If you’re involved in a vehicular accident in Florida, which occurs at a rate of about 650 a day statewide, what should you do? How do you report the incident and collect compensation for your injuries and property damages?
Florida is a partial no-fault state for auto insurance. This means that a driver's own Personal Injury Protection insurance (PIP) pays for a portion of their own medical bills and lost wages (at a percentage) regardless of who was at fault. The remainder is paid by the "at fault" driver's insurance. This is where the help of a personal injury attorney is essential, especially when there the driver is seriously injured.
If you live in Central Florida, including Altamonte Springs, Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Volusia, Polk County, or Lake County, contact the Law Office of Mark A. Cornelius, P.A. I have been handling personal injury claims arising from automobile accidents for over 26 years, and I can help you pursue all avenues for the compensation you deserve.
Being a no-fault state, Florida requires each driver to carry insurance with a Personal Injury Protection (PIP) provision for at least $10,000 as well as a Property Damage Liability (PD) rider, also for at least $10,000.
When you are injured in an accident, you must first report the incident to your insurance company. Your own PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance will cover the majority of your initial medical bills. However, it does not cover at 100%. Therefore you can then file a claim against the other driver if that person can be shown to be fully or partially at fault. If you have a serious injury as defined by Florida Statute, you can make a claim for non-economic damages, sometimes called "pain & suffering." Serious injury is defined as resulting in:
Fractures of bones
Permanent limitation of use of a body organ or member
A significant limitation of use of a bodily function or system
Substantially full disability for 90 days
Florida is also a pure comparative negligence state. This means that if the matter goes to trial, a jury will assess the comparative fault and your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault you are assigned. For example, if you are found 30 percent at fault and the award is $100,000, the compensation you receive will be $70,000 to account for your level of fault in the accident.
Florida law requires that immediately following an accident that results in “injury to or death of any persons or damage to any vehicle or other property in an apparent amount of at least $500” the driver reports the crash to local law enforcement or Florida Highway Patrol. Additionally, Florida law says you must provide “reasonable assistance” to anyone who is injured.
Once the police and emergency medical assistance has been contacted (as necessary) you should:
Get contact and insurance information from the other driver
Obtain contact information from the other persons involved, including witnesses, if any
Take photos to document the accident – the more, the better. Photos of your car, the other car, and the scene are all helpful if they can be taken safely. A photo of the other car's license plate is useful too sometimes.
Document the basic facts: date, time, and location
It is important that you seek treatment within 14 days of the accident, otherwise, your ability to recover any PIP benefits for which you have paid may be compromised. Regardless of whether you feel seriously injured, it is always recommended that you allow a medical professional to determine the extent of your damages. Oftentimes, injuries do not manifest themselves right away or at all, and if you do not seek treatment within the 14 days of the crash you will be prevented from using PIP benefits for which you have already paid a premium to your insurance company.
Afterward, you should complete the documentation process by writing down everything that happened as you recall it. You should also procure copies of all medical treatment records for use in the claims process. With everything in order, contact your insurance company and seek professional legal help.
For your injuries, you are entitled to medical and related expenses, future medical expenses, and loss of income. You can only recover damages for “pain and suffering” if your injuries are serious. The statute of limitations to sue is four years, but you need to get started as soon as it’s warranted. If you have not filed suit or settled your claim within that time you will be forever barred from making any recovery from the crash.
Once you make a claim, the insurance company will do everything in its power to get you to accept a settlement on their terms, and then encourage you to sign a release so you cannot make any future claims arising from the accident.
You don’t want to end up being shortchanged by going it alone with insurance adjusters, especially when you can never be sure of the long-term effects of your injuries. You’re always going to be better off seeking professional guidance and legal assistance. Remember the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company and it is their job to protect the company. Think about how insurance works - their entire business model is to collect premiums and pay as little in claims as possible.
If you’re in or near Central Florida, and certainly if you are in or near Altamonte Springs, Florida, contact me, Personal Injury Attorney Mark A. Cornelius, for an immediate consultation. I have been helping those who have suffered from personal injuries since 1994, and I stand ready to bring my knowledge, experience, and hard work to your own personal situation and achieve the best possible resolution for you.