Personal injury protection (PIP) is an important part of auto insurance in Hawaii. The state’s “no-fault” insurance laws require all drivers to purchase minimum amounts of PIP to cover injuries and lost income resulting from car accidents. These benefits are paid no matter who is at fault for the crash, up to the policy limits.
If you were seriously injured in a car accident on Oahu, you may also have a right to file a personal injury claim against the party responsible for the wreck. That can be surprising news for drivers who are used to hearing that Hawaii is a no-fault state. A Honolulu car accident attorney at Recovery Law Center can explain the details and your legal options in a free consultation.
Call or contact us right away to arrange your no-cost case review.
What Is PIP?
PIP is a central component of no-fault car insurance policies. Benefits can be paid to drivers, passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and moped riders who are injured in a car accident, regardless of fault. Motorcyclists are not required to purchase PIP benefits in Hawaii, although some policies may include it.
With PIP claims, accident victims request compensation for injury expenses and certain other financial losses from their own insurance companies. It’s important to note that PIP benefits are not automatically paid after a crash. You must file a claim for compensation. Keep in mind that if a driver showed gross negligence in causing the accident — by driving 80 miles per hour in downtown Honolulu, for example — PIP benefits may be denied.
Is Personal Injury Protection Required In Hawaii?
All Hawaii motorists are responsible for carrying at least $10,000 in personal injury protection. Drivers can purchase more PIP coverage if they choose, which can provide an extra cushion if they sustain serious injuries in a wreck.
Unfortunately, medical expenses for car accident injuries can quickly exceed the minimum PIP policy limits. And according to a recent study, two-thirds of Hawaiians are already struggling financially. Half of the participants said that were uninsured or didn’t know if their insurance would cover them in an emergency. Serious car accidents are certain emergencies, and related injuries can be costly.
For example, the cost to repair a broken leg can range from $16,000 to $33,500 for those without health insurance. PIP benefits only kick in once health insurance limits are exhausted. For this injury, the minimum PIP coverage would still leave a Hawaii family responsible for thousands of dollars in medical costs. But if someone else was responsible for the crash, the victims may be able to sue in Hawaii civil court.
Benefits And Limitations Of PIP
There are pros and cons to PIP benefits. PIP allows accident victims to obtain coverage for their medical expenses and lost income soon after a claim is filed. This is much different than for those filing a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver’s insurance company, which can take months or longer to resolve when the facts are being challenged.
PIP was also intended to reduce the number of lawsuits that would go through Hawaii courts. Although this benefit primarily helps the state, in theory it could also help accident victims who choose to sue by shortening the time it takes to get their case heard by a judge or jury.
But along with those perks, PIP can also be restrictive for claimants. Injured individuals cannot obtain compensation for non-monetary losses like pain and suffering with their PIP benefits. Vehicle and property damage are also not covered by PIP. For that compensation, victims would need to go through the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Maximizing Your PIP Benefits After A Hawaii Car Accident
After being involved in a car accident in Honolulu, you must report the crash to your insurance company. Keep it brief and stick to the facts. You only need to tell the insurance representative that the crash occurred. Although you will be asked about injuries, do not mention any until you have spoken with an experienced Hawaii car accident attorney.
A lawyer will examine your insurance policy to determine your PIP limits, as well as other optional insurance auto coverage that you purchased that may be relevant to your case. For example, uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM) may be able to help cover losses if you were struck by a hit-and-run driver or someone without adequate insurance. Additional wage loss coverage can account for any wage reimbursement not covered by PIP.
Most importantly, an attorney can represent you as you work with the insurance company to receive your PIP benefits. Although you are entitled to these benefits as the policyholder, you may encounter delays or other hang-ups that prevent you from getting a timely payout. Your attorney can fight against these delays and prevent your insurer from using excuses (e.g., that you had a pre-existing condition) to avoid paying you full and fair benefits.
What Happens To My Claim If I Have Exhausted My PIP Benefits?
In order to pursue additional compensation beyond Hawaii’s PIP limits, your car accident injuries must meet a certain threshold. Claimants may be able to file a lawsuit against a negligent party if:
The crash resulted in medical expenses that were $5,000 or more.
The injury led to serious or disfiguring injuries, such as the permanent loss of a body part or function (e.g., amputated limb, loss of vision), which caused emotional distress.
The car accident was fatal.
If those criteria are met, then you could have grounds for a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in Hawaii. Filing a lawsuit gives you access to additional types of compensation beyond the PIP benefits, such as:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost future income
- Pain and suffering
- Lost enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Mental and emotional distress
- Property damage
In Hawaii, you have two years from the date of the car accident to file a personal injury lawsuit. If the crash injuries were fatal, the victim’s family has two years from the date of death to bring the claim.
If you believe you have the right to file a car accident lawsuit in Honolulu, let Recovery Law Center help. Attorney Glenn Honda is a skilled trial lawyer and will build a solid claim that demands maximum compensation for you.
Proving Your Car Accident Case
Winning a car accident lawsuit depends on whether you can prove the other party is at fault for the wreck. This is called proving negligence.
In order to show that another party was negligent, you must be able to satisfy four criteria:
- Duty of care: That the party had a duty to keep you reasonably safe from harm (e.g., by driving safely)
- Breach: That they neglected their duty through a reckless action (e.g., drunk driving)
- Causation: That the breach directly led to your injuries and losses
- Damages: That you suffered actual damages (e.g., medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and more) that can be resolved in a financial settlement
As the accident victim, the responsibility will fall on you to prove that the other party was negligent. This will require extensive investigation, evidence gathering, and an understanding of Hawaii’s motor vehicle laws. An experienced attorney can help craft a strong negligence claim on your behalf.
Keep in mind that car accident claims get even more complex when more than one party is at fault. Depending on the circumstances, you may be dealing with multiple insurance policies and defendants ranging from other motorists or companies to city governments and municipalities. At Recovery Law Center, we can help you identify all liable parties to give you the best chance of obtaining a fair award.
How Can Recovery Law Center Help Me?
At Recovery Law Center, we understand how critical PIP benefits are to begin your path to healing. We also know what to do when PIP won’t be enough to compensate you for your physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual losses.
Our Honolulu legal team can take care of every aspect of your case for you. When you meet with us, you’ll get:
- A free consultation with an experienced car accident attorney
- Advice on whether your claim can step out of Hawaii’s no-fault system
- Assistance with your PIP claim
- Preparation of a lawsuit against another party (if possible)
- Help negotiating with stubborn insurance companies so that you don’t receive a lowball settlement offer
- A skilled litigator to represent you at trial if a satisfactory settlement cannot be reached
The good news is that many of these legal services can be provided with minimal disruptions to your life. That way, you can focus your energy on getting well again.
Demanding Justice for Honolulu Car Accident Victims
At Recovery Law Center, your comfort is key. We can meet with you in our office or in your hospital room, home, or wherever is most comfortable for you.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash, please call or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.