Auto Insurance Law
To provide compensation in an accident, Florida automobile insurance laws require vehicle owners to have a minimum amount of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP). In addition to PIP, Florida law also requires a minimum of $10,000 No-Fault Property Damage Liability (PDL) insurance that covers medical, surgical, funeral and disability benefits regardless of fault. At the risk of higher damages being awarded against you if serious injury is caused to another, larger amounts of liability insurance should be purchased to protect your personal assets.
Under Florida’s no-fault insurance statute, if you are hurt in an accident, 80% of your reasonable medical expenses related to injuries sustained and 60% of your lost earnings subject to the limits of the coverage and any applicable deductible (or up to the specified policy limit) regardless of who caused the accident will automatically be paid by your insurance.
If you are killed in a car accident, no-fault pays income you would have provided to your family (survivor’s benefits), usually limited to a maximum amount per month for a set time period. No matter where in the United States the accident takes place, your policy will pay these benefits. It is important that you have insurance coverage on all vehicles that you own, because no benefits will be paid to you if you are the owner or registrant of an uninsured motor vehicle that was involved in an accident.
No-fault insurance also covers family members in your household who do not have their own policy. PIP benefits can be paid by your policy even if relatives are passengers in another person’s car or pedestrians when they are hurt. No-fault will pay up to a specified limit for damages your car does to someone else’s tangible property such as buildings, trees, road signs, etc., and will pay to repair or replace another person’s vehicle, but only if the vehicle was properly parked.
Many people mistakenly believe they have full coverage if they meet the requirements under Florida law. The statutory minimum alone does not constitute full coverage. As indicated below, Florida requirements constitute a very bare minimum and rarely adequately protect persons involved in automobile accidents. Essential coverage, including bodily injury coverage, uninsured motorist coverage and collision are not required by Florida law.
Limits to No-Fault Insurance
No-fault insurance carries several limits that all drivers should be aware of. No-fault insurance generally does not pay for: repairs to your vehicle after an accident no matter whose fault it was; repairs to another person’s vehicle after an accident, no matter whose fault it was, unless the vehicle was properly parked; and costs for replacement of your vehicle if it was stolen.
In order to file suit against the driver at fault, Florida’s no-fault insurance law requires that you must show that you sustained a "serious" injury. Exactly when a serious injury is present is a legal-medical question, but the party must show a sustained permanent injury or significant scarring or disfigurement, or death before a valid claim can be made for quality of life damages, such as pain and suffering.
In exchange for a guaranteed payment, you must give up some of your rights to sue the other driver involved in the accident. You may be allowed to sue for non-economic damages if the amount of these damages exceeds a specified tort verbal threshold.
When we represent a person who is injured in an accident, one of the first things we do is investigate all possible insurance coverage that is applicable. There are two categories of auto insurance—first party coverage and third party coverage. First party coverage covers you and your property (such as medical expenses, damage to your vehicle and the insurance company’s duty to defend you in the event that you are sued as the result of your operation of a vehicle, etc.). Third party coverage is your responsibility to pay for injury caused to other people (and vice versa), whether in your vehicle, or another vehicle involved in the accident. The coverage (and its exclusions) is set forth in your insurance policy.
Medical Payments or Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
When purchasing automobile insurance for yourself, Florida requires an additional type of coverage other than No-Fault liability insurance. Medical payments coverage is sometimes called “med-pay,” “Personal Injury Protection (PIP),” or “economic loss protection benefits.” PIP is not health insurance, and it is not designed to pay for incurred medical bills. It is designed for a one-time settlement or payment for all of your damages. $10,000 is the minimum required PIP insurance for bodily injury or death of one person in any one accident. Lawsuits in Florida must be filed against the negligent driver, and the insurance carrier cannot be named as a defendant. If the jury renders a verdict in excess of the defendant’s liability policy limit, the defendant is then personally liable out of his or her own assets for the additional amount.
The insurance policy of the negligent party does not pay med-pay or PIP benefits to an injured plaintiff. These benefits are limited to the driver or passengers in the insured vehicle, regardless of fault. The plaintiff looks to his own insurance policy or the policy of the vehicle in which he was a passenger for med-pay or PIP benefits.
In Florida, your policy must cover 80% of all reasonable expenses for necessary medical, surgical, x-ray, dental and rehabilitative services, including prosthetic devices, and necessary ambulance, hospital and nursing services.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Benefits
Uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits are two other related types of voluntary coverage you should purchase. These types of coverage protect you against a negligent defendant who illegally does not have liability coverage, or has minimum coverage that is inadequate to fully compensate you for your injuries. If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured but negligent individual, we would make a claim for you under your own uninsured motorist coverage. Your insurance carrier would then have to pay any judgment rendered, up to the limits of the policy which you purchased.
If the person who caused the accident has liability insurance, but the limits are less than the uninsured motorist coverage of your policy, we can make an additional claim under your policy for what is called underinsured motorist benefits, in the event that your damages exceed the limits of the other party’s liability coverage. The experience of an attorney familiar with these issues is important in order to obtain the maximum amount of recovery for you.
Collision coverage is a type of voluntary coverage you can purchase which provides for the repair or replacement of your own vehicle after an accident, regardless of whether or not you are at fault. An innocent victim of an accident may present a claim for property damage under their own collision coverage or under the negligent defendant’s property damage liability insurance coverage. Your collision coverage normally includes a deductible, whereas property damage liability insurance coverage does not.
In all automobile accident cases it is essential that measures be taken to promptly preserve evidence, investigate the accident in question, and to enable physicians or other expert witnesses to thoroughly evaluate any injures. If a loved one or you are a victim of an automobile accident, call Holland & Lamoureux, P.A. now at (866) 225-4907. The initial consultation is free of charge, and if we agree to accept your case, we will work on a contingent fee basis, which means we get paid for our services only if there is a monetary award or recovery of funds. Don’t delay. You may have a valid claim and be entitled to compensation for your injuries, but a lawsuit must be filed before the statute of limitations expires.
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