Following an auto collision with injuries, it may seem the insurance company is concerned about your wellbeing, however, they may want you to settle for less than you deserve.
Following a collision consider the following:
- If you are injured, go to the hospital immediately! In order to receive Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) benefits, you must seek treatment within fourteen days of the collision.
- Make sure a traffic crash report is conducted, it is important to get all of the adverse driver’s information.
- If you can, take pictures of the accident scene. Try and document as much of the scene as possible.
- If you can, get as much witness information as possible.
There are several questions that most people ask after being involved in a motor vehicle collision:
- What if PIP is not enough to cover your medical bills?
- What if the at-fault party doesn’t have enough coverage?
- What is my case worth?
Your medical bills exceed the amount of PIP coverage . . .
Florida law mandates that all drivers carry $10,000 in PIP coverage. After an auto accident, your own insurance company will pay your PIP claim. PIP covers 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your lost wages, up to $10,000. As most of us know, that entire $10,000 can be exhausted by one trip to the emergency room. If this happens, it is important to employ an attorney to investigate the accident and contact the at-fault party’s insurance company to submit a claim, if one has not already been submitted.
Just as your attorney will begin investigating your claim and gathering evidence, so will the insurance company. Your attorney will present the insurance company with all relevant evidence and provide them with a reasonable demand based on your economic and non-economic damages (we’ll talk about these further down). The insurance company will try to reduce their liability, it is up to your attorney to present evidence and fight to get your claim paid. If a settlement agreement cannot be reached, your attorney can then file a lawsuit.
The at-fault driver either doesn’t have insurance or does not have enough coverage to settle your claim . . .
Where an at-fault party violates the law by not having insurance or only has the bare minimum coverage allowable under Florida Law, recourse may still be available. Most insurance companies offer Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. If you elect into this coverage, and the at-fault party does not have the coverage to settle your claim, you can then file a claim against your own insurance company for the remainder you believe are owed. Again, the insurance company is going to try and reduce their liability, so it is up to your attorney to fight for what you are owed.
What is my case worth?
To this question, the generic attorney response fits here. It depends. It is hard to determine (and very bad practice for an attorney) what a client’s settlement amount would be at the inception of the claim. Injuries from an auto accident can range anywhere from whiplash to wrongful death. So the first thing your attorney should do is try and determine the extent of your injuries. From there, there would be an analysis of your economic and non-economic damages, and whether a request for punitive damages is justifiable.
Economic damages would be any monetary loss or damage. These damages would be in the form of medicals bills, future medical bills, lost wages from missed work or loss of earning capacity for the inability to return to work. For the most part, these damages can be easily calculated. Then there are non-economic damages, which are losses that are not financial, these come in the form of emotional pain, pain and suffering, loss of consortium and loss of enjoyment of life. These damages can be more difficult to calculate.
Punitive damages are damages the at-fault party are ordered to pay as a punishment for their conduct. Florida Statute 768.72(2) states an at-fault party may “be held liable for punitive damages only if the trier of fact, based on clear and convincing evidence, finds that the defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence.” What this means is, a jury may award punitive damages if a there is clear and convincing evidence that the at-fault party intentionally caused the accident or acted so recklessly that they consciously disregarded your rights, safety or life. Fla. Stat. 768.72(2)(b).
If you have been injured in an auto accident, contact Cassman Law, PLLC, for a free consultation.