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Does Auto Insurance Cover Non-Crash Injuries?

By Aaron Crowe

car_trunkIf you’ve ever had the bad luck of being hit on the head by the trunk of your car, jammed a finger in a closing car door, or fell while getting out of your truck, you’re not alone.

An estimated 647,000 people were injured each year in 2011 and 2012 in non-crash car injuries, according to a March 2015 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA.

Some people may shake off these injuries as nothing and won’t seek medical attention. Others will go to their doctor or a hospital emergency room and have their health insurance pay for treatment.

If a vehicle led to the injury, even if it’s not involved in a crash, car insurance will often pay for the treatment — a consideration many injured people may not think about because their first inclination is likely to go to their health care provider.

Personal injury protection may help

Many non-crash injuries should be covered if your auto insurance policy has personal injury protection (PIP) or medical payments (MedPay) coverage.

PIP generally covers bodily injuries from the ownership, maintenance or use of a vehicle. MedPay typically covers injuries that happen while someone is in the vehicle, including entering and exiting it.

State laws and an insurance company’s own rules can cause policies to vary. Contact your insurance agent for definitions of bodily injury under PIP and MedPay coverage.

In Massachusetts, for example, PIP coverage applies to the following individuals, says Ramsey Bahrawy, a lawyer in North Andover, MA:

  • Anyone occupying the insured vehicle with consent;
  • The insured or insured member of the household who is injured while occupying an automobile not having PIP coverage or if struck as a pedestrian by an auto not having PIP coverage; and
  • Any pedestrian struck by the insured auto in Massachusetts or any Massachusetts resident struck by the insured auto outside of the state. New Hampshire pedestrians are not covered by PIP if struck in New Hampshire by a Massachusetts vehicle.

PIP doesn’t cover motorcycles or their passengers and isn’t payable if workers’ compensation benefits are available to the claimant, Bahrawy says.

Personal injury protection is required by law in Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon and Utah. MedPay is required as part of car insurance coverage in Maine and New Hampshire.

Most other states offer PIP or MedPay as optional coverage’s.

MedPay will pay directly to the injured if the injuries are directly related to a crash, in, upon, exiting or entering a vehicle, Bahrawy says. The person must occupy the insured vehicle with consent.

There’s also the issue of if your car insurance company requires its coverage to be primary or secondary to health coverage.

“So many carriers want to be secondary if there’s a primary” health insurer, says Dan Young, senior vice president of insurance relations at Carstar, an auto body repair service.

One of the main benefits of MedPay is that there isn’t a deductible, whereas most health insurance requires a deductible, Young says. That’s less money out of the injured person’s pocket.

If you don’t have health insurance, PIP or MedPay can help pay for medical treatment when it’s needed the most.

Common non-crash auto injuries

Here are some of the most common ways to be injured by a car, most of which don’t involve the car being in an accident, and if auto insurance will cover the related medical treatment:

  • Hand slammed in door, trunk lid, etc.: The NHTSA reported 132,000 annual injuries, or 20 percent overall, from a closing door. It’s the most common injury listed in the report. Being stuck by a trunk lid happened 10,000 times, or in 5 percent of non-crash incidents, and being struck by the hood happened 5,000 times, or in 2 percent of cases. An estimated 2,000 people were injured closing a window. Fortunately, most people — 94 percent — were treated and released for non-crash injuries, the NHTSA reports. Slamming a finger or other body part in a closing car door, or being hit by a trunk lid, should be covered by your auto insurance policy’s PIP or MedPay coverage.
  • Jump or fall out: A fall from a vehicle, whether on purpose such as jumping out of a truck bed, or on accident, happened 75,000 times per year, or 12 percent of the time, the NHTSA found. A total of 147,000 people, or 23 percent of non-crash accidents, happened from entering or exiting a vehicle.You’re considered a vehicle occupant during such incidents, when PIP and medical payments should cover the injuries. If you’re among the 38,000 people annually who fall from vehicles, such as sitting on the tailgate or take a misstep, your injuries should also be covered by PIP or MedPay. In general, coverage applies when the injury is casually related to the driving or use of the car, says Jonathan Stein, a lawyer in Elk Grove, California. “If your kid is playing on the car and using it to hide during a game of ‘war,’ then the injury is not covered if they hurt themselves,” Stein says. “You need to generally be driving the car and have the injury casually related to the driving of the car.”
  • Overexertion: This injury, such as from unloading cargo, is the third most common non-crash injury the NHTSA reported, with 68,000 incidents per year, making up 11 percent of all non-crash incidents. Don’t expect your car insurer to cover it. It will likely be described as a self-inflicted injury that could have been prevented by pacing yourself and isn’t directly related to the operation of your car.
  • Kicking a car: About 55,000 people injure themselves each year by hitting or kicking a vehicle. However angry you are, kicking, hitting or somehow striking your car are intentional acts that are unlikely to be covered by auto insurance if they lead to injuries. You’ll likely need to use health insurance for such injuries.