According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2015, more than 374,000 traffic accidents were reported in our state – an average of more than a thousand collisions a day. Those accidents resulted in more than 2,900 fatalities and in more than 243,000 persons sustaining reported injuries. The numbers are disturbing. Anyone, even the safest driver, can be seriously injured in a traffic crash. No matter how many precautions you take as a driver, you cannot prevent another motorist from driving negligently.
This is a general introduction to the no-fault auto insurance system in Florida, but since every case is different, if you are the person injured by a negligent driver, you will need to obtain an attorney’s specific and personalized advice right away. If you are injured by a negligent driver in a traffic accident in central Florida, it is imperative to seek trustworthy legal advice at once by arranging to speak with an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney.
HOW DOES PIP INSURANCE FUNCTION?
What are Florida’s automobile insurance requirements? Under the law in this state, every motorist must have at least $10,000 in “PDL” or property damage liability coverage and at least $10,000 in “PIP” or personal injury protection coverage. Motorists in Florida are not required by law to purchase bodily injury liability (“BIL”) coverage. Experienced Orlando personal injury attorney Matthew C. Quattrochi, an associate with Horst Law Firm in Orlando, explains how PIP insurance functions:
“No-Fault insurance is commonly referred to as Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”). The intent of the legislature is that all individuals owning a vehicle must carry PIP. PIP is the minimum amount of coverage and its purpose is to ensure that anyone injured in a motor vehicle accident has some level of coverage to resolve the physical and monetary injuries related to the motor vehicle accident. Notwithstanding the intent of the legislature, insurance companies commonly deny PIP claims, underpay the medical benefits and lost wages owed and generally do whatever they can to reduce their responsibility to the claim.”
Florida’s no-fault automobile insurance system has been in effect since 1972. It is supposed to protect PIP policyholders who are injured in vehicle crashes – and it doesn’t matter which motorist was at fault. If you are injured in traffic in this state, your PIP policy must be used to cover the initial $10,000 of medical costs and lost wages. PIP does not pay for pain and suffering damages, and it offers no liability protection if you injure someone else while you’re driving and that person brings a legal action against you.
AFTER AN ACCIDENT, WHICH INSURANCE COMPANY GETS YOUR CLAIM?
The PIP/no-fault system can be confusing. Attorney Matthew C. Quattrochi explains, “As a passenger injured in a motor vehicle accident, it is not always clear which insurer to direct your PIP claim. One thing is for certain, a passenger injured in a motor vehicle accident does not make a PIP claim against the driver of the vehicle that hit them (they may be able to make a bodily injury claim if bodily injury coverage is applicable).”
Instead, motorists in Florida traffic accidents have their own PIP coverage pay for their medical care and other costs – up to $10,000. PIP coverage is automatic; again, it doesn’t matter which motorist caused the collision. Crash victims injured by negligent motorists can sue for personal injuries only if those injuries are considered permanent, if permanent or substantial scarring or disfigurement occurred, or if a victim of the accident lost a key bodily function.
Personal injury attorney Matthew C. Quattrochi provides this advice about making a PIP claim: “As a passenger deciding which insurer to make a PIP claim, Florida Statute 627.736 elicits a three-step hierarchy: (1) Do you have a PIP policy? If so, you must make a claim through your PIP insurer to recover PIP benefits; (2) If you do not have your own PIP policy, do you live with a blood relative that has a PIP policy? If so, you must make a claim through this relative’s PIP insurer; and (3) If you do not have your own PIP coverage or live with a blood relative with PIP coverage, then you can make a PIP claim through the owner of the vehicle’s PIP coverage.”
IF YOU’RE INJURED IN A TRAFFIC CRASH, WHAT SHOULD YOU DO FIRST?
If you sustain a severe personal injury or injuries in a traffic crash because another driver was negligent, $10,000 obviously will not go very far. Traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, injuries that require amputation, and other disabling injuries will require extensive long-term care and expense – as well as the maximum available amount of compensation.
If you are injured in Florida by a negligent driver, take these steps first:
– Have a medical examination immediately – even if you don’t think you’re injured. Having a medical exam will protect your rights and create medical records that you may need later for legal purposes.
– You must notify your auto insurance company in the event of an accident, but when an injury or injuries are serious, don’t even speak to an insurance adjuster or sign any insurance documents. Instead, take your case directly to a trustworthy Florida personal injury lawyer, and let your lawyer – who is a trained and experienced negotiator – handle the negotiations with the insurance company.
– Don’t try to be your own lawyer. Most personal injury settlements are negotiated and resolved out of court, with no need for a trial. As you recuperate, you won’t have to haul yourself into court every day or deal with the aggravation and anxiety that can accompany a trial.
Under Florida’s PIP system, the injured victim of another driver’s negligence cannot pursue a legal action arising from a traffic accident unless the victim has sustained what the law calls “serious injury.” An experienced Orlando personal injury attorney can determine if you qualify to file a personal injury lawsuit. Injury victims need to know that there is a four-year time limit – a statute of limitations – for injury and damage claims generated by traffic accidents in this state. That should not be a problem, because you should not wait to consult a personal injury attorney if you’ve been injured by a negligent driver. Instead, arrange to get legal advice at once.