Car insurance coverage offers financial protection to drivers, motorists, or passengers when an accident occurs. After a car accident, you need to file a police report and if you sustain injuries make an insurance accident claim to your insurance company or the at-fault party insurance firm.
The claim is the first step towards compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages that result from the accident. At the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we help our clients in every process of their compensation claim. We work closely with insurance companies to ensure that they give the compensation our clients deserve.
Car Insurance Requirements and Use in Florida
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles expects all drivers in Florida to have auto insurance. The car insurance requirements in Florida are different from other states in the United States. Here is a breakdown of the minimum coverage that you need to have as per Florida law.
How Florida Car Insurance Law is Different from Other States’ Insurance Laws
Florida car insurance laws are unusual because the state does not legally require a driver to have bodily injury liability coverage. This means that you are not expected to insure yourself against the injuries that other people receive if you are at-fault of an accident. However, Florida, along with the other eleven states, is a no-fault state. This means that everyone involved in an accident must file a compensation claim with their insurance companies even when they are not faulty.
The no-fault law in Florida mandates drivers to seek personal injury protection insurance to cover them or their passengers once they are involved in an accident that is not their fault. Therefore, this kind of insurance coverage sidesteps the need to file a compensation claim with the at-fault insurance. As of 2019, Personal Injury Protection coverage would pay up to four-fifths of the victims’ medical bills and three-fifths of the lost wages once the beneficiary pays the deductible. PIP also covers $5,000 in death benefits.
Financial Responsibility Law
Under Florida’s Financial Responsibility Law, drivers must provide at least $20,000 per accident and $10,000 per person if they are responsible for a car accident. An uninsured motorist can post a bond to meet this coverage. The law also requires drivers to cover up to $10,000 for potential property damage, making the minimum coverage for a Florida driver $30,000.
Most car insurance companies usually meet this cover, and some cover much more depending on the gravity of the accident case. This law also requires liability coverage for DUI citation, revocation of the driver’s license in case of severe traffic cases, and suspension of the license due to license demerits.
How Personal Injury Protection Insurance Works in Florida
Personal Injury Protection or PIP covers your medical expenses after an accident, regardless of who is at fault. If you have insurance, your family member and passengers will be protected even if they do not have PIP as long as they do not own a registered vehicle. If your passengers have PIP, their insurance company should pay for their injuries. Your PIP insurance can also cover drivers who are driving your car without consent. Other circumstances that PIP can cover include injuries sustained by your child while riding on his or her school bus or after you are injured while crossing the street or biking.
In Florida, anyone owning a vehicle with four or more wheels should get a minimum of $10,000 as PIP coverage. The main benefit of no-fault insurance and PIP is that the monthly premiums are usually low due to the fewer lawsuits and quick payouts. The main drawback is that reckless drivers would likely lose significant assets in case of an accident.
Bodily Injury Liability Insurance in Florida
Florida drivers are not required to have bodily injury liability insurance coverage. However, it can be an excellent optional coverage, and many insurance companies consider it in their packages. Bodily injury liability insurance covers the injuries that you cause, but it also includes the damages caused by your family member even if you are not driving the vehicle.
The insurance also provides legal representation if you have been sued for injuring someone, mainly when you cause an accident that has damages that exceeds the victims’ PIP coverage. It can also protect your asset from seizure in a lawsuit.
Property Damage Liability Insurance in Florida
All drivers in Florida must have property damage liability insurance. This insurance covers any property that you or your family member damage in a car accident. The minimum requirement in property damage liability insurance is $10,000.
How You Should Make a PIP Claim
Once you are involved in an accident, you need to contact your insurance firm and let them know about it. Your insurance company will ask you to provide relevant facts about your claim. You will then be assigned to an adjuster who should call you within a few days.
Prepare to Engage the Adjuster
It is essential to have an organized accident file while preparing to talk with the adjuster. These will help you have a strong case to present to your adjuster. Never hand over your claim file to an insurance adjuster, but you should give him or her copies of the data to your company or attorney. Some of the documents in your accident file include:
- Correspondence and Notices- Your correspondence file should contain copies of any letters or notices between your insurance company and you, the at-fault person, and any attorneys. The correspondence should be in date order, starting with the recent notes in the front and the oldest at the back. The file might also include, insurance company reservation of right, a letter sent by the medical provider, demand letter, and notification the at-fault party
- Healthcare and Medical Bills – This section should include every bill from your health provider in date order. This includes invoices from the chiropractor, therapist, and other healthcare providers. The amount that you expect to be compensated depends on the total of your medical expenses. Therefore, it is critical to have proof of your medical expenses. Please note that your healthcare insurance provider might put a lien on you to recover it once the settlement has been made. Therefore, you should ensure that the settlement covers all your expenses
- Medical Records – These are documents that detail all your injuries and their treatment. You should write a request to your healthcare provider to get the medical records. The records include the following date-order list; admitting charts, exam test, a medical narrative from your doctor, and physical therapy and progress notes
- Wage Verification- Wage verification does not contain a lot of content since it includes a letter from your employer and your employer’s confirmation of all your lost wages
- Witness Information and Reports- This includes contact information of any eyewitnesses. If you have several witnesses, you can put them alphabetically. It also includes a copy of the report filed by the police
- Photographs and Videos – Ensure that you have digital and printed colored photographs in your file. Keep the paper copies in your file and ensure that the digital copies are safe. The pictures should include pictures of your injuries since the injury until your recovery
Undertaking Interviews and Statements with the Adjuster
Insurance adjusters will usually call their claimants, but sometimes some might decide to come to your home. The adjuster will request you to engage in a recorded statement of the accident and the injuries. You can seek help from a personal injury attorney prior to submitting the recorded interview since you can fail to engage the adjuster until you are ready.
Please note, you should avoid engaging the adjuster when you are confused, taking medicine, or upset. Do not guess anything that you are not sure about. It is okay to say that you do not know rather than giving a guess.
You should give specific information such as the ambulance company that offered transport to the hospital, the hospital’s particular name, the kind of tests that were done on you, and so forth. Take note of any comment or statement made by the adjuster that would make you agree to something that is not true. You should never allow the adjuster to twist it.
The adjuster might pose a question about your wellbeing, aiming to compromise your compensation. If you are asked how you feel, you should not respond that you are fine since that might be used against you.
Do Not Allow Full Access to your Medical Information
The insurance adjuster will request to review all your medical records before your insurer agrees to pay your cost. The adjuster will then request you to sign a release form that permits the insurance firm to access all your medical information. As much as they put pressure into signing their form, you should not sign it.
Before signing the release, read it thoroughly and ensure that it is a limited release that gives access to records related to the injuries suffered in your current accident. Some insurance firms might ask for your medical records for the last five to ten years, which might reveal past illnesses that might affect your compensation.
Also, you should not allow the adjuster to access confidential pieces of information that have nothing to do with your claim. A general release is enough to help the adjuster to track down your previous injuries and use them to reduce your present claim.
The adjuster does not usually raise concerns about the medical treatment that you receive after your accident. However, they might raise concerns with extended treatment. This includes bills for a physical therapy that was not pre-approved by your insurer.
Send a Confirmation Letter
Once you have spoken with the adjuster, you should send a follow-up letter to confirm that your claim is in process, and your treatment is ongoing. Send the letter through certified mail a return receipt request. You should maintain a copy of the letter and the mailing receipt in the accident file.
You should also keep your communication open between you and the adjuster. There is nothing wrong with calling or emailing the adjuster to ask about the status of your claim.
Negotiating an Injury Settlement
It is understandable to seek full attention from an adjuster. Injuries and recuperation from a car accident might be expensive and disruptive hence the need to seek attention from your insurance adjuster. Insurance adjusters seek to settle a claim quickly and cheaply. So, you have to be careful with the adjuster you are dealing with to avoid deciding on a lower amount that you do not deserve. The adjuster will be more than happy to such an agreement, but you need to persist and negotiate a better settlement.
It might take a few weeks or several months to decide on fair compensation for your injury-related damages. Here are a few considerations that you should consider and take note of while negotiating with the adjuster.
Avoid Strong Emotions
Negotiating with an insurance adjuster is a challenging process. Therefore, it is normal to be anxious and nervous. However, you should never admit that you are nervous since you might say something that might be used against you.
Once the adjuster has received your demand letter, he or she will contact you. The adjuster will give several reasons claiming that the demand is unrealistic and make a lower offer, establishing that he or she is doing a favor. You should remain calm at such a situation and engage your attorney in the negotiation rather than allowing your emotions to overtake you.
Avoid being rattled when the first adjuster’s offer is excessively low. Exercising patience might be difficult, especially when you feel insulted due to the adjuster’s lowball offer. It is essential to exercise patience.
The adjuster will be watching to see your reaction. The best way to derail your negotiation is by losing your temper. You should understand that bringing anger into your negotiation would not make you look stronger or powerful. All you need is to take time to think about the counteroffer from the adjuster and set up to negotiate for a better deal.
Expect being Delayed by the Adjuster
One of the ways used by adjusters to exercise control of your negotiation is to take their time before responding to your communications. While persistence might be essential, avoid temptations to call the adjuster soon enough after making a settlement counteroffer or demand.
If you go into a negotiation knowing that it will stretch to several weeks or months, you will probably end up with a higher settlement. Once you take your time, you will be more objective in your reasoning and arguments, and this will help you avoid frustrations and anxiety that might lead to bad decisions.
Although adjusters might delay your negotiations for sometimes, there are common reasons that the adjusters will make you wait. This includes:
- A high caseload with other clients, probably serious claims
- The time taken to gather information from police reports, witnesses, and others
- The time to collect information from you
It is essential to send your accident file promptly to help the adjuster handle the negotiation process on time.
How to Make Proper Follow-up During Negotiations
You need to take a few days to come with a counteroffer. You should put the information in writing or mail it, then sit back and wait. Negotiating with patience does not mean that you cannot call the adjuster even when you think it has been long before you last spoke. If you leave a voicemail, let it signal that you are determined and restrained. Do not let your frustration show since the adjuster will be looking for a weakness to leverage to a lower settlement.
Your frustration might prompt you to be rude in your communication, which might backfire your negotiations. Not only does rudeness make the adjuster sink your calls at the bottom of his or her call-back list. It will also let the adjuster know that you cannot hold out for more money. You must be in a position to disagree when the adjuster is wrong about your medical treatment and how much time you were not working due to your injuries.
As long as your negotiations have credible arguments professionally, you maintain a burden of proof and respect from the adjuster. In most times, mutual respect will lead to higher and quicker settlements.
What you should Do after your Negotiations Fail
Negotiating for a reasonable amount may take a few weeks since the negotiations between the claimant and the insurance company are usually taken back-and-forth. Unfortunately, not all adjusters would take the negotiation in good faith. In most cases, an insurance company might fail to work in good faith by:
- Failing to respond or acknowledge your claims
- Denying the claim without giving an explanation
- Making a low settlement offer
- Delaying your settlement unreasonably whereas your liability is clear
- Making repetitive and unreasonable demands for more documents
You should reach out to a personal injury attorney once you suspect that the insurance adjuster is working in bad faith. If you can prove that the insurer acted in bad faith, it might be needed to pay extra damages to the claimant besides paying the original claim.
The most natural way that your attorney will suggest is filing a lawsuit against the insurance company acting in bad faith. However, between your settlement and filing a lawsuit, you can consider arbitration or mediation.
Mediation and Arbitration
Sometimes, your negotiations might stall due to your unwillingness to compromise rather than bad faith on the insurance company’s side. Before you decide to file a lawsuit, you should try arbitrating or mediating to cut down the trial's cost.
Mediation and arbitration are collectively referred to as alternative dispute resolutions and can be suitable options for solving your settlement claim. Furthermore, most insurance contracts have an option to agree to arbitration rather than filing a lawsuit.
Arbitration relies on binding both warring parties. The decision made by the arbitrator cannot be appealed since the ruling usually binds you and your insurer.
On the other hand, mediation does not rely on the binding. The mediator aims to bring you and your insurance together and help you agree to settle on a particular amount. If the mediation fails, you can file a lawsuit.
Filling a Lawsuit Against your Insurance Company
You can decide to file a lawsuit if you do not come into an agreement over your compensation. In rare exceptions, you can file a lawsuit even after agreeing to a settlement. For instance, if there are multiple parties involved in the accident and you expect a higher compensation than your PIP, then you might proceed into filing a lawsuit.
You can also file a lawsuit once you realize that there is an unknown party at-fault of the accident, whereas you have submitted a signed release related to all the known parties.
Please note that you can only be able to pursue compensation if the four-year statute of limitations has not expired.
Another instance that would prompt you into filing a lawsuit is when you enter into a settlement in bad faith, and you are defrauded by the at-fault party’s insurance company. These situations are rare and challenging to prove hence the need to hire a professional personal injury attorney.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
Before you sign or agree to the terms of anything presented by your insurance company or the at-fault party’s insurer, you must understand the consequences. Therefore, hiring an attorney is the best option to ensure that you secure a fair settlement.
At the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, our dedicated attorneys have experience working with insurance firms and securing fair settlements for our clients. We will conduct a thorough investigation into your claim, the accident’s cause to find the full extent of your injuries and losses that you have suffered. For more information about us, call us at 904-494-8242 and schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.