Is Florida a “No-Fault” State? — Why am I being sued after causing an accident?
Many Floridians who have caused automobile accidents and had personal injury claims brought against them have wondered why those claims were even allowed to be brought since Florida is considered to be a “No-Fault” state. Unfortunately, many citizens incorrectly assume that because Florida is a “No-Fault” state, they can’t be held responsible for personal injuries they cause. This belief is supported by Florida requiring every owner and operator of an automobile to carry automobile insurance.
This article is a follow up to one I wrote about the urban myth of “Full” automobile insurance coverage and the misunderstanding of Florida’s automobile insurance requirements. So what does “No-Fault” mean in the context of automobile insurance in Florida?
In Florida, everyone who operates a motor vehicle must carry Personal Injury Protection coverage, a/k/a PIP. PIP coverage is also known as “No-Fault” coverage, states Florida based law firm specialist. How did this come about? In an effort to reduce automobile accident personal injury claims, the Florida Legislature set up a system where every owner and operator of an automobile would be required to carry $10,000.00 in PIP coverage to cover medical bills and lost wages they themselves incur because of an automobile accident, regardless of who caused the accident, hence the “No-fault” nomenclature.
But how does it really work? PIP coverage will pay 80% of medical bills and/or 60% of lost wages you incur because of an automobile accident, regardless of fault, subject to whatever deductible you selected when you purchased the coverage. In Florida, the maximum PIP deductible you may select is $1,000.00. Carrying a $1,000.00 deductible reduces your insurance premium, but also means you are personally responsible for first $1,000.00 in medical bills or lost wages.
To illustrate how it works, assume that two people crash into each other, but suffer no permanent injuries (see definition of “permanent injury” below). If each driver’s total medical bills and/or lost wages do not exceed the total sum of $10,000.00, then under Florida’s “No-Fault” law, they cannot sue each other.
Under Florida’s “No Fault” law, section 627.737(2), a permanent injury is defined as:
(a) Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
(b) Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
(c) Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
So, if a driver suffers “permanent” injuries, then s/he is not subject to the “No-Fault” limitation against personal injury claims, and may bring a personal injury claim to recover damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease. Many accidents result in injuries which are not permanent, but where the medical bills total more than the $10,000.00 in PIP coverage. If so, then you may bring a claim to recover those medical bills and/or lost wages not covered by PIP insurance.
As you can see, Florida’s “No-Fault” law is very limited in its application because it only applies to accidents where medical bills and/or lost wages don’t exceed $10,000.00 and where someone hasn’t suffered a permanent injury. The only other possible glitch in Florida’s “No-Fault” law is a situation where a driver chooses not to have any automobile insurance. Unfortunately, the reality in Florida is there are many drivers who carry no automobile insurance coverage, but that is why everyone should carry “Uninsured Motorist” coverage, also explained in the “Full” insurance coverage article referenced above. I hope this explanation was helpful in clarifying what “No-Fault” means.