Some states have no fault insurance laws, which means you are supposed to make a claim with your own insurance company for damages and injuries in an accident. Who was at fault is not supposed to matter in most car accident cases, but it can matter, depending upon the state and the amount of injuries involved.
There are no states that have no fault insurance where it is ALWAYS impossible to file a lawsuit against the other driver. However, most no fault insurance states do make it harder to file a lawsuit. Most of these states will allow for civil litigation IF the damages go over a certain amount that can vary by state. In many states, it is possible to sue for actual damages – medical costs and lost wages primarily – but not pain and suffering.
There are two basic types of thresholds in states with no fault insurance:
- Monetary: The state allows personal injury lawsuits if your medical expenses go over a certain amount. $5000 is a common number.
- Verbal: The state allows a personal injury lawsuit if the injuries are ‘serious.’ As you would expect, ‘death’ is usually considered serious but otherwise the definition will vary by state.
Some states allow you to add on no fault insurance to your policy. In these states, the driver can pay more each year to add personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to the policy. If you are injured, you will be paid no matter who was at fault. Still, you may be able to sue for injuries and even pain and suffering.
There also are states that have ‘choice no fault insurance.’ These systems vary, but essentially drivers can choose whether they want no fault insurance or keep their full rights under a traditional tort-based system. If you select no fault, you have limited rights to sue, and other people have a limited right to sue you. If you go with the tort system, you can sue for all accident injuries, but not if the other driver selected no fault.