Through the years we have handled thousands of car accident cases. Our experience has taught us that many people get off on the wrong foot following a car accident because they take the advice of laypeople. Unfortunately, while well-intentioned, this advice is often simply wrong. Here are some of the myths we encounter regularly:
MYTH 1: FAULT DOES NOT MATTER BECAUSE FLORIDA IS A “NO FAULT” STATE
It is accurate to describe Florida as a “no fault” case, but the description is also misleading. Florida still has an antiquated Personal Injury Protection (PIP) system. Under this system, each person involved in a car accident looks to their own insurance policy for payment of PIP benefits. PIP pays a maximum of $10,000 in benefits – medical care is paid at the rate of 80% of covered charges and lost wages are paid at 60%. It is more complicated than this, but the simple point being that PIP pays regardless of fault. If you are rear-ended by a drunk driver, for example, you are required to look to your own PIP for payment of your initial medical care. In all other respects, the determination of fault matters. This includes issues regarding repair or replacement of your vehicle, as well as any claim for personal injuries. In Florida, insurance companies regularly deny claims when they conclude their insured is not at fault.
MYTH 2: I CAN’T MAKE A CLAIM BECAUSE THE CAR THAT HIT ME FLED THE SCENE
Sadly, in South Florida, this happens with shocking regularity. Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith has enjoyed great success in pursuing claims under our clients’ uninsured motorist (UM) coverage when the police are unable to locate the “phantom vehicle” that fled the scene. Indeed, obtaining coverage for a “phantom vehicle’s” negligence is a classic use of UM coverage.
MYTH 3: I CAN’T MAKE A CLAIM BECAUSE THE CAR THAT HIT ME HAS NO BODILY INJURY INSURANCE OR ELSE HAS MINIMAL INSURANCE
Florida’s automobile insurance laws are abysmal. PIP, mentioned above, is required, as is $10,000 of property damage coverage. Amazingly, no other coverage is mandated. Florida does not require bodily injury coverage and, unsurprisingly, leads the country in drivers without any such coverage – roughly 1 in 4. At least another 1 in 4 drivers only has $10,000 of bodily injury coverage. It is easy to see why UM coverage is so critically important. Our law firm has vast experience is locating UM coverage from every possible source. At times, it is possible to receive UM coverage even when a client did not purchase it.
MYTH 4: I CAN’T GET ANY MEDICAL TREATMENT BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE
This is the one good aspect of the PIP system. It at least provides coverage for initial medical care. Furthermore, some physicians are compassionate and will delay collection until the personal injury case is concluded. The lack of health insurance is not an insurmountable roadblock.
MYTH 5: I’M OUT OF LUCK BECAUSE I WAS PARTIALLY AT FAULT
We are told North Carolina still follows this doctrine. It is called Contributory Negligence. Under Contributory Negligence, being even 1% at fault is a bar to maintaining a successful personal injury case. It is obviously a very harsh doctrine. Thankfully, since 1973, Florida has followed the doctrine of Comparative Negligence. In Florida, being partially at fault does not preclude bringing a personal injury case. If, for example, the claimant is 1% at fault, he can still recover 99% of the total damages.
If you have questions following a car accident, call us. Lesser, Lesser, Landy and Smith is here to help. Relying on a buddy who “knows a lot of law” can lead to a lot of misinformation – or worse.
This blog was written by Firm Partner Mickey Smith.