Understanding Florida’s No-Fault Law
Florida is one of a minority of states that have a “no-fault” system in place for auto insurance. There are a lot of misconceptions about this, not least of all that a no-fault system means that no one can be held responsible for an auto accident. In reality, it is very possible to hold someone liable for your injuries in a car accident, and to do so in an efficient way, even if your no-fault insurance covers many of your medical bills. The law is specific, but not difficult to use in your favor.
Injuries vs Property Damage
Florida’s no-fault system requires every driver to carry at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP). This is specifically for the purpose of covering medical bills if you are involved in an auto accident (as opposed to repairs to your automobile or the like). The rationale behind the required coverage is that if you are in an accident, you can then make a claim with your own insurer – regardless of who caused the accident – rather than having to go through the often-laborious process of tracking down the driver who hit you, determining whether they have insurance, making a claim with them, and so on.
When you are in an accident, and it is determined that someone else was responsible for causing the accident, they are not required to pay for any of your medical bills up front, because your own insurance is intended to do that. However, they may still be on the proverbial hook for covering the damage to your vehicle. In Florida, your PIP coverage must be exhausted before the negligent driver’s insurance will pay anything, but if that coverage is exhausted, then the other insurer should pay if their client is deemed to have been negligent.
Exceptions To No-Fault Rules
While originally, no-fault rules were designed to cut down on the number of auto accident lawsuits filed, Florida law also takes into account the fact that sometimes injuries are too severe for medical bills to be covered by the required PIP coverage. If you are injured in a serious way, such as sustaining a “significant and permanent” loss of a bodily function, disfigurement, or another permanent injury, you are permitted to bring suit against the driver who hit your car, seeking medical expenses, lost wages, and other causes of action.
Be advised that you need to be certain to seek medical treatment as soon as possible, or you could lose your PIP benefits entirely. The law holds that if you do not seek treatment within 14 days of the accident, you lose your chance to collect your benefits – the rationale is that if your injuries were severe, you would have sought treatment as soon as possible. Whatever may be stopping you, it is not worth the wait – and since PIP benefits must be exhausted before you can collect from the other driver’s insurer, you would essentially then be out of luck.
Contact A Tampa Personal Injury Attorney
Florida’s no-fault system can be difficult to navigate, especially if you are new to the state. If you have been injured in an accident, contacting an experienced attorney to help guide you through the process of getting your bills paid is always a good idea. The Tampa personal injury attorneys at the Rinaldo Law Group can try and answer any questions you might have about the system. Contact us today for a free consultation.