What to Look for in a PIP Lawyer
As in any area of life or law, it is important to hire the right person for the job. If you were trying to lay tile at your home, you wouldn't hire a roofer to do the job. As stated in many articles prior, Personal Injury Protection ("PIP") and its contract-driven cousin, Medical Benefits Payments "Med Pay," are a unique area of law, even within the practice of personal injury.
While sharing many similarities with traditional at-fault litigation, PIP, also known as no-fault insurance, is statute driven, and with that comes a lot of nuances. I have amassed what I believe to be the most important things to consider when hiring a PIP lawyer for yourself or your medical facility.
What is Personal Injury Protection?
Personal injury protection is a branch of car insurance that covers economic damages, including medical bills, lost wages, and burial costs. Florida is a no-fault state, which means the state requires all drivers purchase PIP insurance. The idea behind no-fault and PIP insurance is that it requires no legal liability, and you can receive compensation no matter who was at fault for the car accident.
To receive PIP benefits after a car accident, you must have already purchased the insurance before the accident, received your injuries while operating an insured motor vehicle, and sought medical treatment within 14 days of the car accident. You can receive up to $10,000 to cover economic damages from a car accident, with PIP insurance covering 60% of your lost wages.
The following are some of the damages you could receive compensation for from PIP insurance:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Surgical services
- Hospital expenses
- Rehab costs
- Ambulatory services
- Funeral expenses
How Emergency Medical Conditions Affect PIP Insurance
According to Florida Statute 627.736, car accident victims must have an emergency medical condition to receive the full $10,000 for medical costs. An emergency medical condition (EMC) is any injury or illness that manifests through acute symptoms of sufficient severity. An absence of medical treatment could lead to:
- Serious jeopardy to patient health
- Serious impairment to bodily functions
- Serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part
The definition of what counts as an EMC is vague, and some car accident victims have not received medical attention because of fear of their injuries not being considered an EMC. A healthcare professional can also deem a car accident injury as not being an EMC. This can drop the victim's medical expense coverage by 75%, from $10,000 to $2,500, and leave the victim having to pay the bulk of their medical expenses out-of-pocket.
What Should You Look for in a Personal Injury Protection Lawyer?
An insurance company can fail to deliver PIP benefits for those without an EMC. If your physician fails to list that you suffered an EMC on their medical report detailing your visit, an insurance company can deny your PIP benefits. If an insurance company rejects or underpays the PIP benefits you feel you deserve, you should hire a personal injury protection lawyer to help get you the compensation you deserve for your car accident injuries.
The following are six factors you should consider before hiring a personal injury protection lawyer:
Factor #1- Does This Attorney Practice PIP Every Day?
In law and especially with PIP cases, it is very important to practice in the field daily as case law changes. If the attorney only dabbles in the area, they will not know what is new in the PIP insurance arena. PIP law can be complicated, with small intricacies and details affecting how a PIP insurance claim goes.
Without in-depth knowledge of PIP law developed over years of strict focus, they could miss little nuanced areas in which to win your case for you. If they are not invested in the niche PIP law arena and are focused on broader personal injury accidents, that lawyer may not give the attention your case needs if their focus is elsewhere.
Factor #2- Does This Attorney Predominantly Handle PIP Suits?
As with Factor #1, if someone's priorities are elsewhere, it could be hard for them to focus on PIP suits. PIP suits usually deal with lesser amounts of money than your traditional car crash cases. If your attorney is out chasing the big million-dollar case, and your case is not worth near that with the $10,000 PIP benefits cap, it is easy to see why your case could fall to the back burner.
If the law firm is busy and the staff does not know how to work a PIP case properly, they could fail to push it along appropriately. With PIP, it is essential to move cases forward as the defendants (insurance companies) will tend to let cases linger. You need a lawyer with deep knowledge of personal injury protection and the best processes for handling PIP-specific claims procedures to put yourself in the best position to receive your benefits.
Factor #3- Does This Attorney Know the Current PIP Law?
Even if a lawyer practices PIP every day, and it's primarily the focus of their firm, the attorney still needs to be out independently gaining knowledge of the new finds in the PIP case law. Is the attorney you hire the type to sit around and wait for things to come to them, or are they outgoing and willing to keep learning?
As no-fault and PIP insurance are statute driven, every time there is an amendment to the PIP statutes, how these types of claims are processed will change. Before hiring a PIP attorney, ensure they are invested in collecting information regarding personal injury protection and any laws that can affect the claims process.
Factor #4- Does This PIP Lawyer Communicate Well?
The number one bar complaint and complaint I hear from clients and friends alike is that their attorney does not keep them up to date with what is happening in their case or that their attorney does not return their phone calls. As the client, you have the ultimate say in who you choose as your representative and attorney. As attorneys, we work for you.
This means meeting your needs to stay informed. As an attorney, I never like to have an email sit in my inbox without a response for more than 24 hours. Even if an error occurred or something fell through the cracks, an attorney needs to reach out to you, admit it, and take action to correct the mistake.
Due to the potential complications that can arise with the process of the claim and further medical expenses, it's essential to keep in constant contact with your PIP attorney. You need to seek legal advice from someone who can communicate these complicated ideas effectively and whom you trust to let you know the honest projections for the PIP claim. If an attorney is not communicating well with you, I bet they are not communicating with opposing counsel that way either.
Factor #5- Do They Communicate Well With the Defendant's Attorney?
Your attorney must also communicate with the other party from whom you are pursuing PIP benefits. Relationships are essential in the PIP area of personal injury. Major insurance carriers only have so many insurance adjusters and lawyers who work on their cases.
Some attorneys even represent 15-20 insurance companies at a time. Having a good working relationship with these people is essential to settling claims. Personal relationships are key in these cases, as having a lawyer with a working relationship with an attorney representing the insurance company can expedite the negotiation process.
Even if they do not have a personal relationship with the people involved, they will need to communicate with the insurance company, their insurance adjusters, and lawyers to negotiate a settlement. You need a PIP lawyer with adept social skills to effectively communicate your grievance, make a strong case for why you deserve benefits, and negotiate fair compensation for your car accident injuries.
Factor #6- Do They Properly Prepare for Hearings, Depositions, and Trials?
Being the best and brightest attorney can get you far in this profession. However, being a well-prepared and organized attorney will get you further. Making sure your attorney manages their time and staff properly are all important factors in how effective they are for you. When looking to hire a PIP attorney, make sure the person takes preparation to the highest degree.
Without preparation going into important meetings and steps in the claims process, such as depositions, hearings, and trials, can leave you in a bad position to receive compensation. Without effective legal counseling during these steps, the defendant can take a step ahead and entrench their position of not providing PIP benefits. It's your PIP attorney's job to come in well prepared and make a strong case for why you deserve PIP benefits based on PIP law, evidence, and precedent in other cases.
How Choosing the Right PIP Attorney Can Help You Receive Benefits
Choosing the right PIP lawyer involves a thorough process of meetings and information collection to determine if they are the right person for the job. You need a PIP lawyer to navigate the complicated procedures involved in getting deserving PIP benefits. They must have an investment in both PIP law and your claim, enough to apply their resources and expertise to track down evidence that can help you recover compensation for car accident damages.
You may also need a personal injury lawyer if your damages exceed your PIP benefits. If the party that caused the car accident acted negligently or with intent to harm, they could be liable in a car accident claim. The same tenants that apply to PIP law apply to car accident liability law.
You should hire a car accident lawyer that has a deep knowledge of car accident law, has the experience and expertise to handle the claims process efficiently, and can keep in constant communication with you and the at-fault party's insurance company to move the claim along at a pace you are comfortable with.
Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Personal Injury Protection Claim
The last thing you want to worry about is whether you will get compensation from your insurance after a car accident. You have severe injuries, steep medical bills, and lost work to worry about, not litigating a PIP claim. If your insurance company rejected or underpaid your PIP benefits, you should contact a PIP attorney to help you pursue the benefits you rightfully deserve.
If you are looking to hire a PIP attorney and want to make sure your attorney has a check next to all six (6) factors above, look no further than the PIP department at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA. We have served Florida drivers and medical facilities who were underpaid or not paid their PIP benefits properly for years.
Call 727-222-6922, leave a message on our online contact page, if you want to speak to an attorney who practices PIP daily, does predominantly PIP, knows the current law, communicates well with clients and opposing counsel, and prepares diligently for court.