According to the 2021 Highway Safety Plan from the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT), the leading two causes of highway fatalities throughout the Hawaiian Islands are speeding and driving impaired (under the influence). Speed-related fatalities accounted for 47% percent of the total fatalities in the state in 2020, according to HDOT’s preliminary year-to-date data.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a traffic accident – or worse, if you’ve lost a loved one in a fatal crash – anywhere in Maui, Hawaii, contact Ranken, Shnider & Taylor, Attorneys at Law. For more than three decades, we have been fighting aggressively to help those injured in car accidents claim the compensation they deserve and hold those at fault for the loss of a loved one accountable.



Liability for Car Accidents in Hawaii

Hawaii is a no-fault auto insurance state. This means that, barring serious injury, you must first seek compensation from your own policy and its personal injury protection (PIP) provision. No-fault applies only to injuries, not to vehicle or property damage. For those damages, the at-fault party is liable.

However, as with most states’ insurance requirements, the minimum coverage you must purchase can be pretty low, especially when it comes to a serious injury that could rack up more than $20,000 in medical bills for a single visit to an emergency room and overnight stay in the hospital.

The State of Hawaii requires motor vehicle operators to purchase and maintain:

  • $10,000 per person in PIP for you and your passengers

  • $10,000 per occurrence in property damage liability

  • $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident bodily injury liability for injuries you cause others

Every other type of coverage is optional, including collision and comprehensive, uninsured (UI) and underinsured (UIM) coverage, death benefits, and funeral benefits, among others, including alternative forms of care under your PIP, like acupuncture or naturopathy.

Who’s Really At Fault?

Hawaii also recognizes the modified comparative negligence standard, which means, for instance, in a two-car collision, both parties may have contributed through their own negligence.

Say you’re rear-ended while stopped, but one of your brake lights is not working. You may be found to be 20 percent at fault. Thus, any settlement you receive from an insurance company or from a jury in a personal injury lawsuit will be reduced by your share, i.e., by 20 percent. Your $20,000 settlement suddenly becomes $16,000.

The modified comparative negligence standard is also known as the “51 percent rule.” If your fault rises above 50 percent, you cannot obtain any compensation from the other party.

When Can You Sue for Personal Injury?

Like most no-fault insurance states, Hawaii places what is known as a tort threshold on suing the at-fault driver in a car accident. In Hawaii, you can file a personal injury lawsuit only if:

  • You incurred more than $5,000 in medical expenses and other damages related to your injury, and/or

  • You suffered serious and permanent injuries such as disfigurement or loss of a body part or bodily function

A personal injury lawsuit not only allows claims for economic damages, such as medical expenses and lost wages, but also for noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering.

Hawaii imposes a two-year statute of limitations dating from the accident to file a lawsuit. Insurance companies, however, will not wait that long for a claim. Auto insurance policies contain provisions that you must make a claim “promptly,” which usually means within a few days of the accident.

There is no restriction against filing a lawsuit for property damage; the threshold only applies to personal injuries. There is still a two-year statute of limitations for property lawsuits, however, with the same “promptly” reporting requirement for insurance company claims.

Proving Negligence

Winning a personal injury lawsuit requires that you show that the other driver was at fault because he or she was negligent. Under Hawaii driving laws, every vehicle operator is expected to exercise a reasonable “duty of care” toward other drivers. If they fail to do so, they are negligent.

Negligence can be shown in various ways:

  • The driver was distracted (using a cell phone, talking to passengers, eating a sandwich).

  • The driver was not obeying the rules of the road (speeding, changing lanes frequently, driving recklessly).

  • The driver was impaired by alcohol and/or drugs.

  • The driver ignored stop signals or signs or other roadside cautionary signs.

Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If you’ve lost a loved one to a car accident, there is certainly no amount of money that can make up for the devastating loss you feel, but filing a wrongful death lawsuit can hold the at-fault driver accountable.

In Hawaii, a wrongful death is defined as any death caused by “the wrongful act, neglect, or default” of another person or entity. Hawaii law allows family members to file a wrongful death lawsuit, including the surviving spouse, children, father, or mother, and anyone who was fully or partially dependent financially upon the deceased at the time of death.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, you can claim economic damages such as loss of income and other financial benefits the deceased would have provided, as well as noneconomic damages for “loss of love and affection.” Funeral and burial expenses can also be recovered.

The statute of limitations is two years from the date of death, which may be later than the date of the actual accident.


If you've been injured in a car accident, remember that insurance claims adjusters will try to pin fault on you to lowball your settlement or deny your claim. Let our experienced attorneys deal with the adjusters while you recover from your injuries. We will also assess the circumstances of your injury, aggressively pursue your claim, and protect your rights. If you're located in Maui, reach out to us immediately at Ranken, Shnider & Taylor, Attorneys at Law. The first consultation is always free.