What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP) for Car Insurance?

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Contributor, Benzinga
December 3, 2021

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Do you know which types of coverage are included in your auto insurance policy? If you live in a state that requires personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, you might have extended medical care benefits that you didn’t even know about. But where is PIP insurance required, what does it cover and how much coverage do you need? If it’s optional in your state, should you invest in a PIP insurance policy? Read on to learn more about this often misunderstood type of car insurance coverage. 

What Is Personal Injury Protection?

Personal injury protection (sometimes referred to as “no-fault insurance”) is a type of coverage that compensates you for your own medical bills and the bills of your passengers if you’re injured in an accident. Your personal injury protection often also extends to injuries that you sustain when you’re a passenger in someone else’s car and you’re involved in a collision.

Note that personal injury protection is not the same thing as the bodily injury liability coverage that you’re required to carry under your state minimum insurance. Bodily injury liability insurance will compensate anyone who you injure during an accident. This coverage will not compensate you for your own injuries if you’re involved in a collision. However, if you have personal injury protection coverage, you’ll receive assistance covering your own bills.

Personal injury protection is sometimes referred to as “no-fault insurance” because it helps you get coverage for your injuries without determining who was at fault for the accident that caused the injury. As a condition of claiming a personal injury payout from your insurance company, you forfeit the right to sue the other driver in small claims court for the cost of your medical bills where this coverage is required. No-fault insurance was originally introduced to reduce delays in the court system caused by the time-consuming and expensive process of determining who was at-fault after an automobile accident.

Key Points



  • Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance is a type of medical care coverage that helps cover the cost of your own medical bills following an accident.
  • It may also cover things like lost wages and funeral expenses.
  • PIP insurance is not the same thing as bodily injury liability coverage, which is required to drive in almost every state. Bodily injury liability coverage pays for other drivers who you injure on the road, while PIP insurance compensates you for your bills.
  • PIP insurance is required by law in 16 states and optional in 5 states and Washington DC.
  • In states where PIP insurance is not available, you may want to purchase medical care coverage, which is similar to PIP coverage.

Is PIP Coverage Required by Law?

Personal injury protection coverage is required to legally remain on the road in 16 states and is an optional coverage in others. In some states, you cannot buy a personal injury protection policy. If you’re required to have PIP coverage, the minimum coverage that you’ll need to maintain will vary by state. For example, drivers in Hawaii must carry a minimum of $10,000 in PIP coverage, while drivers in New York must carry $50,000 in coverage plus a $2,000 death benefit.

Personal Injury Protection vs. Medical Payments

In some states, you may have the option to add medical payments coverage (sometimes referred to as “MedPay”) to your auto insurance policy. Like PIP insurance, medical payments help cover medical-related expenses following an accident, including:

  • Health insurance deductibles and copays
  • Doctor or hospital visits
  • Surgeries
  • Ambulance and emergency medical technician fees
  • Ongoing professional care needs (like home health nursing services or physical therapy)

The difference between PIP insurance and medical payments coverage is location. Medical payments coverage is not available in states where PIP insurance is required or optional. While PIP insurance may be required in some states, medical payments coverage is always optional. In simpler words, medical payments coverage offers all of the medical benefits that you’ll find on PIP policies where you cannot buy a personal injury protection plan. 

What Does PIP Insurance Cover?

Personal injury protection can cover a variety of medical benefits following an accident, including the following.

  • Medical expenses: PIP coverage can help pay for the costs of medical and surgical treatments needed following a collision, dental and optometric treatment, ambulance and nursing services, prescription medications and prosthetic devices. PIP insurance can also help you cover the cost of ongoing professional medical care — for example, physical therapy to help restore your ability to walk.
  • Lost wages: In some cases, your personal injury protection insurance can help you cover the cost of lost wages if you’re unable to work due to accident-related injuries.
  • Limited household chores: If your injuries limit your ability to work following an accident, your personal injury protection coverage may cover the costs of a personal care aide to assist you with household chores like preparing meals or doing laundry.
  • Funeral expenses: If you or one of your passengers dies as the result of a major accident, your PIP insurance may help pay for the cost of funeral expenses.

Keep in mind that PIP insurance will only compensate you for medical costs incurred as a direct result of your collision. It is not a substitute for standard health insurance coverage. Also unlike health insurance, your PIP insurance provider can limit the total amount of medical benefits that you can claim. For example, if you purchase a PIP insurance policy with a limit of $5,000, your insurance provider will not compensate you for any injury expenses over $5,000 — even if they are related to your accident.

Do You Need PIP Coverage if You Have Health Insurance?

If you live in one of the 16 states that requires PIP insurance, you’ll need to purchase it as part of your auto insurance policy, regardless of whether or not you have health insurance coverage. Your state may also have provisions in place that require you to file a claim with your PIP insurance provider before turning to your health insurance policy.

If you live in a state where personal injury protection is required and you have health insurance, you may still want to invest in a PIP insurance policy because it offers protections beyond your health insurance. For example, the personal injury protection on your car insurance policy can help cover lost wages and funeral expenses.

How Do You Get Personal Protection Coverage?

Before you can purchase a personal injury protection policy, you need to determine whether or not this coverage is available in your state. PIP insurance is required in 16 states and optional in 5 states and Washington D.C. This means that if you live in one of the other 29 states, you cannot purchase personal injury insurance.

If you live in a state where PIP insurance is required and you currently have an auto insurance policy, you probably already have this protection if you’ve purchased state minimum insurance required to stay on the road legally. If you live in a state where PIP insurance is optional, you should speak to an agent with your insurance company to discuss coverage choices and pricing. 

Check out this Benzinga resource to learn about the laws in your state: Personal Auto Liability Minimums: A State-by-State Guide.

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Frequently Asked Questions


How much PIP coverage do I need?


The total amount of PIP coverage that you’ll need will vary depending on your state’s minimum requirements. In some states, you may need only $5,000 worth of protection, and in others, you may need more than $50,000 worth of coverage. Speak with a local insurance agent to learn more about your state’s minimums, if applicable.


Should PIP be primary or secondary?


Many states have laws in place requiring that you use your PIP insurance as your primary coverage and your health insurance as your secondary coverage after an accident.

If you don’t live in a state where PIPs must be primary coverage, you may still want to set your PIP coverage as your primary insurance because many health insurance plans have limitations on ongoing care services that you might need following an accident (like physical therapy).