What is No Fault Insurance?

What is No Fault Insurance?

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No-fault insurance is a type of auto insurance that covers your medical costs in the event of a car accident, regardless of who is at fault. The theory behind requiring this kind of coverage is to save on expensive litigation costs that can occur when two parties are trying to prove fault in the other party. In no-fault states, personal injury protection (PIP) coverage is required and drivers are limited in their right to sue other drivers. Below, we go in depth about what no-fault insurance covers, where it's required and how much it costs.

How Does No-Fault Insurance Work?

No-fault insurance will cover your own medical bills if you are injured in an accident, regardless of who is at fault, and your bills are paid for by your own insurance company. This differs from other types of auto insurance—such as liability coverage—which only pay out when a party is proven to be at fault in an accident.

A core aspect of no-fault insurance laws is restricting an individual's right to sue or file claims against other drivers for pain and suffering damages in the event of an accident. However—depending on state car insurance laws—often drivers are allowed to seek compensation for injuries that qualify as serious injuries. This is called a "verbal tort threshold" and usually injuries that qualify include:

  • Death
  • Disfigurement
  • Fractured bones
  • Dismemberment
  • Loss of a fetus

Some no-fault states allow drivers to sue for economic losses after their medical expenses or lost wages exceed a monetary tort threshold that is set by the individual state. Once this threshold is met, the injured party is allowed to file a suit for economic losses against another driver. For example, say you live in Utah and get into an accident that causes you to receive $10,000 worth of medical treatment. You can file a claim against the driver that caused the accident, because your expenses exceed Utah's $3,000 monetary threshold, even without having used up the mandatory $3,000 of PIP insurance.

The typical form of no-fault coverage is personal injury protection (PIP), which covers medical bills and lost wages for a driver and their passengers. This differs from bodily injury liability coverage, which pays for medical expenses to other drivers if you were proven to have caused the accident.

No-Fault Insurance Claims

A no-fault insurance claim is filed with your own insurer to cover the cost of your medical bills and possible loss of wages due to injury. Filing a no-fault PIP claim can cause your rates to increase, however it is dependent on your insurer as well as the state you live in. If you live in Washington, for example, your car insurance rates cannot go up for an accident that was not your fault. Therefore filing a PIP insurance claim wouldn't necessarily cause your rates to increase, unless you were proven to be at fault in the accident.

Why Require No-Fault Coverage?

The theory behind mandating no-fault coverage for drivers is that doing so eliminates a great deal of the costs associated with litigation around proving fault following an accident. By reducing the litigation costs to the insurance companies, they can then pass along the savings to drivers in the form of lower insurance premiums. Another benefit of no-fault coverage is that it reduces the amount of time it takes for injured people to receive money for necessary treatments.

No-Fault States

There are 12 no-fault states with no-fault auto insurance laws where PIP is required.

PIP Requirement
Tort Threshold
Michigan$250,000 or opt-outVerbal
New Jersey$15,000Verbal
New York$50,000Verbal
North Dakota$30,000$2,500
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Choice No-Fault States

Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are the only no-fault states where drivers have the option of whether they'd like to maintain full tort rights when they buy car insurance. Drivers can opt to retain the right to sue for medical expenses as well as noneconomic damage. However the default in these states is a no-fault insurance system. When you go to buy insurance, you must specify if you want reject the restriction of your rights or—if you live in Kentucky—submit a form stating that you wish to maintain full tort rights. The trade-off for choosing to maintain full tort rights in a no-fault state is that your car insurance will likely be more expensive.

Kentucky is unique among optional no-fault states, in that when a driver chooses to reject the no-fault insurance coverage, they are not required to have PIP insurance for themselves. However they are still required to have guest PIP coverage, which covers passengers and pedestrians in an accident.

Other States That Offer Personal Injury Protection

Not all states that offer or require PIP are considered no-fault states. One such example is Oregon, which requires drivers to have $15,000 in PIP coverage but allows drivers to sue for economic and noneconomic damages without meeting any kind of verbal or monetary threshold.

PIP Requirement
Delaware$15,000/person, $30,000/accident
New HampshireOptional
South DakotaOptional
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How Much Does No-Fault Coverage Cost?

No-fault insurance costs vary based on the insurer, coverage limits and your location. While in theory no-fault insurance is supposed to lower insurance costs, in practice, rates are generally higher in no-fault states compared to at-fault states. Part of the reason for this is just that these states are requiring that drivers purchase more coverage. So, on top of the liability insurance required in all states (with the exception of Florida), no-fault state drivers have the additional cost of PIP. Before auto insurance reform in July 2020, the most extreme case of this is Michigan, which had the highest average car insurance costs in the country primarily because of its requirement of unlimited PIP coverage for all drivers.

Graphing The Cost of Auto Insurance in No-Fault States Compared to At-Fault States

Depending on how much PIP you choose to purchase, it can make up a significant portion of your monthly premium. While the actual prices will vary greatly from state to state as well as by insurer, to give you a sense of typical PIP costs we've included several quotes below:

Cost of Coverage
% of Total Policy Cost
$50,000 PIP with $200 deductible$277.6022.85%
$50,000 PIP$285.8023.37%
$50,000 PIP with $2,000 monthly work loss$294.5023.91%
$100,000 PIP with $2,000 monthly work loss$301.6024.34%
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Prices displayed in the table above for a policy with bodily injury liability limits of $50,000/$100,000 and a property damage liability limit of $50,000. The policy also included uninsured motorist limits of $50,000/$100,000, comprehensive and collision coverage with $500 deductibles; and emergency roadside service. The quotes were provided by Geico for a 28 year-old male driver living in New York insuring a 2017 Honda Civic.

Mark is a Senior Research Analyst for ValuePenguin focusing on the insurance industry, primarily auto insurance. He previously worked in financial risk management at State Street Corporation.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.

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