Changes passed by the Florida Legislature in January 2013 to the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law are far more favorable to auto insurance companies than to consumers injured in car accidents. Commonly known as Florida’s PIP law, the changes can be found at §627.730, Florida Statutes. (PIP is an acronym for Personal Injury Protection). Fortunately, a Florida judge has issued a temporary injunction regarding further implementation of several limits on available PIP benefits and the exclusion of some medical professionals from the list of approved healthcare providers. The 2013 changes to Florida’s No-Fault Law are hailed as a victory for the auto insurance companies, and as expected, representatives of the insurance companies have vowed to take any necessary action to overturn the pending temporary injunction.
Some Changes in 2013 to Florida’s PIP Laws that You Need to Know
- You must seek initial medical treatment within 14 days of the accident.
- Your initial diagnosis must be made by the following: a licensed medical doctor (M.D.) a Doctor of Osteopath (D.O.), Dentist (DMD), Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), or provided in a hospital or in a medical facility owned by a hospital.
- In order to be eligible for your entire $10,000 of PIP benefits, you must be diagnosed with an “emergency medical condition. An emergency medical condition refers to any medical condition which presents itself as acute symptoms of sufficient severity. These acute symptoms may include severe pain to such a degree that the absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in any of the following:
(a) Serious jeopardy to patient health;
(b) Serious impairment to bodily functions; or
(c) Serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.
- If you are not diagnosed with an “emergency medical condition,” you are limited to only $2,500 in PIP benefits.
- Your follow-up medical treatment is limited to care consistent with the initial medical diagnosis and must be provided, supervised, or ordered by a licensed medical doctor (M.D.) a Doctor of Osteopath (D.O.), Dentist (DMD), Doctor of Chiropractic (DC), physician assistant (PA) or ARNP (advanced registered nurse practitioner).
- PIP medical benefits no longer include massage therapy or acupuncture. These forms of treatment will have to be paid out-of-pocket or by health insurance.
- Your PIP insurance company may require you to undergo an examination under oath, also known as an EUO. The scope of questioning during the examination under oath is limited to relevant information or information that could reasonably be expected to lead to relevant information. This has the potential to be a lengthy and invasive examination by the insurance company’s adjuster or lawyer about your entire medical history.
Do you have questions regarding how much PIP is available to you under your auto insurance? We want you to be an informed consumer. Call attorney Mike Hancock at 813-915-1110 with your auto insurance questions.
What should I do after a car crash?
- You should report the car accident immediately to the police if you have not already done so.
- Any and all witnesses to the accident should be identified by name, address and telephone number. Take photographs or videos of the scene and vehicles from as many angles as possible. Photographs showing the damage to your vehicle can be invaluable in assisting us in maximizing your recovery.
- If you require medical treatment, be clear and accurate in what you say about how the accident happened. Also, be sure to give your doctor a complete, accurate, and truthful description of how the accident happened, what problems you are having as a result of the accident, and make sure to tell your doctor about all prior similar injuries you may have had.
- You have a duty in Florida to be cooperative with your own insurance company. You have no such duty to cooperate or give a recorded statement to the insurance company of the driver who caused the accident.
- If you have suffered lacerations, burns or bruising, take photographs of your injuries, reflecting the injury and any bandages or braces that may have been placed. Such photographs will become invaluable in establishing your injuries after your injuries have healed.
- Gather all automobile insurance policies in your household for evaluation by an experienced Tampa car accident attorney to determine the full extent of insurance available to you.
What is the Statute of Limitations in Florida for suing the driver who caused my car crash?
Generally, the statute of limitations in Florida for a typical car crash caused by the negligence of a driver is 4 years from the date of the accident. This means that your lawsuit against the other driver or vehicle owner must be filed in the correct court within 4 years of the accident, or else your case may be forever barred. This is a difficult area of the law, so please consult with an accident attorney regarding the specific facts of your case.
What does maximum medical improvement (MMI) mean and how does it relate to my car accident case?
MMI is an acronym for Maximum Medical Improvement. Simply stated, it is a term used by your treating doctors to describe that your injuries and physical condition has improved as much as they ever will or, in other words, that you are as healthy and healed as you are ever going to be.
The driver who caused the car accident doesn’t have Bodily Injury (BI) liability insurance coverage. Can I still sue them?
There is no requirement in the State of Florida that a registered owner of an automobile carry bodily injury liability coverage to pay for your injuries. An accident victim’s chances of recovering a substantial settlement against an uninsured driver are slim, unless that person has substantial assets to pay any judgment rendered against them. Uninsured Motorist (UM) insurance coverage, if you carry it on your own automobile, will be available to you in the event that you sustain a serious injury caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Why do we have to use my insurance company if I did nothing wrong to cause this accident?
This is because Florida is a “no-fault” insurance state. According to Florida law, even when you are in a car accident that was caused by someone else, you are required by law to submit your own medical expenses to your own automobile insurance company under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. The individual who caused the accident and their insurance company is responsible for paying your medical bills and any lost wages that exceed your PIP policy and for your pain and suffering if you have sustained a permanent injury.
What is Personal Injury Protection (PIP)?
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) is sometimes referred to as “no-fault” insurance. PIP insurance covers you and any relatives residing in your household for injuries sustained in an automobile accident regardless of who is at fault. This coverage pays 80% of reasonable and necessary medical bills, 60% of lost wages, and 100% of household services, up to a limit of $10,000. Florida law requires every owner of a motor vehicle registered in Florida to carry PIP to protect themselves in the event of injuries sustained in an automobile accident. For injuries sustained in an automobile accident, PIP coverage is primary over any health insurance.
An adjuster from an insurance company wants to settle with me and says “I don’t need a car accident attorney.” What should I do?
No matter how sympathetic they may seem, adjusters who work for insurance companies have only one goal in mind when they offer to settle your case. It is their job to settle your car accident case with paying you the least amount of money possible. The job of insurance companies is to take your premiums/money is – not to pay money out. Calling or sending an e-mail to our office is free. You are under no obligation to use our legal services, and we want you to be educated so you can make the best decision for yourself.
What is a loss of consortium claim in Florida? How much is my spouse’s claim worth?
In personal injury cases in Florida, in addition to those damages available to the injured person, the law allows your spouse a claim, too – it’s called a claim for loss of consortium. A legal marriage is required, common-law relationships are not sufficient.
A spouse has a cause of action for loss of consortium when the other spouse suffers personal injury caused by the negligence of another. Consortium generally refers to the services, comfort, society, and attentions of a spouse. This includes more than just the marital sexual relationship, but also the companionship and fellowship of spouses to one another. The burden of proof is on the claiming spouse and may be claimed for both past and future losses. Examples may include: a spouse taking on more housework or childcare responsibilities, which the injured spouse can no longer perform; a spouse taking time off from work to stay home and care for the physical needs of the injured spouse; physical activities that the couple used to enjoy but can no longer enjoy together because of the injuries such as dancing, roller skating, traveling, going to movies in a theater; and, a negative impact of the frequency or duration of intimacy. The value of a loss of consortium claim is determined as a matter of fact by the jury. Historically, Florida juries do not make large awards for loss of consortium claims. One theory is that jurors believe that the marriage vow of “for better or for worse, through sickness and in health” plays in, and taking care of an injured spouse is just part of being married. However, by fully developing and presenting trial evidence of the thriving marital relationship prior to the injury (through deposition testimony, before and after witnesses, photographs and videos, and expert testimony, etc.) and then revealing evidence of a substantial change for the worse after the accident, an award of damages for loss of consortium may be substantial.