How No-Fault Accident Rules Can Affect Your Car Accident Claim
If you’re a driver in Florida, chances are, you’ve heard the words “no-fault state.” What does that mean, though? How does it affect you if you’re involved in a car accident? Does it mean that no one is legally responsible for causing a car accident? If you’ve ever wondered about Florida’s no-fault status, read on for more information.
No-Fault Applies to Insurance, Not Accidents
While Florida’s no-fault status was actually designed to reduce the number of personal injury lawsuits filed following car accidents, the term refers to the type of insurance that is required in the state, not to the accident itself. According to the State Senate’s website, in 1971 Florida became the second state in the nation to adopt a no-fault automobile insurance policy. The primary reasons for shifting to the no-fault insurance system were:
- To ensure that people injured in automobile accidents would be directly compensated by their own insurers, even if the injured party was at fault.
- To lessen court congestion and delays in court calendars by reducing the overall number of personal injury lawsuits.
- To lower automobile insurance premiums.
- To end inequities of recovery that are found in the traditional “fault” system.
To register a four-wheeled vehicle in Florida, drivers must purchase two types of insurance policies: (1) a Personal Injury Protection policy (also known as PIP or no-fault insurance) of at least $10,000, and (2) a Property Damage Liability policy of at least $10,000. However, unlike most states, Florida does not require vehicle owners to purchase Bodily Injury Liability coverage, which would pay for injuries to other drivers should the policy-holder or someone on the policy cause an accident that involves injuries to others.
Who Is Covered by Your PIP Policy?
The following people are generally covered by your PIP policy in the event of an accident:
- You, as the policyholder, should you sustain an injury while occupying your vehicle, riding in someone else’s vehicle, or as a pedestrian who is hit by another vehicle.
- Your immediate family members, should they become injured while occupying your vehicle, riding in someone else’s vehicle, or as a pedestrian who is hit by another vehicle.
- Passengers in your car, if they do not have their own PIP policy.
The Pros and Cons of PIP
If you ask drivers around the state how they like the no-fault insurance plan that Florida requires, you’ll likely hear varied opinions. Below we discuss the pros and cons of PIP in lieu of required bodily injury liability insurance.
- You don’t have to prove the other driver’s fault to obtain compensation for your injuries.
- If you’re at fault, you don’t have to pay for your expenses out of pocket.
- If you were injured in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, you can still receive compensation, even if you didn’t purchase optional uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
- Less congestion at courthouses due to fewer car accident lawsuits being filed.
- No-fault insurance states tend to have higher insurance premiums.
- PIP policies do not cover other damages that you might suffer, including pain and suffering or loss of quality of life.
- PIP policies only cover a portion of medical expenses and lost wages, meaning that you will still have out-of-pocket costs.
- The coverage provided by PIP is often redundant to coverage provided under health insurance plans.
Claims to Your PIP Policy
PIP policies cover a portion of your expenses should you be involved in a traffic accident. Regardless of fault, your policy should cover:
- 80 percent of your medical costs, including medical services, medication, surgical services, hospital expenses, rehab costs, diagnostic services, and ambulatory services, up to the limit of your policy. Note that if your injuries are not deemed an emergency, you will only be covered for $2,500 worth of expenses.
- If you are unable to work due to the injuries that you sustained in an accident, your PIP policy will also cover 60 percent of your lost wages, up to the limit of your policy. Additionally, your PIP will cover the costs of services that you would normally perform but are unable to due to your injuries.
- Up to $5,000 to your next of kin if you’re killed in the accident, which is meant to cover funeral and burial expenses.
PIP does not cover the following situations:
- Bodily injury to other drivers.
- Property damage to either your vehicle or someone else’s.
- Medical costs or lost wages in excess of your policy’s limit.
- Non-economic claims, such as pain and suffering.
Additionally, there are some exceptions to the coverage that PIP provides you. Your PIP policy will not cover your injuries if:
- You caused the accident intentionally.
- You were committing a crime or fleeing the scene of one when the accident occurred.
- You were driving your car for a fare, such as with Uber, with Lyft, or as a taxi.
- The injured person was occupying your car or was struck by your car, and your insurance had lapsed.
- Your injury was caused by perilous human activity, such as a war, insurrection, rebellion, or nuclear explosion.
What About Damage to My Car?
Unlike PIP, which addresses medical expenses and lost wages, Florida’s no-fault system does not extend to property damage, such as for repairs to your car after an accident. If someone else was at fault for the accident, you are able to file a third-party claim with the at-fault party’s Property Damage Liability insurance carrier. As previously stated, vehicle owners in Florida are required to purchase property damage liability insurance.
What if the driver who caused your accident doesn’t have property damage liability coverage or if the damage to your car exceeds the limits of their policy? You may be able to obtain compensation for the damages to your car through your own insurance carrier if you have one of the following types of insurance policies:
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. This policy will cover medical costs and damage to your car if the at-fault party is either uninsured or does not have a policy limit large enough to cover all of your costs.
- Collision. This policy will repair damages to your car after a crash, including if you’re involved in a single-vehicle accident.
- GAP car insurance. If you have an accident within weeks or months of purchasing a new car, GAP insurance will protect you from the difference in what you owe for the vehicle and what your collision policy pays out.
Florida Is Actually Comparative Fault
As you can see, fault does play a role within the conversation of Florida car accidents, even though you’re required to purchase no-fault insurance. Furthermore, if your case exceeds the policy limits of your PIP, you can file a lawsuit to recover expenses related to your injuries, which can involve multiple at-fault parties. Thanks to Florida’s pure comparative negligence standard (also known as pure comparative fault), you can still file a personal injury lawsuit, even if you’re partially at fault for your injuries.
First adopted in Florida in 1973 as a response to the notion that many accidents are caused by negligent behaviors on the part of multiple parties, what the pure comparative negligence standard means is that you are able to seek compensation from another person’s insurance company even if you are partially to blame for an accident. However, your award will be reduced by the percentage of fault that the court attributes to you. For example, if you suffered $100,000 for damages, but a court determined that you were 10 percent liable for the accident, your award would be reduced by 10 percent, to $90,000.
Filing a Lawsuit Against an At-Fault Driver
To file a lawsuit against an at-fault driver, you must have sustained a serious injury, as defined by state law. To qualify, your injury must have involved:
- Significant disfigurement,
- Bone fracture,
- Permanent limitation of use of a body organ or limb,
- Significantly limited use of a bodily function or system, or
- Full disability for at least 90 days.
If your injuries meet the state’s definition of serious and if you have exhausted the limit of your PIP policy, you are permitted to seek compensation by filing a third-party claim against the at-fault party’s insurance (if they have bodily injury liability coverage) or a personal injury lawsuit.
When filing a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages from the at-fault party following a car accident, you must prove negligence. Negligence is proven by showing all of the following:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care. In a car accident case, the duty of care would be operating the vehicle in a safe manner.
- The defendant’s actions caused a breach in that duty of care.
- Because of the breach in the defendant’s duty of care, you sustained injuries that resulted in the expenses for which you’re seeking to recover compensation.
A personal injury lawsuit covers more damages than your PIP policy will. Below we list some of the damages that you may seek compensation for via a personal injury lawsuit:
- Past, current, and future medical expenses related to the injuries that you sustained in the accident
- Lost time from work, including time spent traveling to or from medical appointments or therapy related to your injuries
- Property damage caused by the accident
- Permanent disability or disfigurement
- The cost of services that you would normally perform but are unable to due to your injuries
- Emotional distress caused by the accident or your injuries
- Loss of consortium
- Other costs that were a direct result of your injury
How Much Compensation Can I Seek Through a Personal Injury Lawsuit?
While Florida limits the number of car accident lawsuits that are filed by only allowing those with significant injuries to file, and by placing a statute of limitations on filing personal injury lawsuits of four years from the date of the accident, there are very few limits placed on the amount of compensation that you can seek, assuming you are eligible to file such a lawsuit. Your personal injury attorney can help you determine the worth of your case by considering a number of factors, including:
- The severity and permanence of your injuries
- The need for mobility equipment or accessibility renovations on your home
- The cost of reasonable and necessary medical services
- Your ability to continue with the job that you had before the accident or to earn the money that you would have made in the future had you not become injured
- The types of insurance coverage that you and the other driver have
- The amount of liability that you bear for your injuries
- The amount of evidence and documentation that you can provide to prove your claims
Increasing Your Chance of Success
While we cannot guarantee a successful outcome in your personal injury lawsuit, there are some steps that you can take to increase your chance of successfully proving that someone was, indeed, at fault for the accident that caused your injuries, including:
- Hire an experienced personal injury attorney to guide you through the claims process as well as any necessary litigation. Your attorney may be able to negotiate a fair settlement for you with your insurance carrier or the insurance provider of the at-fault party, thus avoiding the need for a lawsuit. In the event that a lawsuit is necessary, he or she will argue your case before a judge or jury, and also make sure to follow all relevant procedural rules.
- Be diligent in the collection of documentation and evidence that may help prove your claims. If possible, take pictures or have someone else take pictures of the accident scene, including the damage to both vehicles and any visible injuries that you have. Seek prompt medical attention, and keep records of all documents related to your diagnosis and prognosis. Keep copies of all bills relating to medical and property damage expenses. Journal information regarding your medical appointments and your day-to-day recovery.
- Be sure to file your lawsuit within the time frame set out in the statute of limitations.
Contact Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA for Help Navigating Florida’s PIP System
If you’ve been injured in a car accident that was caused—at least in part—by someone else’s negligence, you have legal options. We would like to discuss them with you. With offices in Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and New Port Richey, call Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH) today, or contact us online, to schedule your free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765