States in the U.S. have the autonomy to make their own laws about a myriad of things, including car insurance. Florida is one of the states in the nation that has elected to follow a no-fault car insurance system. Under a no-fault system, drivers turn to their own insurance companies for compensation after a crash, rather than filing a claim with the responsible driver’s insurance, regardless of who caused the accident.
The no-fault system certainly has its benefits, including the fact that even if you cause a wreck, you are allowed to seek compensation for your medical expenses through your PIP (personal injury protection) coverage. However, in exchange for no-fault benefits, drivers give up their right to file a lawsuit after a crash, meaning that the amount of damages that they can recover is limited.
Are There Any Exceptions to the No-fault System?
While at-fault drivers are almost always protected from liability after a crash due to the no-fault laws, there are some exceptions to this. In the event that you sustain a serious injury, you are legally permitted to step outside of the no-fault system and pursue a civil lawsuit against the at-fault party (a negligent driver or other responsible party). By pursuing a civil lawsuit, you can seek damages for the full value of your medical expenses and lost wages (which are only paid up to your PIP limit when you file with your own insurance company), as well as compensation for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
What Is a “Serious” Injury in Florida?
You can also pursue a civil action if you suffer a serious injury, the definition of which is provided under Florida code section 627.737(2). A serious injury is one which results in:
• Permanent scarring and disfigurement;
• Significant and permanent loss of a bodily function; or
• Serious permanent injury other than disfigurement and scarring.
If you have incurred one of the injury types above – or lost a loved one in a car accident – then you can pursue an auto accident tort.
What Else Do I Need to Know?
Filing a lawsuit is more complex than is filing a PIP claim with your own insurance company. In addition to proving that you have suffered serious injuries in order to file the claim, to begin with, you will also need to file your claim within Florida’s statute of limitations – if you don’t, you risk forfeiting your right to compensation. Further, you will need to prove the negligence of the at-fault party, which requires a thorough investigation, the help of experts, and a knowledge of personal injury law.
Robert J Russell is a licensed broker in the State of Florida – to find out more about car insurance – visit: InsurancePricedRight.com