Basic liability insurance covers the injuries you cause to others in car accidents. But what about your injuries? You'll need to buy extra coverage to cover those. There are two main kinds of coverage that offer payments for a driver's medical bills after an auto accident: medical payments coverage and personal injury protection (PIP). Here's how these two types of coverage work.
Medical payments coverage
Medical payments coverage is an optional type of insurance that pays for necessary medical bills for you and your passengers after an accident, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. It will cover you even if you're the one who caused the accident. The amount of the payout depends on how much coverage you buy; generally, only treatment received within three years of the accident is eligible, according to Progressive. In addition to paying medical bills, medical payments coverage will pay for funeral expenses if you or your passengers die.
Medical payments coverage can end up overlapping with a person's general health insurance coverage. But for those without comprehensive employer health insurance, medical payments coverage can be a safeguard against the expensive injuries that result from auto accidents.
Personal injury protection (PIP)
PIP pays for medical bills, funeral costs and lost wages after an accident. In states with no-fault insurance systems, it is a required type of coverage. No-fault states require that accident victims collect from their own insurance companies instead of suing the at-fault driver's insurance company. PIP, which pays out no matter who is at fault, allows them to do that.
Some states that don't have no-fault systems still require PIP. Texas, for example, requires drivers to buy it unless they sign a waiver specifically rejecting it, according to the Texas Department of Insurance.
Similar but different
If you live in a state that offers both medical payments coverage and PIP (and where both are optional), it's important to know the differences.
For one thing, PIP covers lost wages, while medical payments coverage does not, according to the NAIC. In other words, PIP will help make up for the wages you missed while recovering and unable to work. Medical payments coverage, meanwhile, pays only for your medical bills.
Another key difference has to do with something called "subrogation." If you have PIP and you get a settlement from the other driver's insurance company, you can keep all of the money, according to the website of Robert C. Slim, a personal injury attorney in Dallas. For example, say you get $2,000 from your PIP coverage to pay your medical bills and then sue the other driver's insurer and get a settlement $5,000. That settlement is yours to keep.
In some states, though, things can get more complicated when it comes to medical payments coverage, as it is subject to subrogation (a legal term for reimbursement). For example, say your insurer pays your medical payments claim and you then get a settlement from the other driver's insurer. Depending on your state, your insurer might be entitled to part of that settlement as reimbursement for the medical payments claim.