Is Utah a no-fault car insurance state? Consider the following scenarioJason and Angie are driving to a local concert on I-80 when they are rear-ended by a teenager who was texting while driving. The teen driver stops but informs them she does not have a license and was driving her dad’s car without his permission, meaning she is not an insured driver, either. Can Jason and Angie bring a claim against the car owner’s insurance company? Since Utah is a no-fault car insurance state, are they required to use their own coverage before filing a lawsuit?
What is No-Fault Insurance?
Utah is one of a minority of states subscribing to a no-fault insurance scheme. What this means is that after an accident between two or more drivers, your own car insurance policy would cover your resulting damages. These include your medical expenses as well as damage to your vehicle, the cost of repairs, and the cost of a rental car, and also the value of a car seat or any other items that were in the car at the time of the accident that are now unsalvageable.
In fault jurisdictions, both parties seek damages from the insurance company of the at-fault party. Because Utah is a no-fault insurance state, there are limited exceptions as to when a plaintiff can actually file a civil suit for damages against a defendant based on injuries he or she sustained in a car accident.
What is PIP?
PIP is an acronym for Personal Injury Protection insurance. PIP is a rider offered on virtually every basic car insurance policy but is not mandatory coverage in many states. It is, however, mandatory in Utah. PIP does not cover property damage expenses, but it does cover personal injury expenses such as medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and for assistance with household tasks. The bare minimum coverage to purchase is $3,000. So, if you only purchased $3,000 in coverage, that is the most that PIP would cover of your losses.
Interestingly, motorcycle drivers are not required to have PIP coverage, which can further complicate matters. Once your own PIP coverage is exhausted, you may be able to use your own health insurance coverage for medical bills while a legal claim against the defendant is pending. Because of the cost of medical care, PIP might only cover the initial visit to the emergency room and nothing more. So, what happens if you or a loved one are severely injured as a result of another driver’s negligence?
Meeting the Statutory Threshold in Utah
As a reminder, the statutory threshold the Plaintiff must meet is $3,000, just like minimum PIP coverage is $3,000. However, that figure does not include property damages at all. A plaintiff can file a lawsuit against the defendant driver if the cost of medical expenses due to the incident is over $3,000, or if a fatality, disfigurement or disability occurred as a result of the accident. Utah Code 31A-22-309 states that you can’t bring a cause of action for personal injuries caused by a motor vehicle accident “except where that person has sustained one of the following”:
- Permanent disability
- Permanent disfigurement
- A bone fracture
- Medical expenses exceeding $3,000.
If the claim against the defendant is settled in your favor, your own insurance company would be reimbursed by the defendant’s insurance company for the $3,000 in PIP coverage they provided. Our attorneys at Harris, Preston & Chambers, LLP, can help you with the PIP benefits process and also assist you in identifying if you have a potential case against the defendant driver. If you have severe injuries after an accident, if more than one passenger was injured after an accident and you are unable to work due to the accident, you almost certainly have a claim against the defendant and you should not delay in contacting us.
Exceptions to PIP Coverage
Your own insurance company can disallow the three thousand dollars in PIP coverage if it is determined that you did not have express permission to operate the vehicle you were driving at the time of the accident (i.e. you borrowed a person’s car without their knowledge or permission). In addition, PIP coverage is not extended to a driver or passengers who intentionally caused injury to another person or was in the commission of a felony at the time of an accident.
For example, if two people had just robbed a bank and were driving the getaway car, and then were sideswiped by another vehicle as they attempted to evade the police, they would receive no PIP coverage because they were committing a felony. PIP also disallows coverage if a person sustained injuries in a vehicle being utilized as a residence, such as a camper or recreational vehicle. If a pedestrian is injured in an auto accident, the driver’s insurance would cover the cost of personal injury damages to the pedestrian.
What Damages is the Plaintiff Entitled to?
After an accident, you may be entitled to compensatory and non-compensatory damages. You may be nursing a serious injury and pain, numbness, swelling, or stiffness in joints, muscles, or broken bones. Depending on the severity of the accident, you might be suffering from internal bleeding, severe head trauma, and psychological trauma.
Many victims require assistance with basic tasks, are severely limited in day-to-day activities, or are bedridden while mobility is limited or nonexistent. It is also possible that occupational therapy might be necessary, or a victim might require assistance from a home health nurse, at least temporarily. Some victims might be unable to attend school, care for their children and loved ones, or even go to work. In the meantime, the bills continue to pile up.
Your long term income prospects might be jeopardized and you may be entitled to compensatory damages such as:
- Lost wages,
- Future lost wages
- Medical bills,
- Rehabilitation costs,
- Cost of modifying the home for disability purposes,
And non-compensatory damages such as:
- Emotional distress,
- Loss of consortium, and
- Pain and suffering.
What about Underinsured or Uninsured Drivers?
All motorists driving in Utah must maintain $15,000 in coverage for property damage and $25,000 in coverage for bodily injury. The Utah Uninsured Motorists Fund allocates relief to claimants for medical expenses, lost wages, future lost wages, and emotional damages like pain and suffering. In addition, many drivers have underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage, meaning their own car insurance policy will cover a loss sustained from an uninsured driver.
This may include filing a suit against the uninsured driver for damages. Plaintiffs also have the option to apply for coverage under the Utah Uninsured Motorists Fund. If your own insurance company is stagnant in obtaining damages for you, you need to strongly consider the possibility of litigation, but do not delay, because of the three-year statute of limitations on motorist and personal injury claims.
If you or a loved one were injured in a serious collision, you might have questions about the damages to which you are entitled. Because Utah is a no-fault insurance jurisdiction, understanding what your options are is not always straightforward. Our attorneys at Harris, Preston, and Chambers are licensed in Wyoming and Utah and possess more than a half-century of experience handling personal injury claims specifically on behalf of plaintiffs. We are your advocate and we will not stop until justice is obtained on your behalf. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.