Florida is in a minority of states which employ a “no-fault” personal injury system. This results in car accident victims first having to file a claim against their own insurance before submitting a claim to a defendant’s carrier. Understanding the workings of this system, as well as what to expect from dealing with insurance in general, can help you to understand what to expect from the process as your matter moves forward.
Florida’s No-Fault Insurance Law Requires You To Carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage
All vehicles registered in the state of Florida are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This is a policy on your own insurance, against which you will make a claim, if you are injured by another driver. The minimum required amount of PIP coverage is $10,000, although a driver can opt for a greater policy. If your damages are in excess of the amount covered by your PIP coverage then you may file a claim against the other driver’s insurance. For all practical matters, any case involving serious injuries is likely to be in excess of this $10,000 threshold.
There are several aspects of Florida law which you should be aware of when it comes to your PIP coverage. First, you must submit your PIP claim within two weeks of the subject accident. Second, only medical expenses incurred within the first two weeks, following an accident, will be eligible for PIP reimbursement. Also, PIP coverage does not reimburse you for one-hundred percent of your losses. Only eighty percent of your medical expenses will be reimbursed and the same is true for sixty percent of your lost wages. Furthermore, pain and suffering can be included in a claim against your PIP coverage. If your damages are in excess of the $10,000 cap then you may include pain and suffering as part of your claim against the defendant.
While dealing with your PIP coverage may sound relatively straightforward, it is strongly suggested that you retain a personal injury attorney to assist you. Mishandling a PIP claim can result in problems for your larger case, if not barring you from recovery altogether. By retaining experienced counsel, you help to ensure that your case is handled correctly.
PIP Coverage and Wrongful Death Claims
If a driver is killed in a car accident, their PIP coverage will typically pay out up to $5,000 for funeral costs. For obvious reasons, a wrongful death case is likely to have a value well in excess of the PIP policy limits. This means that the surviving family members of the deceased will be able to bring an action for the loss of companionship, earnings which the deceased could have expected to earn during their lifetime, as well as incurred medical expenses. Also, the defendant will be liable for pain and suffering which the deceased endured as well as the trauma suffered by the surviving family members.
Dealing With Insurance After Filing a PIP Claim
Submitting a Settlement Demand to the Insurance Carrier
If your damages exceed the limits of your PIP policy (again, they typically will), then your attorney will quickly inform the defendant’s insurance carrier that you are represented by counsel. The insurance carrier will then deal with your lawyer directly so that you may focus on your treatment. Your lawyer will submit a settlement demand to the insurance carrier once your long-term prognosis and chances of recovery are reasonably known. This demand will state the amount of compensation you are requesting, the basis of your calculations, and it will include documentation which supports your request. Your lawyer and the insurance carrier will then engage in back and forth negotiations. If a settlement cannot be reached then a lawsuit will be filed on your behalf.
Significant time may pass between the time of your accident and the time at which a settlement demand is sent to the insurance company. This is due to the fact that, as stated above, your long-term prognosis must be reasonably ascertainable before sending a demand. If you accept a settlement, without being more certain of your recovery, then you run the risk of settling for less than what you would actually be entitled to. An example of this would be if you were suffering from dizziness and headaches, following a wreck, and you believe that this problem will clear up. You accept a quick settlement and, when the neurological issues do not go away, you are unable to return to the workforce. The reduced settlement you accepted could very well leave you without the money you need to support yourself, and to pay for future medical care.
When deciding whether or not to accept a settlement, the most important thing is to take the advice of your attorney. Your lawyer’s goal is to get you the largest amount possible. Counsel will give you an honest assessment as to whether a current settlement offer is “the best you can do” or if it is better to wait for a larger amount.
Dealing With Insurance After a Lawsuit Has Been Filed
The defendant’s insurance carrier will continue to be involved in the case after a lawsuit has been filed. Your attorney will continue to negotiate a possible settlement, while they are litigating your case, through the insurance company’s lawyers. The insurance lawyers will be reporting directly to the insurance carrier and the insurance adjuster will need to approve any final amount.
Contact a Florida Car Accident Attorney For Assistance With Your PIP Claim
If you have been in an auto wreck then you only have a limited amount of time in which you can submit a claim against your PIP policy. Retaining a lawyer as soon as possible is the first step to making sure that your case is handled correctly.