PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION INSURANCE (“PIP”):
USE IT OR LOSE IT
Texas law affords its motorists the option of obtaining what is referred to as “Personal Injury Protection” in connection with their automobile liability coverage. Texas’ Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) statute requires that any automobile liability policy provide to a covered insured, members of the insured’s household, and any authorized operator or passenger, including a guest occupant, up to $2,500 per person for payment of certain expenses resulting from an automobile accident. Most Texas drivers have such coverage on their policies. But despite this fact, surprising numbers of these drivers do not take advantage of this coverage when they are injured.
PIP coverage applies to bodily injury resulting from a “motor vehicle accident.” A “motor vehicle accident” is a situation in which (1) one or more vehicles are involved with another vehicle, an object, or a person; (2) the vehicle is being used, including exit or entry, as a motor vehicle; and (3) a causal connection exists between the vehicle’s use and the injury-producing event. See Tex. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sturrock, 146 S.W.3d 123, 128–134 (Tex. 2004). PIP can provide reimbursement for a wide range of accident-related expenses including medical, surgical, x-ray, dental services, ambulances, hospitals, professional nursing, funeral services, and lost income, if appropriate. See TEX. INS. CODE § 1952.151(3)(A), (B). And importantly, these benefits are payable regardless of fault, and regardless of other insurance which might exist to pay for such damages. See TEX. INS. CODE § 1952.155(a)(1), (2).
Many people wrongly assume that using their PIP coverage will necessarily raise their insurance rates. But these rates are determined by the risks, and generally rise after an accident only when fault is assigned to the covered driver. Put more simply, when an insurance company decides to raise rates or cancel service, they are much more interested in the potential risk that an insured represents than any other factor. If you go around driving recklessly and causing accidents by your conduct, the insurance company most likely will raise your rates or decline to renew your policy. But really, it doesn’t make any sense to cancel a policy holder who makes a PIP claim when someone else causes an accident.
So if you take one message from this article, it is this: IF YOU HAVE PIP COVERAGE, USE IT! It is a benefit created by Texas law to assist its drivers with accident-related expenses. It is available regardless of fault. And it is available to you even if other insurance or other sources of recovery apply. It makes no sense to pay for this valuable resource, but then refuse to take advantage of it when you are injured in an accident. If you don’t plan on using it when it is available, why pay for it? USE IT, OR LOSE IT!