One of the purposes of the no-fault insurance concept is to provide immediate payment for the medical expenses and lost wages of the person injured in a traffic accident without regard to who caused the accident.

Here is the difference in the way the claim for medical expenses would be handled in a no-fault state compared to a traditional fault state, according to Robert Sasser, a representative of State Farm Insurance.

Under the traditional system, the victim files a claim for medical expenses with the other driver's insurance company. The victim may have to hire a lawyer to represent him and collect the claim by going to the company or, if that fails, by filing a lawsuit.

The case may go to trial or it may be settled out of court, but either process can take months or years to resolve. The issues may go beyond medical expenses and include other elements, such as the nonmedical pain and suffering damages claimed by the victim. When the case finally is decided, part of any award would go to the driver and part to his attorney.

In the no-fault state, the victim submits a claim for medical expenses and lost wages to his own insurance company. Generally, the company is required by law to pay the claim within a specified period of time, such as 30 days or less. That is the end of the matter unless the injuries suffered by the victim are seriously disabling, disfiguring or resulted in death.

In that case, the victim or his survivors could file suit against the driver who caused the accident and attempt to collect for nonmedical pain and suffering damages.

In some no-fault states, the victim or his survivors can sue for pain and suffering damages if the medical expenses exceed the state's dollar threshold. And in a few no-fault states, like Maryland and Virginia, which offer very low no-fault benefits and no barriers against lawsuits for pain and suffering, the victim can sue at any time.