In most states, when you get into an accident, the party that caused the accident will bear financial liability for any damages associated with that accident: the cost of repairs to the vehicle, any medical costs related to injuries sustained in the accident, and the cost of any wages lost by the injured party due to injuries caused by the accident.
In a no-fault state, on the other hand, things look different.
Florida, unlike the majority of states, has a no-fault auto insurance policy. If you suffer injuries in an accident in Florida, can you file a claim for compensation? Understanding the details of no-fault insurance and how it works can help you determine whether you may have the right to compensation after a crash.
What Does a No-fault Policy Mean?
Florida law states that the policyholder must “maintain personal injury protection (‘PIP’) insurance coverage and that this insurance pays covered medical expenses for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle crash by the policyholder, passengers, and relatives residing in the policyholder’s household unless excluded.” Drivers must carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection coverage to legally own and drive a vehicle in Florida.
At fault liability states that when you get into an accident, you have the right to file a claim for compensation against the driver that caused the accident. That usually means a claim through the driver’s insurance company. However, Florida’s no-fault policy means that each injured party should use his personal injury protection coverage to cover the cost of his injuries and medical treatment. Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, and Utah have no-fault liability systems.
Drivers in Florida do not get off with no financial responsibility in an accident. Drivers must carry liability insurance (in Florida, legally, drivers must carry a minimum of $10,000 in liability insurance coverage). That liability coverage will cover the cost of repairs to a victim’s vehicle after an accident.
The Advantages of a No-fault Policy
A no-fault policy offers several advantages after a car accident.
PIP Coverage Kicks in Immediately.
After an accident involving injury, insurance companies in at-fault states will investigate what led to the accident. In most cases, the liable driver’s insurance company will try to prove that someone other than the injured driver caused the accident. The insurance company may go through a long process of investigation and negotiation, delaying payment on the claim.
In the meantime, the injured victim has medical expenses that may cause significant financial distress. The cost of medical treatment for serious injuries can rise exponentially after an accident. In an at-fault state, victims may have a long wait for the compensation they deserve for their injuries. In the meantime, they may miss out on vital medical treatments or struggle to pay the bills associated with the accident. Out of worry that the insurance company may not pay out, victims may choose not to try expensive medical procedures that could ultimately improve their recoveries.
PIP coverage, on the other hand, kicks in immediately after an accident. It does not matter who caused the accident, so the insurance company does not need to wait for an in-depth investigation. Instead, you can simply use your PIP protection to cover the cost of those medical treatments.
PIP Coverage Often Proves Much More Straightforward.
In many cases, after an accident in an at-fault state, victims may find themselves fighting to get the insurance company to acknowledge the extent of their injuries. The insurance company may attempt to claim that the victim did not need the medical treatments offered to help treat those injuries or may delay payment for medical treatments.
Often, accident victims will feel pressured into accepting a low settlement offer, which might provide some of the funds needed to take care of those bills, but certainly does not reflect the full extent of those damages.
PIP coverage, on the other hand, typically proves much more straightforward. Accident victims may find that it is much easier to get reasonable help covering the cost of medical bills from a car accident.
You Can Choose Your PIP Coverage (And Insurance Provider).
In many cases, drivers have their own unique experiences with insurance companies. If you have gotten into an accident in the past, you may know that a certain company has a reputation for making it difficult for its insured parties to get compensation.
When you get into an accident due to another driver’s negligence, you may end up dealing with that driver’s insurance company, no matter who they use. Furthermore, the limits of that driver’s policy may ultimately determine how much compensation you can get for your injuries. If you get into an accident with a driver that does not carry adequate insurance or with an insurance company that makes getting compensation difficult, you may find yourself in for a serious fight.
When you choose PIP insurance, on the other hand, you get to select your insurance provider and your coverage amount based on the terms of the policy. As a result, you have much better odds of getting the outcome you want from your claim.
Can You File a Lawsuit After a Florida Crash?
Florida’s no-fault policy means that most of the time, the parties involved in an auto accident will use their own insurance coverage to cover the cost of medical treatments, lost wages, and other expenses related to the accident, like the loss of services. In some cases, however, you may still have the right to file a car accident claim requiring the other driver or the other driver’s insurance company to pay for the losses you experienced.
You Suffer a Severe Injury.
According to Florida Statute 627, injured parties may have the right to seek compensation in the event of a severe injury.
The statute defines severe injury as one that:
- Causes significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function
- Includes permanent injury based on a reasonable degree of medical probability
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
In the case of severe injuries, the injured party may still have the right to pursue compensation for those injuries, including damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, or inconvenience.
You Lose a Loved One in a Car Accident.
According to Florida Statute 627, in cases where injuries from a car accident result in death, the surviving family may have the right to pursue a compensation claim. Losing a loved one can cause emotional and financial catastrophes for a family. Because of the severe nature of that loss, Florida law may allow you to pursue compensation for the loss of a loved one through a lawsuit after a car crash, even if your loved one carried PIP insurance.
What Does No-fault/PIP Insurance Cover?
Depending on your policy’s terms, PIP insurance will cover many of the medical costs associated with a car accident. Minimum PIP coverage in Florida requires the insurance company to cover 80 percent of the first $10,000 in medical damages after an accident. PIP insurance does not cover the cost of repairs to a vehicle, for which you will still need to file a claim against the liable party’s insurance company.
Your actual coverage for medical costs after an accident under the terms of your PIP policy may vary. After an accident, you may want to contact your insurance provider to get a better idea of how much coverage your insurance policy will offer and what it considers medical needs after an accident.
For example, some policies might provide coverage if you need to see a chiropractor after your accident, while others may not. You may also want to check PIP coverage for durable medical equipment, physical and occupational therapy, and other key treatment elements.
In many cases, your PIP coverage will protect against wage loss in the event of an accident. Many car accidents will result in significant injury and, therefore, the inability to work after an accident. Your PIP coverage can cover the value of those lost wages.
Having some protection from lost wages after an accident can prove critical when you find yourself out of work for weeks or months after an accident. Furthermore, knowing that you have compensation for those lost wages can help you feel more comfortable taking the time you need to recover.
Unlike a personal injury lawsuit, PIP insurance does not provide compensation for the pain and suffering you may have faced because of an accident.
Do You Need a Lawyer for a PIP Claim?
Filing a claim with your PIP insurance provider often proves much more straightforward than filing a claim against another party’s insurance company. You may find that things progress much more smoothly when you can deal with your own insurance company. However, your insurance company may still throw some challenges your way, making it more difficult to get the results you need from your claim.
Under several circumstances, you may need a lawyer for a car accident claim, even with PIP insurance.
- You suffered severe injuries, as defined by Florida law.
If you suffered severe injuries in your accident, according to the terms laid out by Florida law, you may have the right to pursue compensation through a lawsuit. In many cases, a lawsuit can help you recover compensation for the suffering you may have faced due to injuries that caused permanent disfigurement. However, if you need to file a lawsuit in a no-fault state like Florida, having an attorney on your side can prove even more critical.
- Your insurance company denies coverage for the injuries resulting from your accident.
Having PIP protection can prove essential when you suffer any type of injury in a car accident. In most cases, your insurance company will not require a deeper investigation into the accident to approve coverage because your insurance company must cover the medical costs related to your accident regardless of who caused the accident.
However, the insurance company may still try to deny your claim on the grounds that:
- You did not suffer your injuries in an auto accident. If the insurance company believes that you suffered your injuries in another accident, not a car accident, you may not receive coverage for your car accident injuries. Pre-existing conditions may further complicate the claim process.
- You did not suffer the injuries you claimed in the accident. In many cases, you may have severe injuries and limitations related to a car accident. You may need substantial medical treatment. Unfortunately, the insurance company may insist that you did not suffer those injuries, which means you may not need medical treatments related to them.
If the insurance company does attempt to deny coverage for your injuries for any reason, having a lawyer can prove essential to protecting your rights.
- You have any questions about your claim or your right to compensation.
If you have any questions about what happens after your car accident, how much compensation you deserve, or how to handle your claim, having a lawyer on your side can make it much easier to get answers to these essential questions. Most car accident lawyers will start with a free case evaluation to better understand what happened.
Did you suffer injuries in a car accident? Whether you suffered severe injuries or simply want to know more about your right to compensation or how to manage a claim, a car accident lawyer can help. Contact an attorney to learn more about your next steps.