item, PIP nonetheless can go unnoticed by car and truck owners when it comes to buying coverage.
As experienced personal injury lawyers representing clients who have been injured in all manner of roadway accidents in Maryland and the District, we understand the physical, emotional and financial toll that a bad traffic wreck can take on a victim and his family. As passenger car drivers and public transportation patrons, we ourselves are always vigilant for potential accidents just waiting to happen around us. Having the proper automobile insurance coverage is one way to remain calm even though the future is full of unknowns.
Here in Maryland, if you carry PIP on your car insurance policy and are injured in a traffic collision, your own insurance company will foot the bill for your injury-related hospital and medical costs, as well as some portion of your wages (up to point); however, the actual amount really depends on the coverage you have opted for when setting up your insurance policy.
In this state, for instance, typical PIP coverage provides up to $2,500 for medical, hospital and disability expenses resulting from an accident. Keep in mind that Maryland law allows drivers to choose full or limited PIP coverage. Limited coverage is sometimes a more economical choice, especially for those drivers who already have medical and hospitalization insurance.
Policyholders who carry PIP coverage should be aware that PIP only pays a portion of any medical expenses and/or lost wages. If you are found not to be “at-fault” for the accident in which you were injured, the other motorist’s insurance carrier will also be responsible for the same medical expenses or lost income. That is to say, a victim of an auto injury accident can actually collect twice for the same accident-related expenses. (If your employer continues to pay you during your absence, then you could theoretically collect three-times your lost wages.)
But this is all relative, since in the case of severe injury accidents the at-fault driver's insurance carrier is responsible for the victim’s pain and suffering damages, which can be substantial and usually represents the lion’s share of most plaintiffs' claims. Keep in mind that when a person is injured in a car accident, if that individual is covered by a health insurance policy, that person’s health insurance company will typically step in and pick up the medical payment where the PIP coverage left off.
It is important to note here that many times the victim’s insurance company will refuse to pay some of the accident-related bills. Furthermore, as an experienced injury law firm, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen understand that auto insurance companies are well known for telling policyholders that they must first submit to an independent medical examination (IME) before they will pay any further medical expenses. It is in these types of situations that consulting with a legal professional experienced in auto insurance law and personal injury claims will likely be of great assistance.
For those drivers who wonder if they have PIP coverage, it is important to remember that while state law does not require PIP coverage to be purchased by an auto insurance policyholder, insurance carriers are legally required to offer their customers this coverage when buying car insurance. If a customer does not want to have PIP, then he or she must sign a waiver stating that they rejected the opportunity to carry PIP coverage.
Under the PIP section of Maryland's insurance statutes (Insurance Code Section 19-505a), there are listed the types of individuals covered by PIP. These include the car owner or insured, the family members who live with the insured, other individuals who use the insured’s vehicle with his or her consent, guests or other passengers occupying the insured’s vehicle at the time of the accident, or any person injured by the insured’s vehicle while a pedestrian.
Another critical point is that Maryland’s insurance statutes allows insurance carriers to set a one-year "statute of limitations" from the date of the accident for PIP claims to be brought. Per Maryland’s Insurance Code (Section 19-508), if an insured makes a claim after the 12-month limit, that individual may be deemed ineligible for PIP benefits.
Finally, all car owners who carry Personal Injury Protection coverage on their policies should know that PIP covers those reasonable and necessary expenses for medical treatment and certain other expenses incurred up to three years following an auto injury accident. These expenses can include the cost of prosthetic devices, ambulance service fees, charges for dental procedures, funeral costs, hospital fees, medical bills, professional nursing expenses, surgical fees, and x-ray costs.
It certainly goes with mentioning that Maryland’s insurance laws can be complicated and sometimes difficult for the average person to understand. The lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen are experienced in the laws of this state and are able to help clients navigate through the sometimes labyrinthine legal statutes pertaining to personal injury cases. As skilled trial attorneys, we approach every injury lawsuit with the intent of taking the case to court. While there are no guarantees in life, under some circumstances the defendants in the case may opt for an out-of-court settlement to save time and expense.
If you have been injured in a automobile or commercial trucking accident, we recommend that you contact a qualified auto accident lawyer who has extensive experienced in handling personal injury cases. The accident attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen are ready and willing to discuss the details of your injury accident. Give us a call at our toll-free number -- (800) 654-1949 -- or feel free to contact Jack Lebowitz or Vadim Mzhen by email to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.