The Confusing Web of Insurance When You’re in a Car Accident
So, you’re in a car accident and confused by all the different types of insurance coverage that come into play? Rest assured, you’re not alone. The complicated interplay between different types of insurance can be confusing even to the seasoned attorney.
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety, in 2016 there were over 395,000 car accidents in Florida. Ever heard reference to Florida being a No Fault state? “No Fault” in Florida references Florida’s Personal Injury Protection “PIP” insurance scheme. PIP covers 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your lost wages caused by a car accident. PIP benefits are covered by your own car insurance under your PIP coverage (up to $10,000 or $2,500 depending on the nature of your injuries). The Florida Legislature’s intent in establishing PIP was twofold: 1) create a mechanism for people injured to get medical care immediately without having to wait on a definitive finding of fault for an accident and 2) create a minimal threshold that requires a “permanent injury” in order for a person to be awarded non-economic damages against an at fault driver. It’s very important to note that in 2013 the Florida Legislature made several changes to Florida’s PIP statute including requiring those injured in an accident to seek medical care within 14 days or lose their PIP benefits.
Does this mean you can’t make a claim against another driver who causes you injuries in a car accident? Absolutely not. Even though Florida is a “No Fault” state, the injured victim of a car accident can present a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance for injuries sustained. The type of coverage a victim would make a claim against is referred to as “bodily injury liability” coverage. However, be aware that Florida’s Financial Responsibility Statute does not currently require Florida drivers to carry bodily injury liability coverage. For this reason, to protect you and your family from injuries caused by uninsured motorists, you should purchase a third type of car insurance coverage called “Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist” coverage. This “UM” Coverage is a type of insurance a person can add to their own car insurance policy to provide protection in the event they’re injured by a person who either doesn’t have any bodily injury liability coverage or does not have enough bodily injury liability coverage to provide full compensation for the injuries sustained.
So, this is the end of the story right? Wrong. The Florida legislature is currently considering legislation which would end PIP in Florida. Those against PIP argue the whole system is ripe for fraud and abuse and that PIP improperly shifts the responsibility for paying for damages caused by accidents to the innocent person’s insurance. There is indeed anecdotal evidence of staged accidents and medical providers overbilling PIP due to the no fault nature of the coverage. So, what’s the alternative? An amendment to Florida’s Financial Responsibility law requiring all Florida drivers to carrier at least $25,000.00 in bodily injury liability coverage. Stay tuned…
Josh Chilson is a partner in the Firm’s Clearwater office. He is a respected leader in the legal community having served as the President of the Clearwater Bar and currently representing the Sixth Judicial Circuit on the Florida Bar Board of Governors. He focuses his practice on representing Floridians injured in accidents and those seeking Social Security Disability benefits.