The Insurance Institute of America (IIA) ranks Florida as the third most expensive state for automobile insurance in America, with an average annual cost of $1,356.90. This may seem surprising since Florida is a “no fault” insurance state that seeks to limit lawsuits and moderate costs for fender-benders and resulting injuries, but there is a valid reason.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reports that there were 401,867 statewide vehicular crashes in 2019, down a bit from 2018 when there were 403,826 crashes. This averages out to about 1,100 crashes per day each year.
If you’ve been involved in one of those 1,000-plus wrecks a day, what can you expect from the claims process under Florida law? Who’s to blame, and who’s to pay?
The answers — which are the key to your settlement — are available through my services at the Law Office of Mark A. Cornelius, P.A. If you live in Central Florida, including Altamonte Springs, Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Volusia, Polk County, or Lake County, contact me immediately. While you recover from the stress, shock, and injuries from your accident, let me handle the insurance companies and pursue all avenues for fair compensation.
As mentioned, Florida is one of a dozen or so states with “no fault” insurance rules. This means that you must obtain at least $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage (you must also have at least $10,000 in Property Damage — PD — Liability coverage, but that is not no fault). The PIP pays for your injury-related expenses in an accident; the PD covers damage to other people’s vehicles and property.
If these limits seem low, they are, so you are advised to purchase higher coverages than these, along with additional coverages, such as BI (bodily injury) & UM (uninsured/underinsured motorist), and collision. Medical bills can rise exponentially, easily topping $10,000. As you will see below, if you’re shown to be at fault in an accident, you could also be responsible for the other party’s medical expenses that are not paid by PIP. In this case, you need to purchase Bodily Liability Insurance (BI). And since your PD doesn’t cover damages to your own vehicle, you should consider purchasing collision coverage for your car or truck.
If you’re injured in an accident, you must first report it to the company carrying your PIP coverage. The PIP will pay 80% of your medical costs initially. The total it will pay will depend on whether you have a deductible (don't buy a deductible on your PIP coverage) and whether you are found to have an Emergency Medical Condition (EMC). If you do have an EMC the PIP typically tops out at $10,000 - that is the minimum required by Florida law. If you are NOT found to have an EMC the PIP carrier only has to pay $2,500 under PIP.
If you want more coverage than offered by a PIP, you can purchase a MedPay (MP) supplemental insurance coverage. If you still can’t cover all your expenses through MedPay, you can turn to your private health insurance. After that, you must cover the expenses on your own, or if the other driver was at fault seek compensation from him or his carrier. However, the first step is always your PIP coverage.
Can you file a claim against the other driver? You can indeed seek the remainder of the uncovered costs from the other driver if that person can be shown to be fully or partially at fault, but keep in mind that Florida is a “pure comparative negligence” state.
Under the principle of pure comparative negligence, a court — or even an insurance adjuster — will assign a percentage of fault to each driver. If the other driver is determined to be totally at fault, that means he or she will be liable for 100% of your claim.
Or, you could be assigned 30% (or more or less) fault for something you did, perhaps speeding, and your compensation would then be reduced by 30%. At the same time, this means that you could be responsible for the other driver’s injuries at 30%. As you can see, comparative negligence is really a double-edged sword. This is not an easy concept, so feel free to call me at the Law Office of Mark A. Cornelius, P.A. if you have questions.
Where does this money come from? PIP will not cover the other driver’s injuries. Therefore, we look to either the other driver's BI (bodily injury) coverage — if they have it, or to your own UM coverage — if you have it. Neither of these are currently required by Florida Law, unfortunately. (There is a move in the 2021 State Legislative session - which opens March 2, 2021 - to eliminate the requirement for PIP and put in mandatory BI.)
Again, your first step in the claims process is to report the accident and vehicular (or other) damage to your insurance company. There must then be an investigation to determine who is at fault, which will determine how you recover damages to your vehicle.
Remember, PD doesn’t cover your vehicle, only other people’s property. Therefore, it’s advisable to purchase collision coverage for your own vehicle. If you have collision coverage, your insurance will pay for the repairs to your vehicle, or for its loss, even if you are at fault or the other party has no coverage. And, if their investigation shows the other driver to be at fault partly or wholly, it will seek recovery from that party.
If you don’t have collision coverage, and the investigation shows the other party to be 100% at fault, then you can seek compensation from that party’s PDL or personal assets if the PDL is insufficient. If you don’t have collision coverage and it’s totally your fault, you’re then on the hook for your own repairs. Again, since Florida is a pure comparative negligence state, you and the other driver could also end up splitting the settlement.
If all these scenarios, choices, options, and liabilities seem confusing, that’s because they are, and that’s why you need professional legal advice when you’re involved in an automobile accident. And even in seemingly minor cases, you don’t know what the other driver is going to do claims-wise. It’s safest to get an attorney involved immediately, even if just to negotiate and represent your interests to the insurance companies.
If injuries are involved, your first responsibility is getting medical help for yourself and anyone else who’s suffered. You also need to inform the police and have them investigate, if possible. Keep records, take photos at the scene of the cars, the scene, and license plates, get driver and insurance information, and seek the cooperation of witnesses in providing eyewitness accounts. Do not trust law enforcement to get their names and phone numbers. So often the witnesses leave before the officers show up, or the officers wholly fail to get the information. Finally, call your insurance company, but don’t stop there.
I have been handling personal injury and auto accident claims in Central Florida for 25 years. If you’re involved in a crash and you’re in Altamonte Springs or the neighboring communities, call me immediately at the Law Office of Mark A. Cornelius, P.A.