A car accident can inflict grievous personal injury on you or a loved one. It can also make you liable for costly medical bills, prevent you from earning vital income, and disrupt your life for weeks, months, or even longer. These are reasons to hire a PIP law firm as soon as possible after a car accident.
PIP Law in Florida
Physical, mental, and financial recovery from a serious car accident can be time-consuming and stressful. In many states, Personal Injury Protection (or PIP) is designed to cover basic medical expenses and other costs incurred from an accident. However, there are many guidelines and regulations that a claimant must successfully navigate in order to receive the full benefits from this provision.
The following information will discuss these points in more detail:
- What is PIP?
- What does PIP cover?
- Why should you hire a PIP law firm after an accident?
What Does PIP Stand For?
Personal Injury Protection is also known as “no-fault coverage.” The basic intent of PIP is to limit penalties on drivers that cause accidents (for instance, by preempting sky-high insurance premiums), while also providing some reimbursement for accident victims that have medical expenses and other costs as a result of the accident.
As of this writing, there are a dozen states that have some form of “no-fault” insurance laws on the books. These include:
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Dakota
In 3 of these states (Kentucky, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) PIP is optional. However, in the other 9 states, it is a mandatory policy for all drivers.
If an insurance provider refuses to pay out for a legitimate PIP claim, then the claimant has the right to file a PIP lawsuit. This lawsuit would involve contract law, instead of tort law. In other words, the plaintiff’s case would focus on the insurance provider’s alleged breach of contract, as opposed to negligent or reckless behavior that did not involve any prior written agreement between the two parties.
What Does PIP Cover?
In “no-fault” states, such as Florida, PIP coverage limits are strictly regulated. Per Florida law, PIP coverage can include:
- 80% of qualifying medical expenses, capped at $10,000
- 60% reimbursement for lost wages
- 100% coverage of qualifying replacement services (e.g., necessary activities that you are unable to perform as a result of the accident)
- Up to $5,000 in death benefits (such as funeral expenses)
To illustrate how this would work in a real-life scenario, imagine that a driver named John was the victim in a car accident. As a result, he incurred a $15,000 debt in medical bills, lost $10,000 in wages, and had to pay $500 to hire a dog walker for his two Great Danes. PIP coverage would potentially pay $10,000 for his medical expenses, $6,000 for his lost income, and the full $500 for the “replacement service” provided by the dog walker.
It’s important to note that many Florida residents confuse MedPay with PIP. However, MedPay offers an additional $5,000 worth of coverage for medical expenses and is a supplement to PIP insurance.
Why Should You Hire a PIP Law Firm After an Accident?
Even though it is not mandatory for you to hire a PIP lawyer to represent you after a car accident, there are several important reasons why taking this step may be wise in the long run. Here are 7 key factors that you should consider:
An experienced PIP lawyer can help you know what to do in order to qualify for full PIP coverage
Since PIP is so strictly regulated, it is important to carefully follow all applicable guidelines in order to qualify for full coverage. For example, qualifying medical expenses covered by PIP insurance only include “medically necessary services” that the claimant seeks within 14 days of the accident. If you consult with an experienced PIP lawyer as soon as possible after your accident, then he can leverage his expertise to help you take the correct steps in the days and weeks ahead.
Your medical costs may be much higher than PIP coverage limits
The fact is, medical services are expensive, and the costs of doctor, hospital, and specialist bills are continually climbing. Even with full PIP and MedPay coverage, it is very possible to accumulate thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars of debt from your remaining medical expenses. If that is the case, then you may need to sue the other driver for the remainder of your costs. A reputable PIP attorney can represent you in such a lawsuit, and help you to achieve the best results.
Your lawyer may need to educate you and/or your primary healthcare provider on the PIP procedure
In Florida, the auto insurance industry has a lot of influence in legislative circles. No doubt this influence is at least partly responsible for a revision to PIP law passed several years ago that reduces the coverage limit from $10,000 to $2,500 for non-emergency medical conditions. In other words, no matter how serious your condition is, your doctor or primary care provider must describe it as an “emergency medical condition,” in writing, in order for you to qualify for full PIP coverage. A knowledgeable PIP lawyer can educate you and/or your doctor on what legally constitutes an “emergency medical condition,” and help you to receive the full benefits to which you’re entitled.
Your insurance provider may be unwilling to reimburse you for medical bills and other expenses
Even if you are eligible for full PIP coverage, your insurance provider may take a hardliner’s stance and refuse to pay the full amount to which you are entitled. Even though this is not always the case, it is, unfortunately, a more common occurrence than you may think. Enlisting the assistance of a PIP lawyer that has years of experience in dealing with tough insurance providers can take a load off of your shoulders, and help you to receive every last cent that is owed to you by law.
Your insurance company may try to pressure you into accepting a low settlement offer
Another all too common occurrence after a car accident is for an insurance company to attempt to persuade or even coerce the victim into accepting a low settlement offer. While this is not quite as prevalent in “no-fault” states, it does happen. Again, seeking out the services of an experienced PIP lawyer can help you to avoid such a pitfall. Your PIP attorney can screen you from an unscrupulous insurance agency, and ensure that you receive fair compensation.
Good working relationships are often essential to receiving a fair and expedient settlement
Local PIP communities are often small ones. In fact, it’s not unheard of for one civil defense attorney to handle cases for over a dozen different insurance carriers at one time. As a result, PIP attorneys often know one another on a first-name basis. If you want to achieve the best outcome for your PIP insurance claim or your PIP lawsuit, then never underestimate the power of personal connections that an attorney can bring to the table.
Your PIP lawyer can represent you in case your lawsuit goes to court
Finally, if you are forced to file a PIP lawsuit to seek appropriate compensation, and all efforts at negotiation fail, then it’s a good idea to have a legal expert representing you in court. A good PIP lawyer will know the ins and outs of applicable Florida regulations and will fight to make sure that you receive just reimbursement for all of the medical and other expenses caused by the accident. In addition, you will likely need a personal injury lawyer to represent you in a lawsuit to recoup costs not covered by PIP insurance.
Partner with Florida’s PIP Experts
As the previous information clearly shows, there are several compelling reasons to hire a PIP law firm as soon as possible after a car accident. Whether you or a loved one were the victims in the accident, you want to make sure that you receive the full amount of compensation that you are entitled to, by law. A reputable, experienced PIP lawyer can help you to achieve precisely that.
While PIP law is strictly regulated, there are many complexities and nuances that a claimant must navigate around in order to receive a fair settlement. At Herman & Wells, we have both the depth of legal knowledge and the wealth of practical experience needed to ensure that each one of our clients gets the compensation that he or she deserves.
If you have more questions about PIP law or need help after suffering through a car accident, reach out to our team at Herman & Wells today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.