Insurance companies play a key role in the aftermath of any South Florida car accident – no matter who is at-fault. Although you may be able to manage a very minor fender-bender claim on your own directly with an adjuster, anything involving injuries or substantial property damage warrants a consultation with an attorney.
The reason is that regardless of the feel-good slogans of auto insurers, they are not “on your side.” This is true even if it’s your own insurer you’re dealing with. The fact that you’re the one paying the premiums every month generally doesn’t make insurers any more inclined to issue a payout.
Possible Insurance Claims in a Florida Car Accident
The types of claims you can file in a South Florida car accident will depend heavily on what exactly happened, how seriously you were hurt and the terms of the insurance policies involved.
Because Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to car accident insurance, your first claim will likely be with your own insurer for personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. This will cover medical expenses and a portion of lost wages/disability – up to $10,000 – even if you are at-fault. That doesn’t mean your insurer is going to willingly cut you a check. You may be in for a fair amount of negotiation if you hope to be fully compensated.
If the other driver was at fault AND your injuries meet the criteria of the serious injury threshold as outlined in F.S. 627.737, you may be entitled to step outside the no-fault system. That mans you can file a claim with the other driver’s insurance company for bodily injury liability benefits. You will have to prove negligence (that the other driver caused the crash and your resulting injuries), defend your own actions (you were not comparatively negligent) and the extent of your damages. Know that even if you were partially at-fault, you can still collect damages, but that amount will be comparatively reduced.
If the at-fault driver does not have insurance, doesn’t have enough insurance to compensate you for your injuries or you were injured in a hit-and-run, you can file a claim with your own auto insurer for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. This type of coverage isn’t mandatory on every Florida policy, but it’s standard and you must waive it in writing. Again, even if you are entitled to UM/UIM benefits, don’t expect the claim to go smoothly just because you’re dealing with your own insurer.
There may be other claims you can make too, depending on the circumstances. For example, if you were on a work errand, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. If the person who struck you was impaired and underage, you may be able to file a dram shop claim against the establishment that served the driver alcohol. Talking with an injury attorney will give you a better idea of what type of claims you may be entitled to file.
What an Injury Lawyer Can Do For You
A personal injury lawyer can help those involved in car accidents by:
- Informing the claimant of his/her legal rights pertinent to the claim;
- Advise the claimant on which steps to take – or not (such as giving a statement to the insurance company);
- Handling communications with the insurer so the claimant does not adversely impact his/her case;
- Ascertain whether settlement offers fairly compensate the victim (and make counter-offers when they do not).
Most auto insurance polices require that claimants cooperate with the insurer in their investigation. Our West Palm Beach car accident lawyers can advise you on how you can meet your obligations without putting yourself at a disadvantage.
Note too that attorneys who handle personal injury claims arising from a Florida car accident are paid on a contingency fee basis, meaning they are are paid a portion of the recovery that you are paid – or nothing at all. But even though injury attorneys aren’t owed anything upfront, some find it tempting to avoid paying one altogether by trying to handle the car accident claim themselves. The problem with this is that without experience, crash victims usually don’t understand the value of their claim or the legal ramifications of a settlement. Insurers know this, and will often attempt to pressure non-represented claimants into settlements that are far below what they’re worth. An experienced car accident attorney knows how to effectively negotiate to ensure clients get a fair shake.
Contact the South Florida personal injury attorneys at Halberg & Fogg PLLC by calling toll-free at 1-877-425-2374. Serving West Palm Beach, Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Fort Myers/ Naples. There is no fee unless you win.