Is Personal Injury Protection Worth the Cost

Some may look at personal injury protection coverage as just another unnecessary expense added to their auto insurance policy, especially if they have a long history of accident-free driving. But the coverage can be essential for picking up a number of unexpected and unplanned expenses. Some states require personal injury protection coverage while others leave it up to the policyholder to decide. In either case, insurance carriers generally offer the coverage for a low to moderate fee, particularly when compared to the big savings that can result if it's ever needed. 

What Is Personal Injury Coverage?

Personal injury protection, or PIP, can cover medical expenses and other costs or monetary losses stemming from injuries sustained in an auto accident. Known as no-fault insurance in some states, the coverage often applies regardless of who was at fault for the accident. If the accident occurs in the insured vehicle, PIP may cover the policyholder as well as any other passengers in the vehicle. PIP may also extend to cover injuries not only sustained in the insured vehicle, but also if the insured is in someone else's vehicle or a pedestrian.

In addition to reimbursing you for medical expenses, Allstate notes that PIP coverage can include:

  • Loss of income if you're unable to work
  • Child-care expenses if you're unable to look after your children
  • Funeral costs if an accident results in death

A similar type of insurance coverage is medical payments coverage, often called MedPay. Like PIP, MedPay can cover medical expenses that health insurance plans don't. It can also help with immediate payments, such as co-pays and deductibles. Unlike PIP, MedPay is limited to medical bills only.

How PIP Came to the Rescue

PIP can certainly come to the rescue when least expected, as one man shared on a Yahoo blog. Although the man did not provide his name, he did note that he began driving in 1987 with no accidents recorded on his own policy since that time. In 2011, he was rear-ended by a driver who had not seen him stopped at a stop sign.

Even though the driver who hit him was only traveling at 10 mph, the impact was enough to damage the car and injure the man. His pain didn't start until the next day. He had already been seeing a chiropractor for regular adjustments, and the impact of the accident ended up reversing four years of progress he'd been making on his back and neck. Instead of continuing chiropractic care twice each month, he was forced to go three times per week until his neck and back improved.

The man's personal injury protection ended up covering the full cost of each chiropractic visit, and he amassed many visits since the accident. Even if they cover chiropractic care, health insurance policies generally have pretty strict limits on the number of visits per year, and PIP was there to pick up the slack.

[quotes style="classic" align="center" author=""]This extensive coverage cost the man less than $20 per month for PIP coverage for two vehicles, less than the cost of a single visit to most chiropractors. Although he had been in his own car at the time of the accident, PIP usually extends to cover accidents suffered by the policyholder and their family members in the insured vehicle, other vehicles or even as pedestrians.[/quotes]

The Bottom Line

Auto accident injury expenses can add up rather quickly, and a study by Insurance Research Council shows that the injury-related medical expenses continue to skyrocket. This has been the case even though the injuries themselves have been decreasing in severity. Injury expenses also far outweigh expenses related to property damage. Statistics from 2012 note:

  • $3,073: Average property damage liability claim in 2012
  • $14,653: Average bodily injury liability claim in 2012

Even if PIP coverage were priced as high as $20 per month, a single injury may be enough to more than make up for the cost of insurance. Do the math and you find paying $20 per month would take more than 732 months, or 61 years, to pay off the cost of an injury that amassed expenses worth $14,653. And that's not counting lost wages, the cost of child care or other expenses related to the injury.

So the bottom line is, yes, personal injury protection coverage can truly be worth the monthly fees to save much more down the line. It can not only help save you from large and unexpected debts, but it can also rescue you from much heartache, headaches and stress.