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How Car Accident Claims Work in Florida

Offered by Farrow & Pulice, P.A.

Car accidents can change lives dramatically. Victims have recourse under Florida law, but to get the compensation you need to rebuild your life, you have to act quickly. The decisions you make in the aftermath of a crash can have a dramatic impact on your future.

You need to know how the system works, and you need to be proactive about protecting your rights. Here’s what you need to know about car accident claims in Florida.

What to do immediately after an accident in Florida

The first thing to keep in mind is that under Florida law, after an accident causing injury or significant property damage, you need to call the police and remain at the scene until they arrive. (There is an exception if you have to leave to get emergency medical attention.)

Make sure the scene is safe, then call 911. While you’re waiting for the police to arrive, take pictures of the scene, any property damage, and any visible injuries. Collecting evidence from the scene of the crash is key to establishing a claim for compensation.

By law, you need to exchange contact information and insurance information with the other driver or drivers involved. You should also get names and contact information for any witnesses. It’s best to keep your comments at the scene brief and stick to the facts of what happened. Anything that could be construed as an admission of fault – even an apology – could be used against you to deny your claim.

Florida’s “no-fault” system means you have to go to your own insurance company first

Florida is a “no-fault” state for car accidents, which means you have to turn to your own insurance policy first to get compensation for accident-related costs. In Florida, every insurance policy is required to include personal injury protection (PIP), which pays for medical expenses and lost wages for you, your household family members, and any passengers who don’t have their own PIP coverage, up to the limit.

However, there are two important limitations on what PIP covers. First, there is a policy limit – the minimum in Florida is $10,000, with the option of purchasing more. Second, PIP does not cover non-economic losses such as pain and suffering.

In order to “step outside” the no-fault system and file a liability claim or third-party lawsuit against the at-fault driver, you need to meet the “injury threshold.” Any injury that causes significant physical scarring or disfigurement, loss of a bodily function, or other permanent damage meets the injury threshold, as does any fatal injury.

Note that these restrictions only apply to compensation for your injuries. Damage to your vehicle and any other personal property is covered on an at-fault basis, meaning you can always file a third-party claim or civil lawsuit.

Florida is a “pure” comparative negligence state

Comparative negligence is a legal standard used to apportion damages (financial compensation) for an accident where multiple parties are partially at fault. Essentially, each party involved in a car accident is responsible for a share of the damages in proportion to their percentage of fault.

Pure comparative negligence means that if you are partially at fault for your injuries, you can still file a claim and get compensation for the portion that was not your fault. Even if you are 95% responsible for the accident, you can still in theory pursue compensation for the remaining 5%, although this may not be practical.

Understanding the insurance requirements in Florida

Under Florida law, there are only two types of required insurance coverage for most drivers:

  • Personal injury protection (PIP) covers medical expenses and loss of income in a car accident for you, your children, and other members of your household. Your PIP also covers any passengers in your car who do not own a car and do not have their own insurance (if they do, they’re covered under their policies, not yours). Florida requires every driver to have at least $10,000 in PIP coverage.
  • Property damage liability (PDL) covers damage to someone else’s vehicle or other personal property in an accident you cause. Likewise, if you are in an accident caused by another driver, their PDL insurance will cover your property damage. Florida requires every driver to have at least $10,000 in PDL coverage.

As such, if you are involved in an accident where both you and the other driver only have the state minimum coverage, then there is only $10,000 available to pay for your injuries. If you have a significant injury, that doesn’t go very far. The optional types of coverage that can cover injuries include:

  • Bodily injury liability (BIL) pays for injuries or death of another person in an accident you cause, up to the policy limit. If you are involved in a crash caused by another driver and they have BIL coverage, then their policy should pay for your injuries. However, BIL is optional for most Florida drivers (except those who have already been involved in serious accidents or convicted of certain traffic violations), so it’s not something you can count on to pay for your injuries.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist protection (UM/UIM) stands in for the other driver’s liability insurance if they don’t have it, or don’t have enough to pay for your injuries. UM also covers you if you are hit by a hit-and-run driver who is never found (and is thus considered uninsured by default). Again, this is optional in Florida, but the insurance company is required to offer it to you.

Depending on the circumstances of any given accident, there may be other insurance available to pay for your losses. If you were hit by a commercial vehicle, for instance, the business that owns the vehicle likely has a liability policy with a significantly larger limit to protect their assets. If your accident involved a defective vehicle, the manufacturer can be held accountable. That’s one of the reasons why it’s best to hire a car accident lawyer in Tampa to help with your claim. An attorney can investigate your crash and search for all available insurance that applies to your claim.

Tampa, FL Car Accident Verdicts and Settlements

$1.5 million for rollover car accident Florida

A rollover caused severe injury that resulted in amputation. Farrow & Pulice, P.A. recovered this settlement for the injured person.

$1 million for pedestrian accident Florida

A pedestrian was hit by a car and knocked down, resulting in a shattered pelvis. Farrow & Pulice, P.A. obtained $1 million for the pedestrian.

$750,000 for car accident Florida

A car crash resulted in injuries including a fractured ankle. Farrow & Pulice, P.A. negotiated this settlement for the injured person.

How a Tampa car accident attorney can help you move a claim forward

One of the most important things you can do after a car accident in Florida is talk to an attorney. A lawyer can listen to your story, review your insurance policy, and advise you on which legal options provide you with the best path forward.

Your car accident attorney can investigate your accident, talk to witnesses, review accident reports, and if necessary, hire expert witnesses to help determine fault for the accident and establish the extent of your damages. Your attorney can also deal with the insurance companies on your behalf and protect your legal rights while you focus on healing and rebuilding your life. If it’s necessary to file a lawsuit and take your case to trial, your attorney can make sure you don’t miss any applicable deadlines and can help you navigate your way through the legal system as your case moves forward.

The key is to act quickly. In Florida, you generally have four years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit, but that deadline can vary depending on the circumstances. Moreover, the sooner your attorney starts your investigation, the stronger your potential case will be. Most car accident lawyers offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis, so there is no downside to talking with an attorney about your options. If you’ve been involved in a car accident in Florida, contact an attorney in your area as soon as possible.

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Farrow & Pulice, P.A. is a personal injury law firm that fights hard for victims of negligence in Sarasota and throughout Southwestern Florida. Attorneys Jo-Ann Pulice and Timothy...