It can be difficult to know when to hire a lawyer after a car accident. Every case has unique facts. But you could face situations where hiring a Jacksonville car accident lawyer will make the difference between winning and losing your claim.
In Florida, you face an additional complication from the state’s no-fault insurance system. In some situations, you cannot seek compensation from the at-fault driver or their insurer.
Here are some situations in which you should strongly consider hiring a car accident lawyer.
Florida’s Car Accident Claim Process
Under Florida’s no-fault insurance system, every automobile owner must buy car insurance with personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Under this coverage, your insurer will cover your injuries and lost income after a car accident.
Your insurer pays these benefits regardless of fault. You will get these benefits whether you caused the accident or someone else caused it.
Basic PIP coverage provides up to $10,000 in benefits. However, it only covers 80% of medical expenses and 60% of lost income. This means you have a 20% copay for any necessary medical treatment, physical therapy, or medication associated with your injuries. This means that you could lose 40% of your income during your recovery time.
For example, suppose that you have $7,000 in medical expenses and $3,000 in lost income. Although you suffered $10,000 in losses, your insurer only needs to pay for $5,600 in medical expenses and $1,800 in lost income. This leaves you with $2,600 in unreimbursed expenses. Unfortunately, you have no way to recover this since you did not hit your PIP policy limit.
If you exceed your policy limits and have unreimbursed medical expenses, Florida’s no-fault insurance law allows you to seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver and their insurer. If you suffer a permanent injury, you can seek reimbursement and pursue damages for pain and suffering.
Some situations in which you should consider hiring a car accident lawyer during this process include:
You Suffered a Severe Injury
A severe injury like a brain injury or spinal cord injury could require expensive treatment. It could also require years or even decades of therapy and medication. Without compensation, you will need to pay for all of these expenses yourself.
Worse yet, a severe injury could leave you unable to work. With massive medical bills but no income, you may need to rely on friends, relatives, and government programs to make ends meet.
You should consider speaking to an injury lawyer to determine your options for recovering compensation from the at-fault driver.
A lawyer can also identify other potential sources of compensation depending on the accident. The car’s manufacturer or even the road’s designer might bear some share of the liability for your crash.
The At-Fault Driver Was Uninsured
Florida has one of the highest percentages of uninsured drivers in the country. Florida also allows individuals with a high net worth to self insure. In either of these situations, the at-fault driver has no insurance to cover your damages. If the at-fault driver lacks insurance, you will likely skip the insurance claim and file a lawsuit.
In some situations, the at-fault driver may have no assets. You and your lawyer may decide to forgo the lawsuit if you don’t believe you can recover any compensation from the driver. But in many cases, you can sue the at-fault driver and get something for your losses. This is particularly true when the at-fault driver skipped liability insurance because of their high net worth.
An experienced injury lawyer can review the likelihood of recovering compensation from an insured driver.
Your Insurance Claim Was Denied or Reduced
Insurers have a financial incentive to deny insurance claims. They also have a legal duty to make a good faith effort to settle claims where liability has been proven. Insurers will often walk this line by denying or reducing claims.
Sometimes, an injury lawyer can overcome a claim denial or reduction by submitting additional proof of your claim. Other times, your lawyer may need to contact the insurer to present legal arguments to support your claim.
If the insurer does not reverse its denial or reduction, you may need to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver and the insurance company.
The Insurer Is Dragging Its Feet
Insurers need to resolve claims promptly under Florida law. But insurers interpret the term “promptly” differently than you might.
Insurers know that you need your insurance settlement to pay medical bills and cover your daily living expenses. The longer the insurer delays your claim, the more likely you are to accept a low settlement offer. As a result, insurers often start with a low offer and drag out the negotiations in an attempt to wear you down.
Contacting a lawyer can help keep your settlement on track. Insurers tend to avoid playing games with lawyers. They know that a lawyer may advise you to sue the insurer for acting in bad faith. Injury lawyers also have experience negotiating with insurance companies, so they know how to keep your case moving.
The Insurer or At-Fault Driver Blames You
Florida uses modified comparative fault to allocate damages after a car accident, with a 51% rule. This means that a judge or claims adjuster can reduce (or eliminate entirely) your damages in proportion to your share of fault for your injuries.
Suppose that a claims adjuster allocates 40% of the fault for an accident to you. The claims adjuster only needs to pay 60% of your damages. In a worst-case scenario, a claims adjuster could place 51% or more of the blame on you and deny your claim.
An injury lawyer can help you present evidence and legal arguments to reduce or eliminate your share of the blame. This will ensure you receive a fair settlement for your injuries.
Choosing a Car Accident Lawyer
Most injury lawyers offer a free consultation. Use these consultations to meet with a few different lawyers. During your consultation, have an honest and open conversation about your case and your expectations. Listen to the lawyer’s advice and strategy.
Every car accident lawyer has unique strengths. Choose a lawyer, like one of the personal injury attorneys at Baggett Law Personal Injury Lawyers, who understands your case and has the knowledge and experience to accomplish your goals.