Until you suffer an injury in a car accident and need medical treatment, it’s pretty easy to ignore the answer someone gets when they ask the question, “Is Florida a no-fault state?” If you did not know the answer to the question before, the information given to you when you called your automobile insurance company to report the accident might be confusing. Yes, Florida is a no-fault state; and yes, what your insurance company told you about submitting the bills for medical care to them for payment was correct. Keep reading to learn more about how no-fault affects your right to be compensated when injured in a motor vehicle collision.
The procedure followed in most states, which lawyers refer to as “fault states,” is for a person injured in an auto collision caused by the aggressive driving of another motorist to retain the services of a personal injury lawyer. The lawyer starts a lawsuit seeking damages against the driver responsible for causing the accident.
Some of the damages recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit may include:
- Expenses associated with medical care, rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Wages and benefits lost due to the injured party being unable to work while recovering from the injuries
- Lost or diminished future earnings capacity for an accident victim suffering a full or partial disability
- Compensation for pain and suffering endured by the victim
Recovery of any damages by accident victims in fault states depends upon their ability to prove it was the negligence or fault of another party that caused the accident. Victims found to be partially at fault in causing the accident or injuries suffered may have awarded damages reduced as a result. The process for handling claims for damages is quite different in Florida.
Only 12 states have a form of no-fault insurance law. Some states, such as Florida, make it mandatory for their drivers to carry no-fault insurance while others make it optional. Drivers and their passengers injured in a car accident submit their claims to the no-fault insurance company covering their vehicle.
No-fault benefits usually include payment of medical expenses, lost wages, and other out-of-pocket costs related to the injuries regardless of who may have been at fault in causing the accident. No-fault laws and what an injured party may expect to receive may differ from one state to another. One thing in common amongst no-fault states is that injured parties submit claims to their insurance carriers. Submitting claims allows injured parties to potentially obtain compensation without filing a lawsuit or proving negligence on the part of another driver.
What does no-fault state mean in Florida?
Drivers in Florida must carry $10,000 of personal injury protection coverage, which is also known as PIP coverage, to satisfy state no-fault law. A PIP policy includes $5,000 in death benefits.
Injured drivers in an accident in Tampa submit their claim to their own auto insurance company. When the injured party is a passenger in a vehicle or a pedestrian, their claims for PIP benefits must go through their auto insurance companies. If a passenger does not own a car and has auto insurance, they should submit the no-fault claim to the company insuring the vehicle they occupy. Pedestrians who do not own vehicles must file their claim with the insurance company for the car that hit them.
Benefits payable under no-fault include the following:
- Medical care and treatment
- Prescription medications
- Rehabilitation and physical therapy
- Nursing services
- Prosthetic devices
- Lost wages
Keep in mind that your auto insurance company does not pay all of your medical expenses or lost wages through its PIP coverage. You only receive 80% of the cost of medical services. Moreover, you only receive 60% of lost wages up to the policy limit of $10,000. You can protect yourself by purchasing coverage above the $10,000 minimum required by law.
How no-fault law affects accidents
No-fault does not compensate for the pain and suffering you endured because of the injuries suffered in a car accident. Nevertheless, Florida restricts your right to sue another party to recover damages beyond what PIP pays. An accident victim may have the right to bring a lawsuit when injuries consist of one or more of the following:
- Permanent and significant loss of an important bodily function
- Permanent and significant scarring
- Injury identified by doctors as permanent
There are steps you can take to protect your right to sue in Florida and other no-fault states. These steps include documenting as much as you can about the accident, including:
- Names, license numbers and contact information of all drivers
- Insurance company information for all vehicles
- Year, make, model, color and vehicle identification number of each vehicle
- Names and contact information of all witnesses to the accident, including occupants of all vehicles
- Use your smartphone to take pictures of the accident scene and the location of all vehicles
Information gathered immediately after an accident can assist your attorney in evaluating your options for compensation.
Contact a Tampa personal injury lawyer
A Tampa personal injury lawyer offers an excellent source of legal advice about your rights under Florida no-fault law. Therefore, the assistance of an experienced attorney will maximize possible compensation available for injuries suffered in a car accident.