MOST FREQUENTLY ASKED FLORIDA CAR ACCIDENT QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. I was in a car accident in Florida and I hear it’s a no-fault state, what does that mean?
FLORIDA is one of the states that has a different system when it comes to car insurance. The car insurance law in Florida requires that everyone purchase “no-fault” coverage (a.k.a. personal injury protection or “PIP” coverage). This coverage is generally a minimum of $10,000.00 and provides compensation to drivers in an accident, regardless of who was at fault in causing the collision. The PIP COVERAGE PAYS 80% of medical expenses and 60% of lost wages, so long as they are related to the wreck. What’s even more surprising is that your OWN PIP coverage pays for your medical and lost wages even if the other party is at fault for the wreck. Keep in mind, this only applies to the first $10,000.00 in bills and wages. Once your PIP coverage has paid the maximum amount ($10,000), then the focus is the at-fault driver to ensure that any additional medical expenses are covered. This is where the lawyers and staff at Staples Ellis can assist in recovery for your injury case.
2. The at-fault driver’s insurance company seems to be dragging their feet on accepting responsibility for this wreck, even though it was clear at the scene that they got a ticket for causing the wreck.
First, it’s important to understand that contrary to their feel-good TV advertisements, insurance companies are not in the business of making wrongs, right. Insurance companies are in the business of making money and will do so at all costs.
The typical process for an insurance company following a car wreck includes:
a. The at-fault driver’s insurance company doing their own investigation following a wreck regardless of what the investigating officer concludes at the scene, and regardless of their insured driver receiving a citation for the wreck.
b. The accident report is usually not available after a car wreck until a few days following the wreck. The document provided at the scene of the accident is not the accident report. The accident report will be titled the “Long Form” or “Short Form” Florida Accident Report, and will be several pages with a diagram on the last page depicting the position of the cars at the time of the impact. The abbreviated document provided by the Trooper at the scene of the wreck is called a Driver’s Exchange of Information, and only contains the identities of the persons involved in the wreck and their respective contact information.
c. 99% of accidents in Florida involve the issue of a ticket to the at-fault party. HOWEVER, THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE AT FAULT DRIVER’S INSURANCE WILL AUTOMATICALLY ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will still conduct a full investigation which usually involves taking a recorded statement from their driver and anyone in the driver’s car. THEY MAY ALSO TRY TO GET YOU TO GIVE A STATEMENT AND YOU SHOULD NOT SINCE IT IS NOT VITAL TO THEIR INVESTIGATION AND WILL LIKELY ELICIT SOMETHING HURTFUL TO YOUR INJURY CASE.
d. The at-fault driver’s insurance company investigation takes about 7 to 10 days following the accident and they like to treat you like they have all the time in the world. They know that the more desperate they make you feel the more likely you will just take what they offer you and maybe you will not hire a lawyer to help you.
To speed things up you can do a couple of things:
1. Hire a lawyer for your injury case. This important step usually makes the insurance company stop playing games, even with the car (property damage) issues.
2. File a claim through your own car insurance for your car losses. Have your car insurance company pay for your car, and then they can get reimbursed by the at-fault driver’s insurance company, once they have completed their investigation. This second option assumes you have purchased full coverage for your insurance (in this context collision coverage). If you have full coverage then your insurance company can pay for your vehicle repairs immediately and then they will worry about the at-fault driver’s insurance company reimbursing them. This is the quickest and smartest route to take if you have full coverage.
If you don’t have full coverage then you will have to wait on the insurance company for the at-fault driver’s policy to finish their investigation.
3. Can I get a rental car and does the at fault drive have to pay for it?
YES – you can get a rental car. NO – the at-fault driver’s insurance is not obligated to pay for the rental car. While this may not seem to make sense, the at-fault driver’s insurance is not legally required to provide you with a rental car. The only “rental car coverage” is one that would be on your own car insurance policy. It is an optional coverage that is not frequently purchased, but if you have paid for it then you should use it.
The at-fault driver’s car insurance ultimately has to pay for your property damage called “loss of use,” for each day that you are not able to use your vehicle. So many times the at-fault driver’s car insurance will offer a rental car in lieu of having to pay you for “loss of use”. The at-fault insurance company also offers a rental car to sometimes keep a good rapport with you in hopes that they can convince you to not hire an injury lawyer and to settle your injury case for nothing.
4. When I go to the ER, what insurance information do I need to provide them?
According to Florida Car Wreck Law ,the only insurance that can pay for the first $10,000 in medical expenses is YOUR OWN PIP COVERAGE. The hospital should ask you for the name of YOUR car insurance carrier and possibly a claim number. Many times you will not have a claim number, but as long as you give them the name and policy number, the hospital billing department can determine where to send the bill for payment.
The hospital may ask for your health insurance carrier as a secondary coverage, and you certainly should not hesitate to provide them with that as well. There is no need for the hospital to have the name of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy since it will not pay for anything until a personal injury lawyer requires them to.
5. Can I handle the “Car Part” of the claim without a lawyer?
Yes, and you should BUT be very careful not to discuss your injury claim with the insurance company, since they are COMPLETELY SEPARATE CLAIMS. The injury claim and the car (also known as “property damage” claim), are distinct claims and are not even handled by the same adjuster. The at fault driver’s insurance company will assign a property damage adjuster and an injury adjuster to the claim.
YOU SHOULD NOT TALK TO ANYONE ABOUT YOUR INJURY AT ALL (NOT EVEN YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY)
You can and should talk to the property damage adjuster since they are only involved in determining if the car is totaled or handling getting it fixed. Staples Ellis, a personal injury law firm, rarely, if ever, get involved in the property damage portion of the claim. The property damage claim is usually resolved within 10 to 14 days following the wreck, and most of the time everyone is satisfied with the result. The value of a car is something that is not really negotiable and both you and the adjuster can access information online that can give you this information. Kelly Blue Book or NADA will have tools you can use to value your car by make and model.
6. Should I give a statement about my injury to an adjuster without a lawyer?
NEVER GIVE A RECORDED STATEMENT TO AN ADJUSTER WITHOUT A LAWYER. This is the oldest trick in the book and standard practice for insurance adjusters. They actually get bonuses based upon how many injury victims they get on record talking about their injuries. The insurance companies want you to speak with their adjusters who are trained to get you to say things on the recorded line that minimize your injuries and then later once the injuries have been fully diagnosed and the adrenaline has worn off, they use your own statements against you and your injury case.
Insurance adjusters may make you feel like not giving a statement about your injury will slow the whole claim down. That is complete nonsense. Tell them so. The injury claim is 100% separate from the property damage claim. The other thing that you must be very careful about is that insurance companies really want to deny the claim. If they get you on a recorded line and get you to say something that appears different than what you told them when your purchased the policy then they can use that fact to deny coverage. It is best to have a lawyer like those at Staples Ellis on the phone with you before anything is recorded.
If anyone asks for you to provide a “recorded statement” so that they can get the claim started…..Refuse to provide the recorded statement without a lawyer and if they insist then tell them you will call a lawyer right away since they are giving you no choice.
7. Does it cost money to get advice from Staples Ellis even if I am uncertain about my injury?
No and never. We only collect fees and costs if you have an injury and if we actually recover from your injury. All advice and counsel up to the point of recovery of money is free and part of what we do. Staples Ellis provides free advice to clients and non-clients as part of our business and it is customary in this field of law to provide this service. Once we are retained and you sign our firm’s contingency fee contract, you then are promising to pay us but ONLY IF WE WIN AND GET YOU MONEY. If we lose or do not get a monetary recovery then you don’t owe us anything.
8. If I get discharged from the ER after a wreck and they say I am OK, does that mean I don’t need an injury lawyer?
NO. The emergency room is not there to diagnose every injury. Nope, the emergency room has one mission to make sure that everyone seeking treatment there is not going to DIE or lose a limb within the next 24-48 hours. If you don’t fall into that category of severity (DEATH OR LIMB LOSS) then you will be discharged from the ER with a general diagnosis and told to follow up with your primary doctor or a specialist.
This is the very start of your injury case and most of my client’s that end up with verdicts and settlements well into the six figures left the ER with the same or similar paperwork noting “cervical strain” “lumbar strain” or “Whiplash injury”. The reason the ER is not in the business of providing full diagnosis for every patient is that doing so would prevent them from accomplishing their main mission, preventing immediate death or limb loss. Being discharged from the ER just means that the doctor felt that you were not going to die or lose a limb in next 24-48 hours. This is a very, very low bar and you should not read into your discharge from the ER as meaning anything about the extent of your car wreck injury.
9. The ER told me to follow up with my primary doctor. When I called their office, they told me they don’t accept car wreck related injuries. I have been a patient there for many years and don’t understand why they won’t see me.
Unfortunately this is extremely common. There are two basic reasons. First, as we have explained above that PIP insurance is the only insurance that can pay for any of the initial $10,000.00 in medical treatment. Health insurance claims will be denied until the $10,000.00 in PIP has been used and the health insurance carrier gets proof that the PIP has been exhausted. Most healthcare facilities are not set up to bill automobile insurance and their systems are set up to bill health insurance. So, from a bookkeeping perspective, many physician offices prefer to steer clear of the automobile cases for this reason. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Doctor’s offices just do not like to deal with litigation cases. The reason they do not like to deal with these cases is that they have to spend time answering calls from our office, responding to medical records requests and sometimes they even have to provide testimony concerning their treatment.
Staples Ellis are available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for FREE CONSULTATION. You can reach us at ______________ and a lawyer will answer your questions free of charge.
Driving in the Sunshine State can be a pleasant experience — until a car accident occurs. In fact, thousands of people are injured or killed in car accidents on Florida’s roads and highways each year. Nonetheless, all drivers have a duty of care not to cause injuries to others. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, it is important to know your options for obtaining compensation.
Pensacola Car Accident Attorneys
Located in Pensacola, Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A. has over 70 years of combined experience representing car accident victims in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton Counties and throughout Northwest Florida. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident in Northwest Florida, Staples Ellis is here to help you overcome the harm you have endured. Contact our office as soon as possible to set up a consultation.