What is Personal Injury Protection?
When I speak to clients and prospective clients, they have often heard that Florida is a “no fault” state but they do not typically know what that means. Sometimes they ask if the “no fault” in Florida means they can recover money for injuries that they sustained in motor vehicle accidents that they caused. Others think that because Florida is a “no fault” state they cannot be sued when they cause a motor vehicle accident that results in injuries to another person. I kindly explain that neither of those scenarios relate to the “no fault” means for the state of Florida.
The “no fault” references to the Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) that is required to be a part of every single automobile insurance policy that is sold in the state of Florida. Under Florida Statute 627.736, every motorist who purchases a Florida automobile insurance policy is required to carry $10,000.00 in PIP benefits under their policy. The PIP coverage is used to cover medical bills and lost wages that a driver may endure because of a motor vehicle accident regardless of which party is at fault for the accident.
For example, if Driver A is not paying close enough attention to the road and rear-ends Driver B, it is safe to assume that Driver A caused the accident. Regardless, the first $10,000.00 in medical payments for Driver B’s injuries will come from Driver B’s automobile insurance policy. Countless clients have expressed frustration with this system often stating something to the effect of “why is my insurance paying for expenses when the other driver caused the accident?” That is how the system is set up in Florida and has been over for over 40 years.
Required Coverages in Florida
Sadly, PIP coverage is the only legally required automobile coverage for drivers in Florida. That often leads drivers to not purchase other very important, but not legally required, coverages like Collision Coverage, Bodily Injury Coverage and Uninsured Motorist Coverage. Those coverages will be covered in more depth in other JB Law blogs but rest assured those coverages are extremely important in protecting the financial futures of drivers in Florida. However, for whatever reason, the Florida Legislature does not require those coverages to be sold with every automobile insurance policy in this state.
Florida drivers often also do not realize that their PIP coverage does not cover 100% of their medical bills up to $10,000.00. Actually, according to Florida law, PIP coverage only pays for 80% of the medical bills up to $10,000.00 which means that 20% of those medical bills are not covered. Also, PIP coverage will often come with a deductible depending on the plan that is chosen. The insured person is responsible for paying the deductible as well.
Let’s assume that Driver B from the earlier example goes to the hospital after being rear-ended and is presented with a $5,000.00 hospital bill. If Driver B has a $1,000.00 deductible on their policy, Driver B will be responsible for the $1,000.00 deductible plus the 20% of the remaining $4,000.00 medical bill ($800). While Florida is a “no fault” state, Driver B, who was injured due to someone else’s negligence, is now out of pocket $1,800.00. If Driver B has health insurance, maybe the health insurance would cover the difference. But if Driver B does not have health insurance like many Americans, Driver B will be responsible for that amount.
Permanent Injury Requirement for Pain and Suffering
In Florida, someone injured in an automobile accident is permitted to make an insurance claim or sue the other driver who caused the accident. However, due to Florida’s PIP laws, for the injured party to recover money for non-economic damages (pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental anguish, inconvenience, etc.), the injured party must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the injury is “permanent.” If the injured party cannot prove that he or she suffered a permanent injury they are limited to recovering money for their economic damages (typically medical bills and lost wages) assuming those total more than $10,000.00.
According to Florida Statute 627.737(2), a plaintiff (injured party) may recover non-economic damages for pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience because of bodily injury, sickness, or disease arising out of the ownership, maintenance, operation, or use of such motor vehicle only in the event that the injury or disease consists in whole or in part of:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
- Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
Use at Trial
If you are thinking that these are somewhat vague descriptions of a permanent injury, then you would be correct. Oftentimes, when motor vehicle accident cases end up going to trial, the outcome of the trial can depend on whether the jury believes the plaintiff’s treating physicians testimony that the plaintiff suffered a permanent injury in the motor vehicle accident or the insurance company’s hired doctors who testify that there was no permanent injury.
I have tried countless cases involving motor vehicle accidents against all of the major insurance carriers. Do not trust your personal injury case to a firm that does not active litigate and try cases. Do not fall victim to one of the advertising firms where you will get lost in the shuffle and just become a number in a file cabinet. At JB Law, all clients are given the attention they deserve and are provided with my personal cell phone. It is not my “work” cell phone. It is my only cell phone. My clients can always reach me and always know what is going on with their case.