Last Update: 1/21/18
In Florida, car accident victims do not need to hire a lawyer to recover compensation for their injuries. They can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company on their own.
Things to Know When Filing an Auto Accident Claim without a Lawyer
Before you file your car accident claim here in Florida, there are some issues you should be aware of which might affect your claim. Some of those issues relate to the documents that you will need to submit before an insurance company will consider your claim as well as issues related to reimbursing medical providers for your treatment.
What Damages Can You Claim In A Florida Car Accident?
The purpose of filing a claim and recovering money is to make yourself whole again after a car accident. This is done by seeking reimbursement for the costs and expenses caused by your car accident. Thus, if you are filing your claim yourself, then you need to know the type of compensation that is available to you as well as the necessary information in order to prove your losses.
What are Damages?
Damages are the amount of compensation an injured person can collect from the at-fault driver, or from their insurance company.
There are two kinds of damages in a Florida Car Accident claim: economic damages and non-economic damages.
Economic Damages in a Car Accident Claim
Economic damages are the kinds of losses you can document through invoices, receipts, pay stubs, and other kinds of paperwork.
Examples of economic damages in a Florida auto accident include:
- Doctors’ bills
- Hospital Stay bill
- EMS invoice
- Rehabilitation expenses
- Future rehab costs
- Lost wages (income, salary) in the past
- Projected lost income in the future because of the accident
- value of vehicle that was totaled in the accident
- value of the computer, tablet, etc., that was destroyed in the crash.
Non-Economic Damages in a Car Accident Claim
Non-economic damages are more fluid in nature. They don’t come with a weekly report or monthly invoice, but they are just as real. Examples of non-economic damages in a Florida car crash are:
It is much harder to recover non-economic damages in a Florida Car Accident Claim because they are more difficult to prove. Insurance adjusters often dispute the amount of economic damages sought by a car accident victim. For example, insurance adjusters usually take the position that the victim is either exaggerating or lying about their pain and suffering.
Reasonableness in Damage Amounts
Remember, insurance adjusters work with claims all day long. They are familiar with most of the local medical providers, including the pain management doctors, chiropractors, and orthopedists. Insurance adjusters have read the medical providers’ opinions on permanent injury, and they are aware of the relationships these providers have with certain lawyers, which plays into how credible they believe a claim to be. In other words, they view certain doctors opinions to be more credible than other physicians’ opinions.
Adjusters have been trained to evaluate injury claims (like herniated discs and shoulder injuries), including the recovery time for the most common accidents. More simply put, they already have a pre-conceived idea of what your claim is worth, even before you even submit your documentation.
Along with education and experience, insurance companies use automated software to tally what they believe should be paid on claims. Their software will process your claim using its internal operations and compute the proper settlement amount based on the software’s data.
From a personal injury lawyers’ perspective, this software is problematic because every claim is unique, and each person (and their damages) is different. From the adjuster’s viewpoint, a claim should be evaluated against past claims to determine what a “reasonable” damage amount should be.
If a victim wants more than what the insurance company believes is a “reasonable” amount, then he or she will need to document why the claim is outside the protocols of their claim-analysis machine.
For details on how this works, read our posts:
- Top 10 Reasons Why Insurance Companies Don’t Pay Car Accident Claims
- Did You Know That Big Insurance Companies Use Software Programs To Decide How Much Your Injury Claim Is Worth?
What Happens If The Insurance Company Doesn’t Act In Good Faith Toward Your Claim?
In Florida, insurance adjusters are obligated to act fairly with those who file claims with that company. This is their “duty of good faith.”
However, insurance carriers and their adjusters are notorious for treating accident victims and claimants poorly. This is evident in certain types of accidents, like rear-end crashes, or some kinds of injuries, like soft tissue injuries.
For more here, read our post:Abusive Insurance Adjusters – Leveling The Playing Field
If the at-fault driver’s insurance company fails to act in good faith to settle the claim within it’s insured’s liability insurance limits, then there is a possibility that it would eventually have to pay any jury award over its policy limits. This situation usually involves a separate bad faith case where the at-fault driver would assign his or her rights to sue his or her insurance company for bad faith. This may mean you are facing two different lawsuits.
Do You Meet The Requirements To File A Personal Injury Lawsuit?
Initially, you need to determine if you can file a lawsuit against the other driver. Under the Florida No-Fault laws, not every car crash will meet the requirements for filing a personal injury lawsuit.
Florida outlines certain criteria to be met before you can file an auto accident lawsuit. You must be able to prove one of the following:
- permanent bodily injury;
- physical scarring that is significant and permanent; or
- physical disfigurement.
Do You Have To Pay Back Your Medical Care Providers?
After an accident, medical bills come in fast and they can really start to add up. Your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage (further described below) will help cover some of these medical expenses.
However, PIP doesn’t cover everything. It pays 80% of the submitted bill. The maximum amount PIP will pay on your accident medical expenses is $10,000.00.
If you have bought MedPay Coverage, then the remaining balance after PIP’s payment is covered on the MedPay plan. The amount that is covered depends on your individual policy.
After PIP and MedPay, you can submit your remaining medical bills to your own personal health insurance company.
If, and when, you settle your claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, then you will have to negotiate with your medical providers over the costs incurred in treating you for your injuries.
In most instances, you do not get to keep all of the settlement money.
Your insurance carriers (PIP, MedPay, etc.) will exert their “subrogation rights” over the portion of your settlement that reimburses them for the medical treatment they provided to try and make you whole again.
Proving Your Case
The insurance adjuster is not responsible for proving the merits of your claim. The adjuster will review your claim and do his or her best to limit how much is paid on the claim. Therefore, it’s important that you fully document your case before you enter into any settlement discussions.
This includes gathering everything you can to prove that the other driver was at fault. Meaning, you need to show the insurance company that their insured is responsible for the victim’s injuries, therefore they should pay the victim’s claim.
You must also prove your damages. Every dollar claimed should be supported with evidence as well.
This means getting witness statements, which usually come in the form of sworn affidavits from those who witnessed the accident.
Police reports of the accident can also be helpful to support your claim, along with the reports filed by the EMS technicians.
Additionally, medical records and bills from your doctors will be needed. These records should include the “prognosis” – how long you will need to fully recover, and what that will involve. Will you need to be on your back for six weeks or six months? How long before you can return to work? What is the level of your permanent disability (usually stated in percentage terms – i.e. 35% impairment)?
Getting Surveillance Video of the Scene
You may also want to get video of the accident if there were cameras at the scene. There are some areas here in South Florida with security cameras and surveillance cameras operating 24/7/365.
You will need to visit the accident site to determine which video cameras might be focused on the location where the crash occurred. Then, you will need to ask for copies of that video to use in proving your claim.
Police surveillance and government cameras will have different access protocols than privately owned cameras (like those at any shopping mall or big box store). If the owner or operator of that camera will not allow you free access, you can still obtain a copy. However, you may need legal help (and a subpoena) in order to do so.
Dealing with Two Insurance Companies
In Florida, victims of an auto accident will have to deal with two different insurance carriers. This is because Florida is a “No-Fault” State.
What does this mean? In Florida, there is a law that mandates as a driver, you must carry a minimum of automobile accident insurance coverage and you must file a claim with your PIP carrier after the accident if you desire to receive these benefits. This is true even if you are not the cause of the crash.
A. PIP Coverage
So, first things first, if you are injured in your car, you will have to file a claim for your Personal Injury Protection or “PIP” coverage. This covers a maximum of $10,000 toward your injuries and lost wages (the maximum can be limited to $2,500.00 if no “emergency medical condition” exists – and, of course, treatment occurs within 14 days).
Filing your PIP claim has legal requirements, including:
- You need to see a doctor within a limited time frame (14 days).
- You need to see a medical provider that is approved under the law (not every health care provider is covered).
For more on PIP coverage, check out our earlier posts including Can Your Florida Insurance Company Demand Examination Under Oath for PIP Benefits After a Florida Car Crash?
B. Other Driver’s Insurance Policy
The other driver may have insurance that covers the accident that he or she has caused. If so, you will have to file a claim to get the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier to pay for the injuries you sustained in the crash.
This is a separate claim from your PIP coverage, and it will need to be proven through evidence that shows their policyholder was at fault.
As mentioned above, in addition to proving the other driver was at fault, you will have to prove your damages.
Want to Know More?
Filing, proving, and settling a Florida car accident claim can be complicated, but individuals can do it successfully. Since we know how difficult the process can sometimes be, we created a free eBook to use as a guide. For more details, read our free eBook.
What Should You Do About Your Car Accident Insurance Claim?
In Florida, you don’t need a lawyer to settle your claims after a car crash. However, you may decide that retaining a lawyer will help alleviate the stress relating to recovering the compensation you are entitled to receive for your injuries.
A good piece of advice if you have been injured in a car accident is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the common disputes that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and how most insurance companies respond to these claims. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.