Hawaii's No Fault Personal Injury Law

Over the past decade the Hawaii legislature has enacted various laws intended to discourage or limit personal injury claims. Although insurance companies refer to Hawaii's personal injury laws as “No-Fault”, Hawaii is not a true “No-Fault” state.

 “No-Fault” refers to the injured party's Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) coverage paying for medical bills and wage loss up to certain policy limits (in most cases $10,000). The PIP carrier pays the injured policyholder's medical expenses without regard to who bears fault for the accident.

 In a true “No-Fault” state, an injured victim may not recover damages for pain and suffering or other general damages from the negligent party. In Hawaii, a personal injury claim may be filed against the negligent party despite the fact that the PIP carrier has paid the injured victim's medical expenses and wage loss.

The personal injury claim may still be available to those injured victims whose medical treatment expenses exceed a certain monetary threshold – currently $5,000. Additionally, the number of visits to certain medical providers, such as chiropractors, is also limited under Hawaii's adoption of “No-Fault”. 

Listed below are a few sections of the Hawaii Revised Statutes pertaining to Hawaii's “No-Fault” system:

  1. Hawaii Insurance Law Requirement

Under Hawaii law, drivers are required to maintain automobile insurance. HRS 431:10C-104 states:

            (a) Except as provided in section 431:10C-105, no person shall operate or use a motor vehicle upon any public street, road, or highway of this State at any time unless such motor vehicle is insured at all times under a motor vehicle insurance policy.

            (b) Every owner of a motor vehicle used or operated at any time upon any public street, road, or highway of this State shall obtain a motor vehicle insurance policy upon such vehicle which provides the coverage required by this article and shall maintain the motor vehicle insurance policy at all times for the entire motor vehicle registration period.

             (c) Any person who violates the provisions of this section shall be subject to the provisions of section 431:10C-117(a).

            (d) The provisions of this article shall not apply to any vehicle owned by or registered in the name of any agency of the federal government, or to any antique motor vehicle as defined in section 249-1.

  1. Types of Coverage and Policy Limits Required Under Hawaii Law.

Currently, drivers in Hawaii must maintain the following insurance coverage and limits:  

  • Bodily Injury: $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident
  • Property Damage: $10,000
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP): $10,000

Bodily injury insurance coverage pays for personal injury claims when the injury was caused by an at-fault driver. As more fully described below, the bodily injury coverage may not come into play if the not-at-fault party's medical expenses are less than $5,000. Be advised, it is important to discuss your bodily injury limits with an experienced insurance agent licensed by the State of Hawaii.  The minimum limits are rarely sufficient to adequately compensate a victim of personal injury whose medical expenses exceed $5,000. If insurance policy limits are insufficient to compensate the injured victim in a Hawaii personal injury case, the at-fault driver may risk losing personal assets if a judgment is obtained in an amount exceeding the policy limits.

Property damage insurance coverage pays for vehicle and other property damage incurred as a result of a car accident. A property damage claim is usually settled fairly quickly after the accident. It is important to discuss the necessary property damage limits in your individual circumstances. The minimum limits are rarely sufficient to pay for property damage in the event a vehicle is determined to be a total loss and needs to be replaced.  

Personal injury protection is at the center of Hawaii's no-fault law. As more fully described below, PIP is the type of coverage which pays for medical expenses, wage loss and other expenses incurred after a car accident but before the bodily injury settlement. 

  1. Hawaii's Medical Expense Threshold:

It is important to note, there can be no personal injury claim against a negligent driver until the injured victim's allowed medical expenses exceed $5,000. If the medical expenses are less than $5,000 the injured victim is barred from pursuing a personal injury claim against the negligent driver. The injured victim is limited to the “No-Fault” PIP payments received from the victim's own insurance company.      

For example, if Jane Doe was at fault for an accident in which John Doe incurred $4,500 in medical expenses, John Doe would be prohibited from filing a personal injury lawsuit against Jane Doe. John Doe would be forced to rely on his own no-fault PIP policy to pay accident-related medical expenses and other damages.  John Doe would not be entitled to pain-and-suffering or other damages not covered by the PIP policy. 

Despite the no-fault nature of the PIP coverage, Hawaii law (HRS 16-23-50) forces an insured to present for a medical examination “as often as the insurer may reasonably require.” Generally speaking, insurers will request a medical examination when the claims examiner feels medical treatment is unreasonable or unnecessary. The medical examination is performed by a physician or chiropractor (depending on the nature of the treatment received by the injured individual) and is paid for by the insurance company. Often referred to as independent medical examinations (IME), there is nothing independent about the examination. The physician owes no patient/physician privilege with the injured individual. If the physician or treatment provider, after conducting the examination, concludes that no further medical treatment is necessary, the insurer will cease making payments for medical treatment even if the injured individual requires further accident-related medical treatment.

As you can see, Hawaii personal injury insurance law can be a trap for the unwary. For more information on how we can help you with your Hawaii personal injury claim, please contact us today.  We can be reached by completing the “Contact Our Firm” box to the right or by telephone/text at: (808) 348-7800.                 

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Jeffrey E. Foster

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