Monday, June 24, 2013

Tort Liability vs. No-Fault Insurance

           Liability insurance is a requirement in all 50 of the United States. There are variations on liability insurance, but the two main categories are No-fault and Tort Liability. Washington is a tort liability auto insurance (i.e. “fault” liability) state. It is important to understand the distinction between tort liability insurance and no-fault insurance when filing your personal injury claim. Presently, 38 states are tort liability states and the remaining 12 are no-fault. There are certainly pros and cons to both, but, given that the vast majority adheres to the tort liability system, it appears that one is superior. The following breakdown is intended to provide just the foundation of how Washington’s tort liability system works and how it can be distinguished from its counterpart.


            The primary benefit of no-fault insurance is that the injured driver does not bear the burden of proving the other driver is at fault or civilly liable for his medical and other various expenses. This process can be time consuming and expensive. The liability insurance each driver carries in no-fault states pays for the insurance policy holder’s injuries regardless of who caused the accident. While this system has the benefit of compensating victims who have insurance, and simultaneously sparing them the task of proving fault, the downside is that the not-at-fault injured party forfeits the opportunity to bring a civil lawsuit against the responsible party for pain and suffering and emotional distress. Liability insurance may cover medical bills, lost wages and other expenses, but it also seals the end of the case. Many drivers who are injured have a valid case which is barred following recovery. The 12 states under the no-fault system are:

• Florida
• Hawaii
• Kansas
• Kentucky
• Massachusetts
• Michigan
• Minnesota                                                                          
• New Jersey
• New York
• North Dakota
• Pennsylvania
• Utah 


            On the other hand, the remaining 38 states have some form of tort liability insurance. In a “fault” liability state, establishing which party is at fault is essential to recovering damages. At the same time, there are fewer restrictions to recovering full damages for all injuries. An injured party can file a claim with her insurance company, and still later file a lawsuit against the driver for pain and suffering or emotional distress. The injured party has more choices. She can: 1) file a claim with her own insurance company for medical expenses, 2) wait to recover while attempting to recover from the other driver’s insurance company or 3) file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver. Furthermore, in “fault” liability states, insurance companies will pay depending on what percentage a driver is at fault. Because there are less restrictions on how to recover in Washington, if you feel that you were not adequately compensated by you or the other driver’s insurance company, you still have the option of pursuing a personal injury claim in court.

For more information, consider contacting a Seattle Personal Injury Lawyer.


                                                                                         Weitz Law Firm
                                                                                            520 Kirkland Way, Suite 103
                                                                                            Kirkland, Washington 98033


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