Frequently Asked Questions
After a car accident, the question of who will pay for your medical bills can be a source of confusion and stress. In Florida, there are what is known as “no-fault” insurance laws, which means it does not matter who is at fault when it comes to paying the first $10,000 of your medical bills and lost wages – you must go through your own insurance company first. Florida requires that all drivers carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection coverage, also known as PIP. Your PIP insurance is limited to 80% of your medical expenses and 60% of lost wages incurred. For injuries not considered “emergency medical conditions,” you are limited to $2,500 in coverage. Suppose your medical bills exceed your PIP coverage limit, or you don’t have PIP insurance. In that case, you may be able to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy or through a personal injury lawsuit. Having an experienced personal injury attorney on your side will help get your medical bills paid and determine if further actions may need to be taken against the at-fault driver.
As is the case for how you get your medical bills paid, your insurance company also pays your lost wages under PIP. Just like the payment of your medical expenses, if your expenses exceed $10,000, the excess may be paid by your own insurance company or the other driver’s insurer, depending on the person responsible for the accident. The type of insurance you and the other driver have also significantly affects how your lost wages are paid. When the other driver is at fault, you can submit a claim to their insurance company through their liability bodily injury coverage. If the other driver was not insured, you might be able to collect lost wages through your insurance, especially if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If you are the at-fault driver, getting compensation for lost wages above $10,000 may be more difficult.
After receiving the medical care you need to ensure your health is not in jeopardy, another issue is often how to get where you need to go. Your vehicle may need repair and leave you without transportation for several weeks. In Florida, the insurance company for the at-fault driver will pay for the cost of a rental vehicle for you while your damaged vehicle is being repaired. An experienced attorney will help you get a claim filed with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. In some cases, such as accidents involving three or more vehicles, several drivers may be responsible. This can make determining who will pay for your rental car more complex, and you may consider renting a vehicle and seeking reimbursement at a later date in the event you are not one of the at-fault drivers. If your auto insurance includes rental coverage, your insurance company may arrange to pay for a rental car while your vehicle is fixed. An experienced attorney can help you determine what options are available to you.
After an automobile accident, you often receive a call from an insurance claims adjuster who wants to take your recorded statement. This kind of situation can be uncomfortable and stressful. First, you need to understand that if your insurance company requests a statement, you are required to provide a statement under your policy. If it is the opposing party’s insurance company, you do not have to give them a statement. If a lawsuit is filed, you provide a recorded statement at deposition. If more minor claims where a lawsuit may not be, many attorneys only allow their clients to make recorded statements with the attorney present. If you are scheduled to provide a recorded statement, be prepared and remember to be cooperative, and do your best to help investigators. Also, you may have questions you are unsure about, so it is important not to speculate, attempt to answer or give an opinion. Stick to the facts. As the old saying goes, honesty is the best policy, so you are always on solid ground by telling the truth. Finally, be aware that you are free to stop the questioning at any time if you feel hostility from the insurance company or are having trouble understanding the questions. If your attorney is not present, you can always tell the insurance you are not comfortable continuing the questioning and would like to have your attorney present.
Florida Statutes §626.9541 states that your car insurance should not go up after an accident unless you were “substantially at fault.” The statute states that insurers cannot raise liability, personal injury protection, medical payments, or collision premiums “solely because the insured was involved in a motor vehicle accident unless…the insurer in good faith determines that the insured was substantially at fault.” In short, if another driver hits you and your insurance company raises your rates because you used your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, the insurance company has broken the law. The exception is when they can show, in good faith, meaning the insurance company is upholding the policy terms, you were substantially at fault. Note that the statute does not define what “substantially at fault” means, but we can infer it to mean more than the other driver of at least 51 percent. Each accident has its own set of facts, and determining the degree to which each driver is at fault may change upon further investigation. If you are found to be substantially at fault, your insurance company may raise your rate. The increase can be based on several factors, including your age, credit score, marital status, where you live, the type of car you own, if you have had continuous insurance for a substantial amount of time, and how many miles you drive each year. With so many factors to consider, having a skilled attorney on your side is best.