Car insurance isn’t one of the more enjoyable things to talk about, despite the splashy commercials insurance companies put on television. Understanding the unique Florida car insurance laws and how your coverage is used after a car accident is vital. One of the most common situations our personal injury attorney handles is car accidents involving drivers who don’t have enough insurance.
What Are Florida’s Insurance Laws?
Florida uses a system of automobile insurance known as Personal Injury Protection coverage. Insurance companies often abbreviate it as PIP, but it is generally referred to as no-fault insurance. This is because you will file your personal injury claim with your own insurance first, regardless of which driver was at fault. Your policy will pay for your injuries up to the limits before a claim is made against another driver or insurer.
Florida Minimum Car Insurance Coverage
Florida statute 627.736 requires all drivers to have car insurance that covers $10,000 in bodily injury per person up to $20,000 per accident. Property damage is generally a separate part of the personal injury claim but also carries a $10,000 minimum requirement.
What this means for you is that if you are in a car accident, no matter who caused it, your insurance pays first. Unlike many other states, Florida car insurance laws won’t always pay for all of the medical expenses. So you should purchase additional insurance outside of a PIP policy to be better insured in case of an accident.
What PIP Pays
When you are in an accident, your insurance coverage will pay 80% of medical bills to the policy limit. If you have the minimum $10,000 and your medical bills are that much, your insurance only pays $8,000. You are having to paying the remainder. Most often, the additional cost comes from your personal health insurance. It is possible to seek compensation from the at-fault driver should your medical bills exceed your policy limits, but it isn’t always practical.
Your PIP policy will also cover 60% of lost wages up to a $10,000 limit. A personal injury attorney can help you find out if there are additional ways to recover lost wages if the total exceeds $6,000, the most that can be paid on a PIP claim.
What Happens When an Accident Causes Serious Injuries
A driver who suffers a serious injury in a car accident in Florida will first exhaust benefits of the PIP policy. The individuals health insurance policy will then be looked to when medical bills exceed PIP policy limits. Once health insurance benefits are exhausted, the injured person may seek compensation for their injuries and losses from the at-fault driver, either through their insurance company or through a personal injury lawsuit.
The At-Fault Driver Doesn’t Have Enough Insurance
Medical costs are notoriously high. An ambulance transport can cost upward of $1,000, an ER visit can run $3,000, and one night in the ICU can be nearly $3,000. As you can see, even a minor accident can quickly exhaust a PIP policy. A car accident in which you fracture your leg may result in anywhere from $17,000 to more than $35,000 just in medical bills. If the at-fault driver does not have enough insurance to make up the difference from your policy limits, you will owe the remainder.
Explaining Other Insurance Options
When you purchase your car insurance, you should take several factors into consideration before looking at the cost of the policy. Low cost policies often leave drivers in Florida exposed to lawsuits and significant out-of-pocket expenses should they use the policy. There are several additional types of coverage you can elect to have on your policy to better protect you in the event of a serious injury in an accident.
Uninsured/ Under-insured Motorist Coverage
Adding UI/UMI coverage to your policy is a wise decision. This coverage provides additional coverage when the at-fault drivers policy do not fully cover your injuries.
Bodily Injury Liability
You may be provided the option of opt-out of BIL coverage. It’s not wise to do so, though. This coverage protects you when you are the at-fault driver. The lowest amount that BIL will cover in Florida is $10,000 and you can purchase coverage well beyond that amount to make sure you are protected in case you are found to be at fault in an accident.
Drivers who choose to add MedPay benefits to their policy can get an additional $5,000 in medical bill coverage for an average of $100 per year. This coverage can help offset the expense of serious injuries.
Circumstances Where You May Pay Out of Pocket
There is no safety net in Florida. When all insurance policy limits are reached and there are remaining debts, you can be held responsible for them. Florida law prevents the confiscation of owned property to pay debts, but there are other ways you may be forced to pay. In some cases, you may be ordered to pay money by a judge, either through a settlement or garnishments.
One way to avoid scenarios where you are facing serious financial obligations resulting from a car accident is to carry additional insurance coverage than you think you’ll need. This is a basic step you may take that can seem unnecessary to many drivers, but turns out to be a critical decision, far too often, especially if an accident leads to serious injuries.
Reducing the Cost of Your Car Insurance Policy
There are a few decisions you can make to reduce the cost of your insurance policy other than taking the bottom coverage and hoping for the best. A great way to reduce your annual policy cost is to increase your deductible. Of course, this means you’ll have to pay more when an accident happens, but you can often recoup that amount quickly due to the reduction in policy cost.
Having handled cases in which drivers don’t carry enough coverage, you are generally better off adding coverage to your policy. The additional cost of your policy turns out to be marginal in most cases and gives you far better protection, which may save you thousands in the long run.
Numerous policy models these days may offer you reduced rates for driving less. These policies can be particularly useful for residents who drive infrequently.
Don’t drink and drive, use drugs and drive, or use your cellphone while you are driving. And wear your seat belt. These seem like some basic things but unfortunately, not everyone complies. Simply doing these things will keep you from getting serious tickets that can make car insurance costs skyrocket.
Why You Should Hire an Attorney for a Personal Injury Car Accident
For the most part, the information above seems pretty straight-forward: You’re hurt in an accident, you go to the hospital, your insurance pays. Unfortunately, it almost never works out that way. The insurance companies do a great job of creating the expectation from consumers that they are there to help and protect you when an accident happens. If that were always the case, there would be far fewer lawyers in the United States.
There are times insurance companies will want to settle your case as quickly as possible for as little as possible, even when they represent you. When you hire a personal injury lawyer to handle your claim, you have a layer of protection from the unscrupulous tricks insurance adjusters use. Your car accident attorney knows the laws in Florida, understands how your insurance policy works, and knows the right steps to take to make sure you get every penny of coverage you deserve.
When Should You Call Us?
If you are in a car accident, it’s important to contact a lawyer who specializes in Florida bodily injury law right away. One of the most common dirty tricks insurance companies try is to get you to discuss your injuries on record, then post-diagnosis use your original statement to discredit you, potentially reducing or eliminating payment for your injury.
Accidents can happen fast, and generally cases are complex. Call us before you speak to any insurance company, even your own. Refuse to provide a recorded statement without your lawyer. Do not sign any agreement without a lawyer. Do not admit fault for an accident, even if you believe it was your fault.
We offer a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case. This is a chance for us to hear the story from your side and to get an idea about how the most logical way to get you coverage may be. Once we take your case, you don’t have to worry about any out of pocket cost. In fact, we only get paid when we recover money in your name. Protect your legal rights and hire our car accident attorney to handle your Florida car accident insurance claim.