Understanding Compensation After a Tampa Bay Auto Accident: Who Pays for My Medical Bills in Florida?
Auto accidents are one of the largest causes of unexpected medical bills. In the United States alone, approximately two million people suffer personal injuries in auto accidents and another 40,000 are wrongfully killed. Of these national statistics, Florida auto accidents account for about 236,000 injuries and 3,000 deaths. These are staggering figures which mean each day in Florida alone there are 647 people injured and eight people killed. Our Tampa Bay auto accident lawyers know this also means that many victims and their families are burdened with the high costs of emergency medical treatment, surgeries, and potentially years of physical therapy or revisionary procedures to try to repair the damage done. This is often coupled with the realization that the person injured in an auto accident may also be unable to work to pay these quickly accumulating costs.
This is why one of the most common questions a victim may have after an auto accident is who can pay for my medical bills. Florida has taken great steps to help protect victims of a motor vehicle accident by enacting certain legislation to allow victims easier routes to recover compensation for medical bills. However, most people do not know what to do until they have already been in an accident.
Here at Dumas & Sanclemente Law, we hope that no one has to live through another car accident. But we know that is not realistic given that 2 million people are injured every year in series wrecks. Thus, we want everyone to know what their rights are to have their medical bills paid before they are ever in a Florida auto accident to help ease the burdens of physical, emotional, and financial stress on a victim and his or her family.
Florida Car Insurance 101: What a “No Fault” State Means
Generally, the United States has two forms of car insurance. There are “at-fault” states and “no-fault” states. The difference dictates where a person injured in an auto accident will turn for medical bills and lost wages. At-fault states require parties to turn to the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Whereas no-fault states like Florida require parties to turn to their own car insurance to submit a claim. The goal of a no-fault state is for victims to immediately begin having medical bills and lost wages paid for, and liability could be determined later in a lawsuit or between insurers.
Components of No Fault Insurance
Under Florida law, all motorists must have insurance for their motor vehicle in order to register and operate the vehicle on Florida roadways. Coverage must be for both personal injury protection (PIP) and property damage liability (PDL).
What is the Minimum Car Insurance Required in Florida
While motorists are free to purchase as much insurance as they can afford, the minimum car insurance required in Florida is the following:
- $10,000 for personal injury protection or PIP, and
- $10,000 for property damage liability or PDL.
What is Covered by Florida No Fault Insurance?
Under Florida law, PIP covers eighty percent (80%) of all necessary and reasonable medical expenses for a covered injury caused by an auto accident. The amount covered or reimbursed is up to the amount purchased by the motorist, which at a minimum must be $10,000. Additionally, PDL will cover up damage caused to another vehicle or property up to the amount chosen by the motorist, the minimum being $10,000.
What to Do if Personal Injuries are More Than the Coverage?
In some instances, the personal injuries sustained by a victim of a Tampa Bay auto accident may be more than the amount of no-fault coverage. In this situation there are two options for motorists.
Option 1: Commence a Legal Action
Where the personal injuries sustained are more than the PIP limits of a policy, a victim may commence a personal injury action where he or she suffered a “serious injury” against the at-fault driver. This is a threshold consideration that keeps mild or moderate injuries out of litigation and in the no-fault realm. It is important to seek a lawyer’s assistance to determine if you have a serious injury and may be entitled to compensation in a Florida lawsuit.
Option 2: UM/UIM Coverage
Uninsured (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage, sometimes referred to as supplemental uninsured/underinsured motorist (SUM) coverage, is an additional and voluntary option for motorists to purchase on top of their PIP. This policy add-on covers a driver and his or her family if the damages go above the PIP and bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage that the at-fault driver has. The total amount of UM/UIM is the total amount of compensation that a victim may be entitled to recover. This means if you have a total of $100,000 in medical bills and obtain $10,000 from PIP, you would be entitled to recover another $90,000 (total $100,000) if your UM/UIM policy was for $100,000.
This coverage is only for the individual who purchases it, meaning buying this coverage benefits just you and your family. Our Tampa Bay auto accident lawyers recommend obtaining as much UM/UIM as you can reasonably afford, trying at least for $200,000 in coverage in possible but $400,000-$500,000 is best.
When Workers Compensation Could Apply
In addition to no-fault insurance paying medical bills, if a victim was injured while within the scope of employment workers compensation may be the exclusive remedy. This is tricky because it can usurp no-fault insurance. It is also not preferred, as workers compensation will place a lien on your file and if you are able to collect compensation in a lawsuit against a defendant, you may have to pay back all or a portion of your workers compensation lien.
Do You Have Medical Bills After a Florida Auto Accident? Ask Us for Help
At Dumas & Sanclemente Law, we understand that being involved in a Florida auto accident can be a frustrating and confusing time. This is particularly if your medical bills are higher than the policy coverage, or if an insurance adjuster is undervaluing or even disclaiming your valid claim. This is why our Tampa Bay auto accident lawyers offer FREE consultations to advise you of your rights and, if we accept your case, there is no upfront fee for our lawyers to begin to work on your case. We also pay all upfront costs and disbursements of litigation. We only get paid our counsel fees and reimbursement of costs and disbursements if we recover compensation for you. This means there is no financial risk for you to hire our law firm.
Learn more about how we can help you today during a FREE case evaluation by dialing (844) 400-2667. You can also send us a message with our convenient and easy-to-use message box at the bottom of our contact us page available here.