PIP, also known as Personal Injury Protection, is a form of no-fault auto insurance that you might use to cover your economic damages after a car accident.
PIP insurance is mandatory, or virtually mandatory, in “no-fault” auto insurance states, including Florida. It is designed to speed up the issuance of compensation and reduce the number of lawsuits.
How Florida’s “No-Fault” Auto Insurance System Works
Under Florida’s no-fault system, you must look to your own PIP insurance to cover your bodily injuries arising from a car accident. Likewise, the other driver must look to their own PIP insurance to cover their bodily injuries.
This rule applies no matter who was at fault for the accident. Under most circumstances, you can’t sue the at-fault driver or file a claim against their liability insurance policy.
In certain instances, however, you can exit Florida’s no-fault system and file a claim against the at-fault driver (see below).
Florida’s Mandatory Minimum Car Insurance Coverage
Florida doesn’t require its drivers to purchase very much insurance. The mandatory minimum coverage is only:
- $10,000 in PIP insurance; and
- $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) insurance.
PDL insurance covers your property damage liability, and it is not part of the no-fault system. In other words, it covers your liability for damaging someone else’s property if the accident was your fault. It does not cover damage to your own property, no matter whose fault the accident was.
Who PIP Covers
PIP doesn’t just cover your injuries. It also covers injuries to:
- Your children, while riding in your car or a school bus;
- Anyone who lives in your household; and
- Passengers in your car who don’t have PIP insurance because they don’t own a vehicle (in most cases).
PIP also covers you while you’re riding in someone else’s car or if you get hit by a car while walking or riding a bicycle.
What PIP Covers
What kind of losses does PIP cover if you suffer an injury?
- 80% of your medical expenses, as long as they are “reasonable and necessary;” and
- 60% of your lost earnings that you can trace to your injuries.
If you die in an accident, PIP also offers $5,000 in death benefits to your close relatives or to your probate estate.
The 14-Day Rule
Don’t ignore the 14-day rule; it is an important limitation on your PIP coverage. Under the 14-day rule, you’re only eligible to receive compensation for medical expenses if you receive medical treatment within 14 days of the accident. You don’t have to have completed medical treatment within 14 days—all you need is to receive initial medical treatment. A trip to the emergency room will work just fine, for example.
Keep up with your medical treatment and strictly follow doctor’s orders. Failing to do so could damage or even ruin your personal injury claim. Failing to follow your doctor’s orders, for example, could be used to limit your compensation on the basis that you failed to mitigate your damages.
What if $10,000 isn’t enough? After all, some injuries cost far more than $10,000. Fortunately, Florida law provides a remedy for this circumstance, at least in theory. If your injuries are “serious,” as defined by Florida law, you can escape the no-fault system and file a claim against the at-fault driver.
Florida law offers a very specific definition of what constitutes a “serious” injury. If your injuries qualify under this definition, Florida releases you from its no-fault restrictions. This means you can:
- Sue the at-fault driver (or whoever you believe was at fault) immediately;
- File a third-party claim against the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability insurance, if any; and
- Seek non-economic damages such as pain and suffering and emotional distress.
A “serious” injury under Florida law includes a fatal injury, the permanent loss of a bodily function, significant scarring, or bodily disfigurement. The subjective definition of the term “serious” will probably require you to retain a lawyer if you seek more than $10,000 in bodily injury compensation.
Bodily Injury Liability Insurance
The biggest disadvantage of Florida’s auto accident compensation system is its failure to require motorists to purchase bodily injury liability insurance. Florida stands alone as the only state in the US without such a requirement.
This means that even if your injuries are “serious” under Florida law, you might find that the at-fault driver carries no bodily injury liability insurance. If the driver lacks the personal assets to pay your claim, and if you did not purchase uninsured motorist insurance, you might be out of luck.
Most St. Petersburg Car Accident Lawyers Won’t Charge You Unless They Win Your Case
In personal injury law, it’s the strength of your claim, not the thickness of your wallet, that matters most. Most personal injury lawyers charge their legal fees as a pre-agreed percentage of whatever amount they win for you. That means you don’t need any money to hire even the best St. Petersburg car accident lawyer as long as you have a strong claim. Call Lopez Law Group Accident Injury Attorneys at (727) 933-0015 today to schedule a free consultation and get the process started.