Florida is a “no fault” car insurance state. This means that Florida requires that every car owner purchase “no fault” or “personal injury protection” coverage. So how does this requirement make the car wreck process different for those involved? That is what this post will discuss.
First, it is necessary to discuss the general make up of a typical Florida car insurance policy. When you purchase an automobile insurance policy you are purchasing one policy with several different and separate coverages. These coverages are “bodily injury”, “property damage”, “collision” or “comprehensive” and “un-underinsured motorist coverages”.
Bodily Injury coverage is that section of your policy that covers others from injuries that you cause. Likewise, property damage coverage is protection for the property damage you cause (many times someone else’s car when you are at fault for a collision). So, the main two components of every policy are “defensive” coverages that insure you for someone else’s injury or property damage. Then there are collision and comprehensive coverages which pay for your own property damages, typically your car. These come in to play when your car is damaged by a flood or some cause that is not another insured person.
Then there is the very important uninsured or underinsured motorist coverages. This coverage is important since it provides a “back up” coverage for you if you are injured in a wreck that is not your fault and the person that causes the wreck does not have enough “bodily injury” coverage to cover your injuries. So, you as the innocent party are injured and the at fault party chose to purchase the lowest amount of coverage available (unfortunately most policies are purchased in this manner). Without an adequate amount of “UM” coverage in your own policy, you will be left without sufficient compensation. UM coverage is relatively inexpensive and many insurance agents and consumers are led to believe that it is not something important. I could not disagree more as this blog has strongly encouraged in previous posting please purchase as much uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage as possible. Always, ask for stacking UM coverage and never reject it.
So, Florida passed “no fault” laws in the 90’s that required Floridian car owners to purchase $10,000.00 in personal injury protection coverage. This coverage is referred to as “no fault” coverage since it applies to even those parties who are “at fault” for a wreck. Here is how it works: Car owner purchases a Florida car insurance policy with this required PIP coverage. Car owner runs a stop sign and injuries another driver but he himself is also injured. Under the previous “at fault” system, since he ran a stop sign this car owner would be responsible for his own injuries. Under the new PIP or no-fault system he will be able to have up to $10,000.00 in benefits from his own car policy for two items (1) 80% of medical expenses and (2) 60% of lost wages. The reasoning behind this law was that many car wreck lawsuits are only brought because of the immediate medical expenses incurred in the emergency room and immediately after a wreck. The Florida legislature felt that if a law addressed these up front expenses that many lawsuits could be avoided and injured persons without health insurance could get medical services. Of course the victim in this example would be entitled to up to $10,000.00 in pip benefits from their own car insurance policy.
Of course the insurance industry wanted to get something else from this law as they were basically offering this $10,000.00 as a benefit paid directly to the medical providers. The insurance companies got a new layer of protection from the law, a permanent injury threshold. The law requires that injured parties must prove a “permanent injury” before they can ask for damages over and above the medical expenses and lost wages. So, in the past you could go to the emergency room and then file a lawsuit and ask for damages forever and there was no requirement that you provide it was permanent before you could ask a juror to give you “noneconomic” or “human” damages like pain and suffering and mental anguish. Under this law, you could not legally request such damages until and unless a medical professional diagnosed you with and was willing and able to say that your Florida car wreck resulted in a permanent injury. This requirement in Florida Car Wreck cases drastically changed the manner and number of Florida car wreck cases.
In late 2013 the Florida Legislature passed an amendment to the “no fault” law that lowered the amount of “PIP” coverage available to insureds. Even though you remain required to purchase $10,000.00 in this coverage, you may not access more than $2,500.00 unless you are diagnosed with an “emergent medical condition” within the first two weeks of the injury. If such a diagnosis is made then you are entitled to the full $10,000.00 in personal injury protection coverage remembering, of course, that these funds can only be used for medical expenses (paid directly to the provider) or lost wages to you.
This PiP law can become complicated, especially if you are diagnosed with an injury later that would have been considered an “emergency medical condition” initially. When this occurs there is a way to go back to the physician in the emergency room and show them the ultimate diagnosis and ask that they consider refining their opinion which reflects that this condition was likely present at the initial exam and would have been found if more advanced medical testing had been conducted in the emergency room.
If you or a loved one is involved in a Florida Car Wreck and needs help with issues related to this, please feel free to call on us. You can reach us on the web at www.zarzaurlaw.com and by phone at 855HireJoe.