Passengers who are injured in Delaware car accident cases are often confused and misinformed about their legal rights and the insurance claim process. Two of the most common questions we get from passengers who were injured in car accidents are “who pays for my medical bills?” and “can I file a claim against the driver of the car I was riding in?”
Below is a discussion of passengers’ rights to get medical bills paid after car accidents in Delaware.
Who pays for an injured passenger’s medical bills?
Under Delaware PIP (personal injury protection) law, injured passengers who incur medical bills will generally make a PIP claim under the insurance policy of the car they were riding in. This is specified in 21 Delaware Code Section 2118(a)(2)(c), which provides:
The coverage required by this paragraph [PIP benefits] shall be applicable to each person occupying such motor vehicle and to any other person injured in an accident involving such motor vehicle, other than an occupant of another motor vehicle. [emphasis added]
For example, friend A is driving friend B and they get in a car accident. Friend B/passenger incurs medical bills. Friend B/passenger would make a PIP claim under friend A’s car insurance policy. In other words, the driver’s car insurance company would pay the passenger’s medical bills. In Delaware, the minimum PIP limit required on every Delaware car accident insurance policy is $15,000. The injured passenger in this example would be eligible to make a claim for medical bills, lost wages, etc. up to at least the state minimum, or $15,000. Read more about recovering medical bills and Delaware PIP law here.
What if the passenger has their own PIP policy?
In some situations, a passenger who suffers serious, catastrophic injury may incur medical bills over the applicable PIP limit. If the passenger also had an insurance policy (mom’s policy, dad’s policy or their own policy), with a higher PIP limit, they may be able to recover the difference between the two PIP limits. It is a well settled principle of Delaware car accident and PIP law that passengers who have higher PIP limits on their own PIP policies can recover the difference between their PIP policy and the driver’s PIP policy. (See e.g., Gonzales v. State Farm; Jones v. State Farm; Boling v. AllState).
In this example, let’s say the injured passenger’s parent had a PIP policy of $25,000. Many Delaware residents purchase PIP coverage well above the state minimum; $50,000 PIP policies are quite common. If the injured passenger’s medical bills, lost wages, etc. exceed the $15,000, then she may be able to make a claim on her parent’s PIP policy for the difference between the driver’s $15,000 PIP policy limit and her parent’s PIP policy amount. Therefore, the difference she could recover under her parent’s PIP policy is $10,000 ($25,000 minus $15,000).
What if the passenger exhausts PIP?
In some cases, a passenger will not have their own PIP policy and will therefore be limited to the PIP policy of the driver. In this example, let’s say the medical treatment for the passenger’s injuries exceeded the driver’s $15,000 PIP limit. The passenger had to use their own private health insurance to cover those bills. The passenger would be able to make a claim for the full value of the excess medical bills against the parties responsible for causing the accident. This is important because some states, like Pennsylvania, allow the injured party to claim only what insurance paid. In most cases, health insurance pays only a portion of an actual bill. On a $2000 MRI bill, health insurance might pay $500. In Delaware, the injured party gets to claim the full $2000, not just the $500 that insurance paid. Delaware is unique in this regard.
One of our recent car accident trials provides a prime example of how this works. Our firm represented an immigrant who was injured in a car accident in Delaware. He suffered major injuries when the driver crashed into a tree. The medical bills totaled $64,142.16 (in excess of the driver’s PIP), and past lost wages totaled $5,777.53 (in excess of the driver’s PIP). There was no future loss of earnings and no other future medical expenses. A Dover jury returned a verdict of in his favor of $90,000.00.
If you were a passenger in a car accident in Delaware and would like to discuss your rights, please contact our Delaware car accident lawyers. (302) 658.1717
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- Recovering Medical Bills in a Delaware Car or Truck Accident Case
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Since 1982, firm founder, Martin Knepper, has served residents of Delaware in all personal injury matters, including car accidents and truck accidents. Contact our accident lawyers today and ask for a free consultation. (302) 658.1717
Our lawyers serve residents throughout the Delaware area, including: Wilmington, Newark, Dover, Middletown, and Smyrna. We also represent residents of other states such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia who are injured in car or truck accidents while in Delaware. For more information, please contact us.
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