Car Accidents, Liability, and No Fault Car Insurance – Getting Compensation for Your Injuries
Many people will be involved in a car accident at some point in their life. Whether it is a ‘fender bender’ or a serious collision, such incidents typically shake people up, and serve as reminders that traveling in cars brings inherent risks. While Florida has no-fault car insurance, or PIP provisions, in the law designed to reduce litigation and premiums by requiring drivers to look to their own insurance providers for compensation, there are times when an injured party can still sue the other driver personally and/or their insurance company. However, legislators may consider eliminating PIP if they follow the results of a recent study commissioned by the state Office of Insurance Regulation. The study found that while insurance premiums did decline after 2012 reforms of the no-fault system, they did not decrease as much as promised, and drivers would save an additional 9.6 percent statewide it if were abolished. Regardless, determining fault in car accidents is always a priority when any injury occurs, and this determination hinges whether other drivers were negligent or reckless in the operation of their vehicles. This analysis quickly becomes complicated if an accident involves multiple vehicles, but Florida allows liability to attach to more than one driver. Insurance policies rarely cover all medical expenses and property damage costs, so filing a lawsuit against other parties to an accident is the only option to recover one’s losses.
No-Fault Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
All car owners in Florida are required to carry PIP coverage. This insurance pays out benefits in the event of an accident, regardless of who is at fault, and requires owners to first look for compensation from their own insurance companies. Essentially, this means the law prevents injured parties from filing personal injury lawsuits related to car accidents unless certain exceptions apply.
PIP covers the insured, relatives living in the insured’s home, passengers, those driving with the insured’s permission, pedestrians, and cyclists. The maximum amounts of coverage these policies provide are:
- 80 percent of reasonable medical expenses and 60 percent of lost wages due to an accident up to a $10,000 limit; and
- $5,000 in death benefits.
Injured parties must seek medical treatment within 14 days of an accident in order to access the coverage, and insurance companies will only cover medical charges they consider to be “usual and customary in the community.”
The prohibition on personal injury lawsuits is lifted if at least one of the following is true:
- a person suffered significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
- a person suffered permanent injury;
- a person suffered significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement; or
Negligence and Comparative Fault
Deciding fault in car accidents is very fact dependent, but some examples of negligent behavior that could result liability include:
- aggressive driving, like tailgating or speeding;
- distracted driving, i.e., texting or talking on the phone;
- failing to yield or stop at intersections; and
- driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
In many accidents, especially those with multiple vehicles involved, there may be more than one driver at fault. Florida has a comparative fault liability law that says if more than one party is at fault, a party can recover damages that are above his/her percentage of fault. For example, if a person is suing for $100,000, and a jury determines he/she is 25 percent at fault and the defendant is 75 percent liable, the plaintiff can collect $75,000, or 75 percent of the damages incurred.
Talk to a Personal Injury Lawyer
If you suffered an injury from a car accident, do not delay in contacting an lawyer to review your case. Many types of evidence are quickly lost after an incident, and need to be recorded and preserved as soon as possible so they are available to present in a lawsuit. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber Del Prado understands what is necessary to build a strong case, and will work to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact the office for a free consultation.