By: Pascal Moleus, Esquire
Imagine that you were just involved in a car accident. You’re in shock. You’re hurt. You’re in need of serious medical treatment. You’ll most likely miss time from work. Can you afford the necessary medical treatment for you to make a full recovery? Can you afford to take time off from work (and to lose wages)?
Thankfully, most auto insurance policies in Maryland include Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. For the unfamiliar, PIP coverage provides funds for Maryland insured drivers when automobile accidents occur. In Maryland, PIP is required on all vehicles unless expressly waived by the vehicle owner. Md. Code, Ins. § 19-505. PIP is no-fault insurance and, therefore, covered PIP claims are usually paid regardless of who was at fault in an automobile accident. Moreover, an accident victim’s insurance premiums will NOT increase despite utilizing PIP coverage.
If you are in a car accident, PIP funds can cover reasonable health care bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, and even household services, including: child care, housework, and cooking. Md. Code Ann., Ins. § 19-505(b). Additionally, PIP funds can cover up to 85% of your lost income. PIP usually pays immediately, which helps automobile accident victims with immediate lost wages and/or medical bills while they are waiting on recovery from their bodily injury claims. Typically, PIP coverage provides up to $2,500 in funds, but that amount can be even higher depending on the terms of your PIP coverage. Moreover, in Maryland, if PIP payments are made, those payments DO NOT have to be paid back to your insurance company. Furthermore, if you regularly drive with other passengers (such as in a carpool for work or for school), PIP coverage will help ensure that other passengers in your insured vehicle receive adequate health coverage and compensation for any time off work due to an accident. Md. Code Ann., Ins. § 19-505(b).
Unfortunately, however, many Maryland drivers unwittingly waive their PIP coverage and only realize the error of that decision after they are involved in a serious automobile collision and accumulate substantial medical bills while being forced to miss time from work.
Many Maryland drivers make the costly decision of waiving PIP coverage when they are selecting a new automobile insurance policy from an insurance company or are altering the terms of an existing policy. To their detriment, many drivers sign a PIP waiver notice upon choosing or updating an insurance policy. And, often times, such a decision is financial in nature: drivers prefer not want to spend an extra amount of dollars monthly on automobile coverage that they deem is not absolutely necessary. Many drivers also rationalize their decision to waive PIP coverage based on their perceived unlikelihood of ever being involved in an automobile collision. However, waiving PIP coverage not only deprives drivers of much-needed funds following an automobile collision; it impacts how much insured drivers can have in take-home money following the settlement of a bodily injury claim. In many instances, if a Maryland driver requires emergency room treatment following an auto collision but has waived PIP, any bodily injury claim settlement that the driver receives must be used to repay the hospital. Similarly, if a Maryland driver receives medical treatment from a primary care physician or physical therapy but has waived PIP, the driver would be responsible for repaying those medical providers. Conversely, if a driver has PIP coverage, his or her medical bills would be paid up to the PIP limit by the insurance carrier.
Waiving PIP is an option to save the insured money. However, waiving PIP is not recommended. The purpose of personal injury protection (PIP), in a fundamental sense, is for the insured to get a benefit quickly without having to deal with litigation.
Pascal Moleus is an Associate Attorney at GDH LAW, LLC. If you have recently been involved in an automobile accident and require legal representation, contact GDH LAW immediately at (301) 769-6835.
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