How No Fault Auto Insurance Laws Can Affect Your Case

Date: April 28, 2014

The majority of Americans have no clue what “no-fault insurance” is. Of course, this is mainly because most states don’t have no-fault systems in place for auto insurance policies. Twelve U.S. states though, spanning from Pennsylvania to as far as Hawaii, do have systems in which a person who suffers a personal injury in an auto accident could fall under no-fault rules. This is why it’s so essential for those individuals to understand these laws.

What are No-Fault Insurance Laws?

Throughout most of America, auto insurance laws fall under the traditional tort system. This means that if a person is injured in a car accident that wasn’t their fault, their auto accident attorney would file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver for losses related to medical bills, lost time at work, emotional suffering and a host of other factors.

In no-fault states, however, a person’s own insurer, not the other driver’s, will cover their financial losses that are related to their injury. It should be noted that this coverage is only for special damages such as medical bills and lost time at work. General damages, such as those related to pain and suffering and other losses that aren’t financial in nature, are usually not an option in no-fault cases. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter who is at fault in these accidents; each person’s own insurer will cover them.

Variations in No-Fault Insurance Laws

Those living in no-fault insurance states should also be aware of a few nuances to the law. In certain states, such as Pennsylvania, for instance, a driver has the option to choose no-fault or traditional tort insurance. If they choose no-fault, they will quickly be reimbursed by their own insurer for the special damages that they suffered.

If they do opt for no-fault insurance, though, they lose the right to sue the other driver if that driver is at fault. If they choose traditional tort insurance, they can sue the other driver for as much as they want, related to both general and special damages, in court. These cases, though, can take much longer to reach completion than those in no-fault situations

When No-Fault isn’t a Disqualifier

The last thing to note is that, even in no-fault states, there are instances where injured drivers can sue for general damages, those at fault for an accident. The injuries suffered however, must meet a certain threshold. In some states, this threshold is monetary. In others however, injuries must be considered by the court to be substantial enough to allow a lawsuit.

For those involved in accidents with commercial vehicles, a truck accident attorney can very likely show that injuries were severe enough to qualify for a lawsuit. Even in severe passenger vehicle accidents however, this qualitative threshold may still be met.

There’s no doubt that no-fault insurance laws can be quite complex and sadly, even those who live in states where these laws are practiced may not fully understand them. Fortunately, anyone suffering a personal injury in these areas can speak with an auto accident attorney to get all of the information they need.


Patrick Dougherty
Lecturer for the PA Trial Lawyers Association and the PA Bar Institute. Board Certified In Civil Trial Advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy