Written by attorney Howard L. Citron

Frequently Asked Questions - Florida Accident Law

Q: What is Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist coverage? Is it good thing to have on my car insurance policy?

A: We believe that Uninsured and/or Underinsured Motorist coverage (sometimes referred to as UM coverage) is critical to have in the State of Florida. We recommend to everyone that they should carry as much uninsured motorist coverage as you can afford and that your insurance company will sell you. UM coverage protects you and your family if you are injured by a driver who is uninsured (carries no bodily injury coverage) or who does not carry enough bodily injury coverage to fully compensate you for your injuries and in hit and run cases. UM coverage will pay for the same damages that the negligent party/driver would have been responsible for paying including medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering damages.

Q: How much UM coverage should I carry?

A: We recommend to everyone that is a client of the firm and everyone that will listen to us that they should carry as much UM coverage as you can afford and that your insurance company will sell you. All automobile insurance companies are required to offer UM coverage to their customers in an amount equal to the amount of the bodily injury liability coverage the customer purchases. DO NOT reject UM coverage. If you or a loved one was struck by a negligent driver who had no liability coverage or was underinsured, your own personal UM coverage might be the only recourse you have to pay for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering damages.

Q: I was involved in an automobile accident that was NOT my fault, but now my insurance company is treating me like I caused the crash. Do I have to remain with the same insurance company I was with at the time of the accident?

A: No. You have the right to change insurance companies at any time. You must remember, however, that the insurance company that you had coverage with on the date of the accident will be the insurance company that will be responsible for handling all corresponding claims. You should never feel that you are bound to one insurance company. With so many companies offering insurance to drivers inFlorida, it is best to find a company that you like and that you feel comfortable with.

Q: My vehicle was struck from behind and my back and neck are really bothering me. However, the damage to my automobile is minimal. Is the insurance company going to handle my claim differently than one where the property damage and injuries are both more significant?

A: The answer is probably not. Although automobile accident cases with non-life threatening injuries and minimal property damage are some of the most challenging, insurance companies evaluate these claims in special departments. Insurance companies do not share how they process each and every claim, in our experience insurance adjusters do not place significant value on claims with minor property damage and injuries that are not catastrophic in nature.

It is our feeling that by offering di minimus settlement offers to resolve these kinds of claims, insurance companies are driving some claimants to abandon these cases instead of placing them into suit. At Citron & Bloom, we treat every case like it is our most important in the office – no matter how big or small. We file lawsuits on cases that involve soft tissue injuries and believe that claimants who are injured by someone else’s negligence should be adequately compensated. We evaluate each matter on a case by case basis in deciding which cases to file lawsuits in.

Q: A family member of mine was crossing the street as a pedestrian when she was struck by a car. Following the accident, she was taken to the hospital. How is she supposed to pay for her resulting medical bills?

A: Most Floridians do not appreciate the fact that Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits can be used by pedestrians to pay their medical bills as long as the injuries and corresponding bills resulted from a motor vehicle accident. If an injured pedestrian owns a car in the State of Florida, she would have access to PIP benefits through her own insurance company. If the injured victim pedestrian does not own a vehicle in the State of Florida, then the pedestrian could potentially access PIP benefits through the driver that struck her. Please kind in mind that PIP benefits are payable regardless of fault. Florida law provides that PIP benefits are available to pay 80% of a victim's medical bills and 60% of the victim's lost wages - up to a total of $10,000.00. PIP benefits can also be used to pay for replacement services and mileage or transportation expenses incurred for medical treatment.

Q: I was driving down Interstate 595 in Broward County, Florida and was run off the road by another driver. I suffered injuries to my neck and back, my car was damaged and the negligent driver left the scene of the accident. What should I do when I am the victim of a hit and run accident?

A: The answer is very dependent on what type of automobile insurance coverage the victim was carrying at the time of the accident. To begin with, the victim’s own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage should pay 80% of the associated medical expenses and 60% of all lost wages. This coverage can be used even if you were involved in a hit and run accident and/or if an accident was caused by a phantom vehicle. If you purchased Uninsured Motorist Coverage (usually referred to as UM coverage) from your insurance company at the time of the accident, you may be able to recover from your own insurance company. Simply put, when you are the victim of a hit and run driver, your own UM benefits “take the place of" the coverage that the negligent party should have carried. This still means that you have to prove that the other driver was at fault and caused the accident negligent, that the other driver's negligence caused you to be injured and the degree of your injuries/damages just like any other personal injury case.

Q: What does it cost to speak with a personal injury lawyer at your law firm?

A: Every initial consultation that we have with our clients and our potential clients is completely free. You will never have to pay any money to our firm (fees and costs), unless we are able to successfully recover money and/or benefits for you.

Q: What should I do if my own insurance company calls me and wants to speak to me or take a statement?

A: You have a contractual duty to cooperate with your own insurance company after a car accident including speaking with an adjuster on the phone and/or giving a statement to your carrier. Your failure to cooperate with your own insurance company can result in the insurance company cancelling or voiding your coverage.

It is our recommendation that you speak with an attorney before speaking with your insurance company and certainly before signing any documents or papers for them. You absolutely do not want to give up any of the legal rights that you may have to recover money and damages from your own insurance company by signing a document that helps them and hurts you.

Q: I was just in a car accident. What should I do if the negligent party's insurance company calls me on the phone?

A: It is our opinion that you seek legal counsel and speak with a personal injury attorney before ever talking with the negligent party’s insurance adjuster. Unlike your own insurance company, you have no legal duty to cooperate with them – and we strenuously recommend against it. In our firm’s years of experience handling personal injury matters, we find that the primary objective of these telephone calls is to either try to convince you to resolve your claim quickly for little money or to minimize your injuries. Often times, it is unfair for an injured party to discuss the permanent and longstanding effects of their injuries immediately following an accident. In many cases, it can take days, weeks or even months before someone’s injuries are fully appreciated.

Q: I was just in a car accident. Who is going to pay my medical bills?

A: In most motor vehicle accidents in the State ofFlorida, your own personal automobile insurance is responsible for paying the majority of the medical bills associated with the accident. In the State ofFlorida, vehicle owners are required to maintain Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance on their vehicles. This coverage can expand to cover non-owner drivers, passengers in the vehicles, and even people outside of the vehicle that are injured in a crash. Your own PIP coverage will pay some of your bills regardless of who was at fault in the motor vehicle accident. Your own insurance company will generally pay 80% of your medical bills. A claim for the outstanding balances must be recovered from the negligent party.

Q: I was in a car accident and the police officer wrote me a traffic ticket. Does the fact that I received the ticket mean that I cannot bring a case?

A: The answer is not necessarily, however, this certainly makes your claim harder to prosecute. UnderFlorida law, traffic tickets are inadmissible as evidence in a personal injury case. Therefore, a jury never knows if any of the parties involved in a car accident were cited. Of course, the insurance company involved is aware of who was given the traffic citation, and therefore, may make it more difficult to resolve your case without the need to file a lawsuit.

Q: Is bringing a claim following a car accident going to make my insurance rates go up?

A: A motor vehicle accident that is NOT your fault should never cause your insurance rates to increase. Please remember that insurance companies change and raise insurance rates and premiums for a variety of different reasons.

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