Surviving an Automobile Accident in Florida
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO SURVIVE AN AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT IN FLORIDA
You’re stopped at a traffic light, with your hands on the wheel, foot on the brake, looking straight ahead, just like you were taught in driving school. Coming up behind you at a rapid speed is a fifteen year old junker car, being operated by a driver with a suspended license and no insurance. He/she is texting, unaware that the light is red and traffic has stopped. No Defensive Driving techniques will help in this scenario. What can you do to help survive this accident?
1. Be prepared before the accident by having proper insurance coverage!
How do you prepare yourself for a car accident in Florida before it happens? By making sure you are properly insured. In many cases, drivers who think they have “full coverage” only have “minimal coverage” as required in Florida. Your automobile insurance policy contains many coverage provisions which you should be aware of, and may not have been explained to you by your insurance agent (or maybe you don’t have an “agent” and just completed a form online).
Medical bills: It is mandatory for you to have Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) in Florida.It pays for your medical bills even if the other driver was at fault. PIP will pay 80% of approved medical bills up to a limit of $10,000.00. PIP will also pay for 60% of lost wages and your mileage for travels to your doctor. Keep in mind that the total amount available for medical bills, wages, and mileage is $10,000.00. Although PIP allows for a deductible from the start of the $10,000.00 coverage, you would be wise not to accept a deductible, as your “out of pockets” would increase by the amount of the deductible. In order to obtain PIP benefits for medical bills you must see a doctor within 14 days of the date of the accident. So what about the 20% of your medical bills left over after PIP pays 80%? You can have that paid in part or full by obtaining Medical Payments (“Med-Pay”) coverage on your auto insurance policy. Med-Pay is not mandatory under Florida law.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: In Florida, it is not required that a driver have Bodily Injury coverage. Bodily Injury coverage (“BI”) is insurance coverage which the at-fault driver’s insurance company pays for your disability, pain and suffering, mental anguish and other damages resulting from injuries to your body. So if BI is not mandatory, and the at-fault driver doesn’t have BI, then how to you get compensation for these injuries (other than just suing the other driver, who may not have any financial means to pay)? You obtain Uninsured/Underinsured (“UM”) coverage. Insurance companies in Florida must offer UM coverage in an amount equal to your Bodily Injury coverage. You can elect to obtain UM coverage of less than your Bodily Injury coverage, or you can agree not to obtain UM, but you must reduce or decline UM in writing. I cannot stress strongly enough that you should obtain UM coverage!
2. Seek medical treatment as soon as possible (but no later than 14 days after the accident)!
Sometimes the impact from a crash will result in obvious injuries and immediate pain. Other times you may not feel the full impact to your body until a day or more after the crash. Some of your injuries may appear minor at first but could result in a lifetime of pain and disability. Do not hesitate to see a medical provider as soon as you possibly can. A delay in treatment could result in an even longer delay in your recovery. Keep in mind that in order to obtain your PIP benefits you must see a medical provider within 14 days of the date of the accident.
3. Hire a lawyer to represent you!
One of the most important functions of a lawyer in a personal injury case is to make sure that your medical bills are processed and paid properly under PIP and/or with settlement proceeds. You don’t want your credit ruined because a medical bill was left unpaid. Many times a lawyer can get your medical bills reduced (although there is no guarantee of this). A large percentage of the time my office spends on personal injury cases is utilized to straighten out medical billing errors and to make sure that all medical providers have been paid.
A lawyer is familiar with the negotiating process, the general range of settlement recoveries for particular injuries, and the process involved in obtaining compensation for auto accident victims. To do this on your own would be a stressful and difficult burden.
4. Hire the Law Office of Mitchell I. Fried to represent you!
We are a small office, not dependent on massive TV and radio advertising for clients. Our new clients come from referrals sent by our satisfied former clients. We return phone calls and you can be sure that you will be able to speak to a lawyer when you have a question. With our help, you can survive an automobile accident in Florida!