The Role of Insurance Companies in Florida Car Accident Cases
Dealing with insurance companies is something which will begin immediately after a car accident and will not conclude until your case settles or goes to trial. Knowing what to expect from these companies is important to making sure that you are protecting your rights throughout the process. This article will discuss the roles which insurance companies play in a Florida car accident case.
Car Accident Victims Are Often Quickly Contacted By Insurance Adjusters
It is common for an adjuster from the defendant’s insurance company to contact you immediately following a car accident. These adjusters will typically claim that you do not need legal representation and that it is best for you to deal with them directly. They will also often claim that having an attorney will not increase the amount which you will receive as a settlement. The truth of the matter, however, is that these adjusters are employees of the insurance company. Their role is to protect the profits of the insurance company and not to ensure that you receive the full amount of compensation which you are entitled to. It is not uncommon for adjusters to initially deny liability in a case, only to make a settlement offer after the victim retains an attorney. For these reasons, it is strongly suggested that you speak with an attorney immediately and that you inform any adjusters who contact you that they may deal with your representative.
A PIP Claim Will be Filed Against Your Insurance
Florida is a “no fault” accident state. Under this system, any registered vehicle must carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. When a victim is injured they must first file a claim against their own PIP coverage. If their damages exceed the amount to be paid by their PIP coverage then they may file a claim against the defendants insurance. The mandatory amount of PIP coverage is $10,000. A victim’s damages will likely be above this amount in any case involving a serious injury. Examples would include cases involving traumatic brain injury, neck or spine damage, matters involving broken bones, etc.
Your PIP coverage will only cover eighty percent of your medical expenses and it does not provide compensation for pain and suffering. This means, for example, that if a victim is in a minor wreck and has soft tissue damages which resulted in $10,000 of medical expenses, then the victim will receive $8,000. Furthermore, your PIP coverage will only cover sixty percent of your lost wages, up to a $10,000 cap. So if a victim suffers $5,000 in lost wages, PIP will reimburse them $3,000 ($5,000 * .6).
A Demand Letter Will Be Sent to the Insurance Adjusters Once Your Damages are Reasonably Ascertainable
Your attorney will send a settlement demand to the insurance adjuster once your damages are reasonably known. This demand will state the amount you are requesting and a breakdown of how that amount was calculated. It will also include supporting documentation such as medical bills, paystubs, etc. It is important to understand that your damages will not be reasonably ascertained until more is known in regard to your long-term recovery. Suppose, for example, that the doctors will not be sure as to whether you will regain mobility for at least six months after a surgery. For obvious reasons, the amount you will demand for a settlement will be far greater if you will be suffering from a long-term disability. It will be less if you regain full mobility. Substantial time, therefore, will lapse before a demand is made to the adjuster since the amount you will demand, and what the insurance company will pay, depends on knowing your recovery prognosis.
Your Attorney Will Engage In Negotiations With The Insurance Adjuster
Back and forth negotiations will commence once the settlement demand has been sent to the insurance adjuster. The adjuster may attempt to deny liability on the grounds of comparative fault. The adjuster may also dispute the amount of damages which you are claiming. These disagreements can sometimes be resolved by submitting additional documentation which supports your claims. The more severe and complex your injuries, then the more that negotiations are likely to drag on before a settlement is reached.
The Case Will Proceed To Litigation if a Settlement is Not Reached
If your attorney cannot reach a settlement with the adjuster then a lawsuit will be filed and the case will proceed to litigation. This, however, does not mark the end of settlement negotiations. The adjusters, through the insurance company’s lawyers, will continue with settlement negotiations. These negotiations can be ongoing as the case proceeds. Also, if discovery establishes additional proof of the defendant’s fault then the insurance company will often soften its posture on the case. Very few cases actually proceed to trial. If a lawsuit is filed in your matter then there is a good chance that the case will settle before the matter proceeds to trial.
If your case does proceed to trial, and a verdict is issued in your favor, then the insurance company will issue the appropriate payments. You must note that the insurance company will not pay out more than the defendant’s policy limits. If a verdict is for an amount in excess of these limits, then any difference can be the subject of a separate collection action against the defendant.
Contact a Florida Car Accident Attorney
If you were involved in a wreck then it is strongly suggested that you contact a lawyer as opposed to dealing with insurance yourself. If you accept a quick settlement then there is a chance that the amount you receive will not cover your full losses. Our firm takes pride in the level of service which we provide to our clients and we are devoted to protecting the rights of individuals over insurance companies. Contact us online to speak with a Florida car accident attorney or call us at 800-780-8607 today. We look forward to speaking with you.