After nearly 70 years of practicing personal injury law in the District of Columbia, a common insurance question we get is whether D.C. is a no-fault state. There is often confusion likely because D.C. has unique laws on this topic. Additionally, the laws in D.C. often interact with the laws and insurance policies of Maryland and Virginia. In general, no-fault coverage is a wonderful thing to have on your policy and is worth understanding a bit about. Given the confusion surrounding this topic, we are delighted to address it in some detail here.
What is no-fault coverage?
In simple terms, no-fault coverage refers to a system that reimburses policyholders for a variety of incurred costs after an accident, regardless of who is at fault in a car accident. This is contrary to comprehensive, collision, or liability coverage. With the more typical policy, your insurance company may only reimburse you in situations such as if the tortfeasor does not have any coverage or does not have enough coverage. Even then, you generally need to opt into these forms of coverage. But with no-fault coverage, your insurance company is, perhaps uncharacteristically, considerate. Of course, it is only that way because you paid them, and they are contractually bound to pay you such coverage.
Nevertheless, no-fault coverage in D.C. is relatively inexpensive and is generally worth the investment. The most common form is called personal injury protection (“PIP”). In Virginia, it is called medical payment coverage and acts slightly differently. No-fault coverage is mandatory in 18 states. No-fault coverage can pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and funeral expenses. Notice, unlike your ultimate recovery, no-fault coverage does not pay for pain and suffering.
Is Washington, D.C. a no-fault state?
The short answer is that D.C. is a no-fault state. But it is not that simple. Washington, D.C.’s law on PIP coverage can be found under §31-2404. Personal Injury Protection of the Code of the District of Columbia. A misconception we frequently encounter is that everyone has PIP coverage. However, as found under §31-2404(a)(1), an insurer is required only to offer PIP coverage to its insured. In other words, it is not required that the insured issue such coverage. This section details when PIP benefits are available to an insured. An additional complexity is that PIP or Med-pay will not extend if the medical bills are over a certain amount. There are more complexities in the insurance case law that require a closer examination in practice.
Additionally, under §31-2403. Required Insurance of the Code of the District of Columbia, the Code states that each owner of a motor vehicle in D.C. must be registered or for which a reciprocity sticker is required shall maintain insurance. This applies even if you are not a resident of D.C., but you are driving your car through D.C. An experienced personal injury lawyer understands that, in D.C., an injured party generally must decide whether he will make a PIP claim or a third-party claim within 60 days of the date of accident. This rule flies under the radar and is a good example of why it is important to call an experienced personal injury lawyer. If you have any questions about this topic, please contact us.