First and foremost we always need to keep in mind auto insurance carriers are for profit businesses that exist for the sole purpose of making money for their investors. They are not here to do you any favors. They are not here to lookout for you. Their job is to make money. To do this they try to take in as much of YOUR money as possible and pay out as little of THEIR money as possible within the limits of the laws that regulate their industry.
Your interest and your insurance company’s interest are almost always not aligned. Once you accept this as reality the better able you will be to protect yourself and your family. The following will are some common assumptions most of us make.
NO FAULT STATE
Most people in Florida have heard that we are a “No Fault,” state. BUT what does that really mean? In a recent trial while picking a jury there were a lot of questions about, “Why is there a lawsuit if this is a “No Fault” state?” also “Why doesn’t a person’s own insurance cover everything?” This was especially troubling as the law prohibits me, as an attorney, from answering these questions by explaining what the ‘No Fault’ law does and does not cover for this jury. This experience is one of the reasons that I have written this article.
In Florida, our No Fault statute is governed by Florida Statutes Sections 627.730-627.7405 and is known as the “Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law.” Typically, this type of coverage is called Personal Injury Protection coverage or PIP. What PIP has to cover is up to $10,000.00 in combined medical bills, lost wages and mileage for treatment. After a $1,000.00 deductible and including a 20% copay. Lost wages are covered at 60% up to $4,000.00.
What this means is if somebody hits YOU even if it is THEIR fault YOU will still have to pay the first $1,000.00 of medical bills and 20% of the rest of the medical bills up to that $10,000.00 limit. After that $10,000.00 in PIP coverage your bills are your responsibility. Further, by the time your PIP coverage has exhausted YOU will have had a total of $13,000.00 in medical bill/lost wages and YOU personally will owe $3,000.00, even if the accident was the other person’s fault. To get this money back and to get any bills above what PIP pays you will have to make a claim against the other person and hope they have Bodily Injury coverage.
BODILY INJURY COVERAGE
In Florida, people are not required to have Bodily Injury coverage. If the at fault party has Bodily injury coverage it can be as little as $10,000.00. Whatever they have, don’t expect the insurance company to just turn it over. Their insurance company will argue that
1) Their insured wasn’t at fault
2) That the accident was fully or partially your fault
3) That if you were using the safety equipment right you wouldn’t have been hurt
4) That you’re not really hurt
5) That your injury was pre-existing or happened after the accident.
6) That you not continuing to treat, which proves you weren’t really hurt.
7) That you over treated and that the treatment was not reasonable.
8) That your doctors have over charged.
9) That your doctors are lying.
10) That your injury isn’t worth what you’re asking.
11) That you won’t need any future medical treatment… etc etc etc
Remember, they aren’t there for you. They are looking to pay as little as possible for their stockholders. By the way, this is your best case scenario. If the at fault person doesn’t have Bodily Injury coverage or too little coverage you’re still responsible for those bills. So then what? Sue them? Well for what? Most people who don’t have Bodily Injury coverage don’t have it because they do not have the money. You can’t take what they don’t have no matter how unfair that is. So now what?
UNDERINSURED UNINSURED MOTORIST PROTECTION
Hopefully you have purchased Under Insured Uninsured Motorist Protection, or UM. UM is the most important coverage you NEED to have. It is supposed to cover you and yours when the other side doesn’t have enough to compensate you for your injuries. I said supposed to cover you. What do I mean by that? YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY ISN’T THERE FOR YOU EITHER. They also have stockholders. They will make the same arguments as the BI carrier would. Effectively, whatever coverage you buy plan on 40% of it going towards legal fees.
As you can see, No Fault doesn’t mean don’t worry the insurance companies are going to take care of you. It means $10,000 in bills and you are still going to owe a lot of money unless you make the other side pay.