Hawaii is a no-fault state when it comes to car accidents. All drivers are required to carry minimum amounts of motor vehicle insurance, which includes personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. If you are injured in a crash, your PIP benefits will pay for your injuries regardless of who is responsible for the wreck.
But what about the at-fault party(s)? Can you sue them under the no-fault system? Perhaps. However, there are legal limitations that you need to be aware of after a car accident in Hawaii. Recovery Law Center can answer all of your questions about your rights to compensation after a collision.
Over the past 25 years, Honolulu personal injury attorney Glenn Honda has helped more than 5,000 accident victims obtain the compensation they need to help with medical expenses, lost wages, and other financial and personal losses after an accident. For our team, representing you is more than just about getting the money. It’s about being there every step of the way so your life can get back on track again.
What Does “No-Fault” Mean for Car Accidents?
Hawaii’s no-fault auto insurance system is intended to simplify the process for drivers that wish to obtain compensation after an accident. Instead of filing a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent driver, motorists can simply file a claim with their own insurance company.
The no-fault system allows accident victims to claim compensation quickly instead of waiting several months or even years for a decision to be made in a car accident case. Rather than wait for insurance companies to battle it out over who is at fault, Hawai’i Residents can get the medical treatment they need.
Yes, you read that right. Despite our no-fault laws, fault still matters for car crashes in The Aloha State. That’s why you are required to carry liability and property damage insurance for accidents that you cause.
There are some significant pitfalls to the no-fault insurance system. The minimum insurance requirements may not be enough for the seriously injured. These limits include:
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP): $10,000 for you and your passengers
- Bodily Injury Liability: $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident for anyone else who may have been injured in the crash
- Property Damage: $10,000 per occurrence
The cost of medical care for catastrophic injuries (e.g., traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury) can quickly exceed PIP policy limits. When PIP benefits are exhausted, car accident victims may still be able to file personal injury claims against the at-fault parties for their additional losses.
Figuring out your legal options is the job of an experienced Hawaii car accident attorney. Contact Recovery Law Center today to learn more.
The Basics of No-Fault Car Insurance in Honolulu
Like most states, carrying proper auto insurance is mandatory in Hawaii. To prove that you have purchased insurance, you must carry your motor vehicle insurance identification card in your car at all times. You must also register your vehicle in Hawaii.
Individuals that drive in Honolulu without the proper insurance requirements will lose their registration if they are pulled over or in a crash and cannot produce it. This means they will be unable to drive their vehicles.
It’s important to understand that no-fault insurance only applies to injuries. To claim compensation for property and vehicle damage after a wreck, you must file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Other Auto Insurance Options in Honolulu
In addition to the mandatory coverage required in Hawaii, drivers may purchase optional types of insurance to help with the expenses after a crash. These include:
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM): UM and UIM coverage can help with losses if you are hit by a driver with no insurance or who does not have enough insurance to cover your losses after a crash. It can also be accessed if you were the victim of a hit-and-run or struck as a pedestrian or bicyclist.
In Hawaii, an insurance agent is required to offer you UM/UIM coverage when you purchase your auto policy. If you choose not do, it must be declined in writing. At Recovery Law Center, we strongly encourage you to buy UM/UM insurance to protect yourself in the event of a car accident.
Other types of optional insurance include:
- Wage loss
- Alternative health coverage for treatments (e.g., naturopathy, acupuncture, and faith healing)
- Death benefits
- Funeral benefits
Do I Need a Car Accident Lawyer in a No-Fault State?
Because Hawaii requires drivers to go through their own insurance company to obtain injury compensation, many people may believe that a lawyer is unnecessary. But working with your insurance company without talking to an attorney could cause you to miss out on significant amounts of compensation.
It’s true that you may not have the option to sue the at-fault driver if your losses fall within your PIP limits. But Hawaii does let people file a personal injury claim against the at-fault driver if they reach a certain threshold, which is when:
- More than $5,000 in benefits were paid under your no-fault policy.
- You suffered a serious or permanent injury (e.g., disfigurement) that caused immense emotional distress.
- Filing a personal injury claim involves negotiating with the responsible party’s insurer. Their representatives are not going to make it easy for you to obtain compensation. They will go to great lengths to deny or limit your compensation, often by pushing the blame onto you.
That’s where having an attorney is essential. A lawyer can help prove liability by conducting an independent investigation showing why the other driver was at fault. An experienced lawyer will also know how to place a value on your case so that you stand the best chance of securing full and fair compensation.
If settlement negotiations break down, you may have the option of filing a personal injury lawsuit against the insurance company or at-fault parties. This means it will go to court and be heard by a judge or jury. It’s critical to have a car accident attorney by your side if you’re considering litigation. You need someone who knows Hawaii’s personal injury laws through and through. Representing yourself is never recommended.
When to Contact a Honolulu Car Wreck Attorney
You don’t always need a lawyer to handle a Hawaii car accident claim. But there are certain circumstances in which it’s advisable to contact a Honolulu attorney as soon as possible. These include when:
- Your injuries exceed the threshold: Claims against another driver or their insurance company are typically much more difficult to prove than claims against your own insurance company. If your injuries exceed Hawaii’s injury threshold, you should speak to a lawyer that can help you with the next steps.
- You have missed work due to your injuries: Any injury that causes you to miss work can lead to significant financial hardships. You can claim compensation for your lost income, but a lawyer can help you determine how much to claim. In addition to your lost wages, you may also be able to claim pay for vacation time, benefits, and other bonuses or incentives. If you cannot return to the same line of work after your accident, a lawyer can also help determine the compensation you can claim for your loss of earning capacity.
- The insurance company is stalling: Insurance companies can afford to wait out your claim, hoping that you will become impatient and end up taking whatever settlement they offer. That settlement is likely going to be too low and will not cover the cost of your injuries, especially if your prognosis isn’t clear. If the insurance company — either yours or the other driver’s — does not pay out the compensation you need in a timely manner, it’s time to call an attorney.
- The other side is denying liability: If the insurance company or the at-fault driver is trying to deny liability and shift the blame onto you, it is important that you speak to a car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
In addition, you should contact a knowledgeable car accident attorney any time you feel uncertain about what you should do after a crash. Recovery Law Center in Honolulu offers consultations at no charge. That means you’ll get free legal advice, regardless of whether you choose to hire a lawyer or not.
How Can Recovery Law Center Help Me?
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car accident in Hawaii, the compassionate and skilled Honolulu car accident lawyers at Recovery Law Center are here for you.
During your free consultation, we will listen to your story, evaluate your insurance policy, and discuss every possible avenue for compensation. When you work with us, you’ll get a law firm that cares about getting results and getting you better. We’ll provide personalized support for you and fight for maximum compensation.
Ready to get started? Chat with us online or contact us today.