Car Wrecks in a ‘No-Fault’ State
How does the auto accident claim process work in Florida?
In addition to the potentially long, painful road to physical and emotional recovery, car accident victims in most states may also find themselves navigating the lengthy process of filing a claim with the other driver’s insurance company. If you’ve been injured in a car crash in Melbourne, in order to prevail and be awarded compensation from the other driver’s insurance provider, your accident attorney must prove the other driver behaved negligently or recklessly and is ultimately at fault for causing the accident and the resulting injury. The process of proving fault Titusville and elsewhere in Brevard County can be very time-consuming and frustrating, especially for drivers who are physically unwell and must miss work while medical bills pile up.
Car accident cases require an extensive amount of court resources from the state and can delay plaintiffs in their attempt to receive the compensation they need to help them recover, both physically and financially. In direct response to the cumbersome process of filling a traditional fault-based accident claim, Florida and a few other states have modified their laws to included “no-fault” insurance, which allows an injured party to file a claim without the burden of proving another party was at fault for causing the auto accident.
What is no-fault insurance?
Including Florida, 12 states have modified their current auto insurance systems to include no-fault policies, also known in Florida as Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. Companies that offer no-fault insurance agree to pay some or all of an insured party’s accident-related medical expenses and lost wages regardless which driver is at fault. Therefore, drivers who are injured in an accident in which they are at fault may also retain a Melbourne car accident attorney to file a claim under their own no-fault policy.
What are the advantages for Melbourne drivers?
All Florida drivers are required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in no-fault insurance coverage. If a driver is injured as a result of a car accident, he or she will typically file a claim with his or her own insurance company and seek compensation. The greatest advantage to filing a no-fault claim is the overall simplicity of the process. When an injured driver files a claim, he or she does not have to prove someone else caused his or her injury, nor does the driver face the possibility of the company rejecting the claim due to a dispute. Unlike in a traditional fault-based claim, the injured party is required by law to cooperate with his or her insurance company when filing a no-fault claim. Cooperation may include delivering a recorded statement to the company or being examined by a physician selected by the insurance company. Failing to comply with the company’s requested procedure may result in denial of the injured party’s claim. For drivers who are at fault for an accident, no-fault insurance offers a layer of protection against injured parties who may otherwise sue if the option to receive compensation from their own insurance company were not available.
What types of car insurance are mandatory in Florida?
Florida drivers are required to maintain Personal Injury Protection insurance and Property Damage Liability insurance. Property Damage Liability insurance covers property damage caused by the driver or any other individuals who may be insured under his or her policy. In addition to covering the driver’s accident injuries, PIP insurance also covers any passengers who do not own a registered vehicle or PIP insurance of their own and become injured while riding in the insured driver’s car. In addition to being covered if they become involved in an accident while behind the wheel, drivers who carry PIP insurance are also covered if they are injured by another vehicle while walking or riding a bicycle. Children who are injured in school bus accidents may also be covered by PIP insurance.
What is the procedure for filing a claim in Brevard County?
In the event of an accident, the driver who wishes to file a claim must do so with his or her own PIP insurance carrier. All car accidents that cause less than $10,000 in damages are covered by each driver’s own PIP insurance policy. However, Florida law mandates that PIP insurance only compensate for 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages. In many cases, the policy holder must also pay a deductible. By design, PIP insurance does not cover 100 percent of the injured party’ expenses. Furthermore, the accident victim cannot file suit to be compensated for the remaining expenses that are not covered by PIP insurance. Nevertheless, Florida law does carve out a few exceptional circumstances in which an accident victim may file suit to receive more compensation. Specifically, accident victims who are permanent injured as a result of the accident are generally eligible to file suit against the driver who caused their injury. Florida law defines permanent injury as:
- significant and permanent loss of a bodily function
- permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability
- not including scarring and disfigurement
- significant permanent scarring or disfigurement
What is the ’14-day rule?’
In 2013, Florida’s Personal Injury Protection law was amended to require individuals who are seeking PIP benefits to receive treatment within 14 days of the accident. According to the new law, the accident victim must receive “initial services and care,” which includes services and care that are lawfully provided, supervised, ordered or prescribed by any of the following health care providers:
- a licensed Florida medical doctor;
- a licensed doctor of osteopathy, commonly referred to as a D.O.;
- a licensed dentist;
- a licensed chiropractor;
- a licensed emergency technician or EMT who provides emergency transportation and treatment.
What are disadvantages of the system?
The no-fault system is touted for its efficiency and the reduced expense to drivers who are involved in accidents. However, research indicates drivers are more likely to engage in dangerous or reckless driving when there is a barrier that prevents them from being sued in many cases. The quick payout system may also be abused as medical staff may fabricate reports to cause victims to quickly reach the $10,000 threshold. Hundreds are arrested annually in Florida for PIP insurance fraud.
There are also several reasons plaintiffs may prefer a fault-based system to no-fault. In addition to only receiving compensation for 80 percent of medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages in claims that total less than $10,000, Florida’s no-fault law does not permit accident victims to request compensation for intangible injuries like “pain and suffering” within a no-fault claim. Only drivers who experience permanent injury as a result of an accident may file suit for additional damages, including “pain and suffering.”
Knowing when to retain an auto wreck attorney
Florida’s accident laws are more complex than the laws in most other states. Although the no-fault structure may simplify the process of filing a claim in most accidents, injured parties in Melbourne or Titusville should consult with an auto wreck attorney prior to beginning the process. A knowledgeable Florida personal injury attorney can help accident victims determine the first step the take in pursuing compensation for his or her injuries and expenses. Attorneys are available to offer a free case evaluation to help accident victims understand all their options prior to deciding which one is best for the victim’s unique case. The accident lawyer can then ensure the injured party receives all required medical examinations and completes and submits any necessary paperwork in a timely manner. Case evaluations are free and confidential at Couture Law P.A.