Florida Car Accident & Insurance Laws
A Florida Car Accident Law Firm is Your Best Asset in Your Fight with the Insurance Companies
Confused By Accident Laws and Insurance Policies? Consult with an Experienced Florida Car Accident Law Firm
Each state has its own rules for auto insurance and how the insurance company and procedures can impact your potential accident lawsuit. Don’t try to learn it all yoursef. Simplify the process and hire an experienced Florida car accident law firm.
The Importance of Hiring a Florida Car Accident Law Firm to Deal With Insurance Companies
Insurers are best avoided until you secure the assistance of a qualified attorney who will speak on your behalf — in the car accident context and otherwise. If you have been injured in a car accident, it’s important not to speak to your insurer or the defendant’s insurer. Any statements you make to insurers will be recorded (or otherwise documented) and used against you. For example, if you speak to a representative of the defendant’s insurance carrier, and you casually admit that you may have been at least partially at-fault for the accident, then they will argue that your potential recovery is limited.
Uninsured Motorists Accidents
Uninsured motorists are quite common in Florida. If you have been injured by an uninsured motorist, you may find that your options for recovery are somewhat limited because the defendant-driver lacks the insurance coverage (and likely the personal assets) necessary to cover your various losses. First-party insurance coverage can account for your losses under such circumstances, but if you lack such coverage, then you may want to investigate the possibility of other liable third-parties, such as the defendant’s employer, a property owner (who created a road hazard), or even the auto manufacturer if a part was defective.
Why You Should Say Yes to Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Florida
Studies conducted by the Insurance Research Council indicate that about 13% of U.S. motorists – or one in every eight – are uninsured. The end result is costly in terms of lives and money: More than 12% of vehicle accidents involve uninsured drivers, and the cost of damage nationwide each year is estimated at $28 billion. Drivers of older cars are especially negligent: A whopping 40% of vehicles older than 15 years are driven by uninsured drivers.
If you live in Florida, your odds of encountering an uninsured driver are even greater than the national average. That’s because 3.2 million motorists – about 26.7% of Florida’s licensed drivers – do not carry bodily injury insurance. What’s more, many drivers are underinsured, because Florida law does not require motorists to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
What does it mean for you and your family when every fourth driver you pass on the street or highway does not carry sufficient coverage to fully compensate you if he or she should cause a crash in which you suffer devastating injuries?
It means that when you buy new auto insurance or renew your current policy, you should say “yes” to Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage.
Collecting From Your PIP Policy
If you or a family member is involved in a car crash with an uninsured driver and you don’t have UM coverage, you lose your ability to recover for future medical expenses, lost wages, and non-economic damages such as lifelong disability and pain and suffering. Your health insurance and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) only pay the bills you have received for the extent of your injuries today, not for any future losses attributed to this accident.
That’s why many insurance companies will try to discourage you from buying UM coverage – it forces them to pay for the full extent of your losses.
Buying automobile insurance is a confusing and frustrating process, one for which you should be thoroughly prepared and armed with specific questions to ask your insurance agent.
Under Florida’s hybrid no-fault insurance system, the law requires drivers to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which compensates the insured driver and household members for medical treatment regardless of who is at fault in an accident. PIP covers the costs of medical treatment, lost wages, and incidental costs associated with medical care – but not pain and suffering or future medical care, future loss of earnings of loss of future earning ability, or disability. PIP coverage is usually limited to $10,000 in medical and disability benefits and $5,000 in death benefits resulting from bodily injury or death stemming from ownership, maintenance or use of the insured motor vehicle.
What Is Bodily Injury Liability Coverage?
Bodily injury liability coverage provides coverage for claims made against you for the accidental bodily injury of other parties injured in a crash involving an insured motor vehicle. The named insured and family members are excluded from this coverage. Florida law does not require that bodily injury liability coverage be purchased or carried. Accordingly, a great many Florida drivers are uninsured or underinsured if they cause an accident resulting in bodily injury to another person. So if you are injured in a traffic accident with one of the 24% of Florida drivers who do not carry this bodily injury liability insurance, your recovery is limited to your own PIP coverage, unless you yourself have an Uninsured Motorist policy.
Ask your insurance agent whether his or her company offers both “stacked” and “non-stacked” UM coverage. The difference between stacked and non-stacked coverage can affect whether or not you or family members will be able to collect UM at all.
In Florida, if you elect to carry bodily injury liability insurance, the law requires that the insurance company also provide Uninsured Motorist coverage unless you expressly reject it. Florida Statute 727.727(1) reads:
No motor vehicle liability insurance policy which provides bodily injury liability coverage shall be delivered in this state with respect to any specifically insured or identified motor vehicle registered or principally garaged in this state unless uninsured motor vehicle coverage is provided therein or supplemental thereto for the protection of persons insured thereunder who are legally entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of uninsured motor vehicles because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease, including death, resulting therefrom. However, the coverage required under this section is not applicable when, or to the extent that, an insured named in the policy makes a written rejection of the coverage on behalf of all insured parties under the policy.Stackable Insurance Coverage
By law, insurance consumers must be fully advised of the nature of UM coverage, and further notified that the coverage will be equal to the insured’s bodily injury liability limits on a stacked basis unless lower limits are requested or the coverage is rejected. Stackable coverage means that the uninsured motorist coverage on multiple vehicles covered under one policy can be increased by stacking the coverage. For example, if the policy provided stacking uninsured motorist coverage of 100 per person /300 per incident, on each of three vehicles, then the total coverage available for injury caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist would be 300 per person / 900 per incident.
You may reject this coverage entirely, reject just the stacking feature, or choose lower limits, as long as your rejection or selection of lower limits is made on an approved form.
Stacked UM insurance usually costs more, but it provides broader coverage. Most insurance companies offer both versions, but they may not tell you that – or explain the similarities and differences.
The bottom line is, you should carry stacked Uninsured Motorist coverage to make sure that you and your family have the broadest protection – anywhere, anytime, in any vehicle – if you are injured in an accident with an uninsured motorist.
When Can You Seek Coverage Outside of PIP?
Florida’s no-fault insurance law limits the circumstances in which accident victims can seek coverage outside of PIP. Specifically, in order to file a claim under an at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability policy, you must be able to prove that you have suffered either a “significant” or “permanent” injury. The law identifies three types of injuries that fall into these categories:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function (i.e. loss of eyesight or mobility);
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement (i.e. permanent scarring due to burns or a protruding bone fracture); and,
- An injury other than scarring or disfigurement that is likely to be permanent, “within a reasonable degree of medical probability.”
What the Insurance Company Doesn’t Want You to Know
Unfortunately, despite what they say in their advertisements, the insurance companies are not on your side. They are not going to be there for you, and they are not going to help make sure you receive the compensation you deserve. In fact, when you have an insurance claim, the insurance company’s goal is to minimize the amount it has to pay. With this in mind, here are five important facts the insurance companies don’t want you to know:
1. You Have the Right to Say “No” to Giving a Recorded Statement
When you file an insurance claim, the adjuster will ask you to explain what happened. Your statement will be recorded; and, if you say anything that could negatively impact your claim, the insurance company will use it against you. However, you are not required to give a statement; and, generally speaking, you should not do so.
2. The Insurance Companies Do Not have to Tell You What Your Claim is Worth
When you have an insurance claim, it is up to you to determine how much you are entitled to recover. If you don’t know, the insurance company isn’t going to figure it out for you. As a result, any settlement offer you receive is going to reflect the insurance company’s own best interests, and this means that it will almost certainly reflect just a small fraction of the true amount you are entitled to recover.
3. Most Represented Accident Victims Recover Far More than the Insurance Company’s Initial Offer — Especially with the Help of a Florida Car Accident Law Firm
Hiring a Florida car accident law firm to handle your insurance claim can drastically change the outcome. Once the insurance companies know you are represented after your car accident, they will handle your claim differently, and they will not be able to get away with many of the tactics they use against unrepresented claimants.
4. The Insurance Company is Required by Law to Handle Your Claim in Good Faith
Under Florida law, insurance companies are required to handle all claims in good faith. Unfortunately, many do not, and many claimants fall victim to bad-faith insurance practices. If your insurance company denies your claim in bad faith, then not only are you entitled to coverage, but you are entitled to additional compensation for the losses you incur as a result of the insurance company’s bad-faith insurance practices.
5. Once You Accept an Insurance Settlement, Your Claim is Over
Once you accept an insurance settlement, that is the end of your claim. You cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more. The insurance companies don’t want you to know this; and, if you are not represented by a Florida car accident law firm, they will try to get you to settle for much less than you deserve.
Request an Appointment with Our Florida Car Accident Law Firm Today
If you have sustained injuries in a car accident due to the negligent or wrongful conduct of another individual or entity, then you may have a right to sue and recover damages pursuant to Florida law.
Here at Searcy Denney, our team has decades of experience representing injured claimants in a wide range of car accident lawsuits, including those that involve complex legal issues, such as public entity liability and the vicarious liability of an employer. We are relentless advocates for our clients, and we investigate the facts thoroughly to develop a strategy that is uniquely tailored to the particularities of the case. This comprehensive approach to litigation has served us well over the past four decades — we have obtained billions of dollars in verdicts and settlements on behalf of our injured clients.
Interested in learning more about your car accident injury claims?
Call 1-800-780-8607 or request an appointment online to schedule a free and confidential consultation with one of our skilled Florida car accident lawyers. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t pay until and unless we assist you with obtaining compensation for your injuries.