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WHAT TO DO AS AN INJURED PASSENGER AFTER AN ACCIDENT

Mark A. Cornelius Nov. 18, 2020

In 2018, more than 68,000 passengers were injured or killed in vehicular crashes in Florida. If you were injured in a car crash as a passenger, you might be wondering how to pursue compensation for the injuries you’ve suffered and the medical expenses you’ve incurred.

Regardless of which driver was at fault, passengers injured in auto crashes have options for recovering compensation that can cover their medical expenses and help them recover. Injuries can cause physical, emotional, and financial stress. If you’ve been injured as a passenger in an accident, it’s important that you speak with a personal injury attorney who can protect your rights and guide you through the claims processes step by step. This should be done before speaking with any insurance company, even your own.

For more than 26 years, I have helped passengers injured in auto accidents recover compensation that can help pay medical costs and provide them with the support they need to recover. When it comes to filing an injury claim, timing is critical — so don’t wait. Call the Law Office of Mark A. Cornelius P.A. today to schedule a free consultation.

Determining Fault in an Accident

Florida is a partial no-fault state for auto insurance. Basically, this means that drivers own Personal Injury Protection insurance (PIP) pays for their own medical bills and lost wages (at a percentage) regardless of who was at fault. Florida drivers are required to carry at least PIP coverage. The amount you get for an accident depends on the extent of your injury, but can be as much as $10,000.

This doesn’t mean fault doesn’t apply at all. As a passenger, you cannot be assigned fault for a crash. However, whoever is found to be at fault for the accident may be the party who will be held liable for any damages not paid by PIP.

How to File an Injury Claim in Florida

Just because you were a passenger, doesn’t mean your PIP coverage doesn’t apply. If you’ve been injured as a passenger, you’ll still be required to use your own PIP benefits first, no matter who was at fault for the crash. Florida requires that you receive medical treatment within 14 days of the crash to file a claim against your PIP to receive benefits. That’s not a long period of time to have your injuries assessed so that you can project whether or not your PIP coverage will be enough. If not, you will need to file a claim against the Bodily Injury (BI) coverage of the driver or owner who was at fault in the accident.

PIP coverage will generally pay up to 80% of all medical expenses and 60% of any lost wages while recovering. You or your health insurance will be on the hook for deductibles and costs exceeding this coverage. The unfortunate reality is that that $10,000 worth of coverage often doesn’t go far enough.

If your injuries are permanent, as defined by Florida law, you can still sue all at-fault drivers for pain and suffering, whether that driver was operating the vehicle you were in or another vehicle involved in the crash. Permanent injuries include:

  • Significant and/or permanent loss of an important bodily function

  • Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement

  • Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement

  • Death

Unless you have a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) or have caused a previous crash, vehicle owners are not required to carry bodily injury liability coverage. For that reason, it’s a good idea for vehicle owners to carry uninsured/underinsured Motorist (UM) coverage. If neither driver has enough coverage to compensate you for your injuries and other damages, you can file a claim against your own UM coverage. It is not unusual in Florida for drivers to have no BI insurance or a very small amount. Having UM coverage protects you and those you care about that are in your car in the event of a crash.

Understanding Passenger Liability

“No-fault” doesn’t mean some or all drivers involved in an auto accident cannot be held at least partially liable for the crash. Florida is a “pure comparative negligence” state which means that percentages of fault are assigned to anyone determined to have contributed to the cause of the crash. Compensation for plaintiffs is reduced by their percentage of negligence. If the fault is divided between the driver of your vehicle and the other vehicle, it affects how you can be compensated for damages.

For example, if the driver of the vehicle you were in was found to be 20% at fault and the other driver was 80% at fault, you would need to attempt to recover 20% of your damages from the driver of your vehicle and 80% from the other driver.

How Experienced Legal Counsel Can Help

As you can see, garnering fair compensation for your injuries as a passenger in Florida can quickly become very complex. Not only are there multiple policies and/or coverages to sort through, but there’s also the potential for dividing fault. Unlike most states, Florida’s mandatory insurance coverages are extremely low, which can make it even more difficult for you to receive a fair settlement.

Don’t handle passenger injury claims on your own. If you’ve been injured as a passenger in an accident, you need a seasoned car accident attorney who can examine all of the details of your case and present them in a way that helps you receive the maximum amount of compensation for your injuries and any pain and suffering you’ve endured.

At the Law Office of Mark A. Cornelius P.A., I have been working with accident victims across the state for more than 26 years. I have helped hundreds of auto injury clients in Altamonte Springs and throughout Central Florida navigate the complicated legal process following an auto accident.

Don’t wait another minute. Call now to schedule a free consultation and find out how I can help you get back on the road toward recovery today.