Who Pays Compensation For Florida Car Wrecks?
Answers you can trust from an experienced car accident lawyer
If you've been involved in a car accident in Florida, you may be looking at substantial costs. Between medical bills, lost wages, damage to your vehicle and other expenses, the cost of even a seemingly minor wreck can be tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. And getting full and fair compensation for those costs can be difficult because Florida's laws are so complex.
That's why the Law Office of Scott M. Miller, P.A. prepared this brief guide to car accident compensation in Florida. If you've been hurt in a wreck and don't know how to move forward, we'd be more than happy to meet with you and break down your options.
Florida's "no-fault" laws can be confusing. We can help.
Unlike most states, Florida is considered a "no-fault" car insurance state. That means people injured in car accidents need to file a claim with their own insurance company first and cannot usually take legal action against another driver to get compensation for their injuries.
You are allowed to take legal action against an at-fault driver if you are permanently injured, disabled or disfigured in a wreck. But those terms are somewhat subjective and an insurance company will likely argue that your injuries don't meet the threshold to take legal action. That's why it's so important to contact an experienced attorney if you are seriously injured.
Note that property damage is not covered under the "no-fault" statute. If you need compensation for damage to your vehicle or other personal property, you can take legal action against the at-fault driver for the purpose of recovering that compensation.
Filing a claim with your own insurance company
Under Florida's no-fault laws, your first stop for compensation after an auto accident is your own insurance company. Personal injury protection (PIP) covers your part of medical expenses and income loss resulting from an auto accident, up to the policy limit. PIP coverage "follows you around," which means you still have coverage if you are injured in a car accident as a pedestrian, cyclist or while riding as a passenger in someone else's vehicle. Your PIP insurance also covers your children and members of your household, as well as anyone injured as a passenger in your car who does not have his or her own PIP insurance.
The minimum limit for PIP coverage in Florida is $10,000, with the option to purchase additional coverage. Since the cost of a single accident can greatly exceed $10,000, we recommend reviewing your policy and making sure you have as much coverage as you need.
If you have collision coverage, which is an optional type of coverage in Florida, you can also file a claim with your own insurance company to pay for damage to your vehicle. You may be responsible for a deductible, depending on your policy.
Taking action against another driver
Under Florida law, all drivers are required to carry property damage liability (PDL) coverage. If you need compensation for damage to your vehicle, you can file a claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company or file a lawsuit against the driver (whose interests will be represented by the insurance company). In addition, if you suffered a permanent or disfiguring injury, you can pursue compensation for your injuries from the at-fault driver. If he or she has bodily injury liability coverage - an optional type of coverage in Florida - you can pursue compensation from the insurance company. Otherwise, you can try to recover compensation from the at-fault driver's assets.
In Florida, the time limit for filing a lawsuit after a car accident is four years from the date of the wreck. This is called the statute of limitations. You cannot file a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired - with some very rare exceptions - and you will generally find it difficult if not impossible to pursue compensation from an insurance company when you no longer have the right to sue.
Uninsured and underinsured motorists
Some Florida motorists choose to break the law and drive without insurance. And even those who have insurance may not have bodily injury liability, since that is an optional coverage in Florida - or they may not have enough coverage to fully compensate you. Or you could be involved in an accident with a hit-and-run driver who is never found.
In situations like these, uninsured and underinsured motorist protection (UIM) can help you get full compensation by filing a claim with your own insurance coverage. UIM stands in for the other motorist's liability coverage to pay for your property damage and, if your injuries are permanent or disfiguring, your injuries as well.
Why you need an experienced attorney
You may think that Florida's no-fault laws mean you don't need an attorney. After all, your insurance company is supposed to take care of you. But in many cases, the reality is much more complex. That's why we recommend contacting us and scheduling a free consultation right away. We can review your policy, investigate your accident and help you pursue every possible avenue of compensation.