By Marcus Fernandez
If you go by the advertising on radio and television, car insurance companies can’t wait to be there when you need help with a car accident claim. The advertising does not disclose that insurance companies are in business to make money. They make money through the premiums you pay for an auto insurance policy. They lose money when forced to pay a claim you or someone else file.
Contrary to what you see in the ads, minimizing the amount of money an insurance company pays out in claims is the real job of those smiling and friendly people depicted in the marketing campaigns of auto insurance companies. Adjusters and insurance investigators look for ways to avoid paying claims, including claims filed by their policyholders.
As you read this article, you’ll learn how the claims process works when an automobile accident results in injuries and property damage. You may be surprised to learn that a car insurance company’s quick offer to settle could be for a fraction of what you should be getting. Why? It’s simply because car insurance companies are not your friend, which makes it essential to have a Tampa personal injury attorney representing you to look out for your interests.
Florida Insurance Law
Florida handles claims arising from car accidents differently than most other states. Its no-fault law requires that all must have personal injury protection insurance coverage in the minimum amount of $10,000 and $10,000 in property damage liability insurance to pay claims arising in case of an accident.
Property damage coverage pays claims against the insured for damage caused to vehicles, buildings, or other types of real or personal property in an accident. Personal injury protection, commonly called “PIP,” pays 80% of the medical bills and related expenses you incur in an accident, regardless of whether it was the fault of you or someone else.
Unlike most other states, Florida does not require liability insurance coverage for motorists to pay claims made against them for bodily injuries and property damage they caused to other people. Suppose you cause an accident causing severe injuries or death to another person. In that case, the injured party may sue you for damages not covered by their PIP insurance, so adding bodily injury liability coverage to an auto insurance policy, even in Florida, may be a good idea.
The insurance company agrees to pay claims up to the policy limits and the costs of defending you against the claim, including paying for a defense lawyer. If you want to protect yourself in an accident when the driver who caused the crash does not have bodily injury insurance, add uninsured motorist coverage to your policy.
What happens when you file a car insurance claim?
It doesn’t matter whether you file a claim to recover compensation from the insurance company for a negligent motorist that crashed into you or with your own insurance company; the insurance company is not on your side. You are a claimant trying to get money from an insurance company, which makes you an adversary.
For example, when you suffer injuries in a crash in Florida, you file a claim with your auto insurance company to pay your medical expenses through the policy’s PIP coverage. You may have the right to sue the at-fault driver if you sustained severe injuries with medical costs exceeding your PIP coverage, but what if the other driver does not have insurance?
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 6.28% of vehicles registered do not have insurance coverage. In Hillsborough County, the rate of uninsured motorists is even higher at 6.67%. In that situation, you could file a claim with your insurance company under the uninsured motorist coverage of your auto policy.
When an insurance company receives a claim, whether it’s one that you file with your own company or with the company for a driver that crashed into you, the company investigates to determine the following:
- Was there a policy in effect at the time of the accident?
- What is the amount of coverage available under the policy?
- What evidence exists to support the claim?
Contrary to what commercials say about auto insurance companies, they are not on your side. If an investigation reveals that a policy was not in effect on the date of an accident or the evidence supporting the claim is weak, the company may refuse to pay.
Things an insurance company does not want you to know
No matter whether you file a claim under a policy that you purchased or the policy of the car that crashed into you, keep in mind the following things insurers won’t share with you:
- The friendly claims adjuster asking questions about your claim is not on your side: Adjusters work for insurance companies, so their job is to be friendly to get you to talk about the accident and your claim. The goal is to get you to make a statement that weakens your claim. You are a claimant regardless of whether it’s your insurance company or a company insuring another driver. The adjuster’s job is to find a reason to deny the claim or at least weaken it.
- A quick offer to settle a claim may be a trap: A common tactic used by insurance companies is for adjusters to contact a claimant offering a quick settlement. The hope is that a person without legal representation will unwittingly accept a fraction of what their claim is worth.
- Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis: Insurance companies get people to settle claims before they have a chance to get legal advice by telling them how costly it is to hire a personal injury attorney. The truth is that law firms typically represent clients in car accident cases under a contingency fee arrangement. Legal fees are a percentage of the amount the attorneys recover on their client’s behalf.
If you remember that an insurance company is not on your side and wants only to minimize or avoid paying your claim, it will keep you from falling prey to tactics that could cost you money.
Schedule your free consultation with a Tampa personal injury attorney
If you sustain injuries in a car accident, your first call before talking to any about the accident should be to the Tampa Law Offices of Kinney, Fernandez, & Boire. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn about your right to compensation and what a personal injury attorney can do for you.