Know the Pit-Falls Of Vehicle Insurance
Know the Pit-Falls Of Vehicle Insurance
If you drive a car or truck and are injured in a vehicle accident in Florida, you should know about the pit-falls that you might face. To begin with, in order to be entitled to receive the full medical coverage you must seek treatment within 14 days of the accident.
Caution: Florida is one of the few states that does not require vehicle owners to purchase insurance to pay for negligently caused injuries to others. If you are injured in a vehicle accident caused by an uninsured driver, you could be at risk of losing your job, and your house, but read on, there is a way that you can protect yourself.
Every vehicle with four or more wheels, registered in Florida must have no-fault insurance i.e. “Personal Injury Protection” (PIP). It’s called “no-fault” insurance, because the insured’s medical bills are paid by his insurance company and not by the party who is at fault for the accident. In other words, the negligent party cannot be sued for medical bills that were paid by the PIP carrier. Florida’s standard PIP coverage is $10,000 and up to $10,000 property damage liability. PIP pays for the car owner’s medical bills and certain other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians who qualify for the coverage, but no one has to buy insurance that covers them if they are sued for negligence. If you are injured by an uninsured driver hopefully you have Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. UM coverage is a bargain and will compensate you for injuries suffered when the other driver is at fault and does not have liability coverage, or has less coverage than your UM limits. Furthermore, if your injury is serious enough that you need to use your health insurance to pay for accident related treatment, the health insurance company will have a lien on the amount you recover from the negligent party. Amounts paid by your health insurance company are included in your damages, which is added to the amount you are entitled to collect for pain and suffering and functional disability if you sue the responsible party.
If you have the standard no-fault Florida auto insurance policy you have purchased medical coverage, but you will be responsible for 20% of the bill up to $10,000 after that if you don’t have health insurance that covers accidental injuries you will have to pay for the treatment, but can demand reimbursement if you choose to sue the negligent party. Most other states provide much higher coverage. For example, in New Jersey where I practiced law for many years as a lawyer and judge, no-fault insurance pays up to $250,000, and in Michigan coverage is unlimited.
What kind of medical treatment should you expect if you are involved in a vehicle accident in Florida? In theory, since the injured party is paying for part of the bill, he or she only wants to pay for treatment that is reasonable, necessary, and related to the accident. But that may not always be the case. Studies show that one in three vehicle accident claims filed in Florida are either exaggerated or inflated. No-fault laws are intended to provide prompt payment to medical providers (30 days), but the law does not give the insurance company much time to investigate the need for the treatment. If you receive treatment that you don’t need, the medical provider is the only one benefiting. On the other hand, insurance companies have a profit motive that may result in cutting off medical treatment too soon. They hire certain doctors who are willing to render opinions that favor the insurance company. The same may be true that doctors for the injured victim will render opinions favorable for the victim. It’s what makes trials so interesting and sometimes confusing for jurors. Many time attorneys can perform a great service to their clients by forcing insurance companies to pay for all reasonable and necessary medical treatment related to the accident, and maximizing the damages to which the victim of negligence is entitle.
Along the way the no-fault system had some glitches. The amount that insurance companies pay for medical treatment is governed by statute and language in the insurance policy. Some county court judges decided that the language of certain policies was vague and that the insurance company had not paid the medical provider enough. The provider may have been entitled to an additional $100, but the provider’s attorney billed by the hour, and by the time the case was over; the insurance company had to pay, not only their own attorneys, but also many thousands of dollars to the medical provider’s attorney as well. Recently, the Florida Supreme Court decided that the policies were not vague and put an end to one of the most expensive and intensely litigated issues in Florida’s history.
There are many fine lawyers who practice in the area of personal injury, and they put their client’s interest before everything else. It is a field of law that allows us to help clients while earning a living for our families.