A passenger in a car that was involved in an accident may have the right to recover compensation in Florida. For example, the passenger may be able to recover damages for injuries sustained through the fault of the negligent driver of the car they were in. Furthermore, the passenger may be able to recover damages if the accident was caused by another driver. In either instance, there is a multitude of important factors that will be considered in determining compensation after a car accident.
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No-Fault and Persona Injury Protection (PIP) in Florida
Florida is a no-fault state. The state mandates all drivers have a type of insurance called personal injury protection or PIP. This type of auto insurance is also often referred to as no-fault insurance. Under this insurance, the provider is responsible for paying up to 80% of reasonable, related, and necessary medical expenses regardless of who is at fault. This benefit is usually capped at $10,000. In order to qualify for a no-fault insurance claim, the injured party must seek medical care and treatment within the first fourteen days after the auto accident has occurred. Secondly, no-fault benefits may be limited if the individual does not have what is known as an “emergency medical condition.”
PIP coverage may be available to passengers who own their motor vehicle or who live with someone who has PIP coverage. In that case, this would qualify as the primary coverage. In the event the passenger does not have such coverage available, then they may be able to recover PIP coverage for medical expenses from the driver of their vehicle or the driver/owner of the other, negligently driven vehicle. An attorney can help the injured individual determine what coverages are available to them.
In addition to no-fault insurance, there are several types of coverage available to drivers in Florida. The negligent driver’s insurance policy is one factor an attorney will review when determining potential compensation for a passenger’s injuries after a vehicle accident.
Filing a Claim with the Other Driver’s Insurance
One option that may be available to a passenger injured in an auto accident is the other driver’s insurance. If only one party is held at-fault, the matter may be resolved directly with their insurance company. However, in some cases, more than one driver is at fault for the accident. In those instances, the compensation may be shared among the negligent parties and their respective insurance policies.
Bodily Injury Liability (BI)
Bodily injury liability insurance, or BI, generally covers serious injury or death to others. This type of coverage would apply to a passenger who is injured either due to the negligence of the driver of their vehicle and/or the driver and owner of another negligently driven vehicle. In the event both drivers are negligent, the passenger may recover against all negligent parties including the operator of the vehicle in which they were a passenger.
Property Damage Liability (PD)
In addition to PIP or no-fault insurance, the second type of required coverage is property damage insurance. This type of insurance covers damage caused to someone else’s private property. It can also cover damages to your vehicle if you are not at fault in the accident.
A passenger who sustains property damage to their property (e.g., glasses, cell phone, clothing) may recover for such damage from the negligent party whether that is the person with whom they are driving or another driver/owner of a negligently driven vehicle.
Filing a Claim with Your Friend’s or Car Owner’s Insurance
Before filing a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance, speak with an attorney. Insurance companies will often utilize tactics to try to limit or deny benefits. Furthermore, there may be complicated details that need to be sorted out prior to determining compensation. For example, if more than one passenger was injured another consideration will be the total value of the driver’s insurance policy in sharing benefits among the individuals who sustained injuries.
Filing a Claim Through Your Own Insurance
Individuals injured as passengers may also be able to file a claim through their own insurance. An attorney can help review the facts of the case along with the policies to determine what rights the injured person has to recover damages. Sometimes, multiple companies may be involved, which may include the passenger’s insurance coverage.
Is the Driver Personally Responsible for Their Passengers?
Determining liability is not always as clear-cut as it may seem. Passengers seeking compensation for their injuries will have to prove the injuries they sustained were due to the car accident. They will also have to prove the driver was at fault. For example, if an obstacle such as a tree branch suddenly falls into the path of the vehicle, the driver may not be held liable due to being unable to avoid unforeseen circumstances.
What Are My Rights as a Passenger?
After a car accident, passengers may not be held at fault, however, their claim may still be denied. One example would be if the passenger knowingly decided to get into a vehicle with an impaired driver.
What is the Injury Threshold in Florida?
Another consideration is Florida’s Injury Threshold. Regardless of who was at fault, this statute requires a specific threshold with respect to your injuries before you are entitled to recover damaged. The Statute states:
… a plaintiff may recover damages in tort 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:
(a) Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
(b) Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement.
(c) Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
What if Neither Driver Has Insurance?
If neither driver has insurance, the injured individual may be able to seek compensation via their own uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM) insurance. If the passenger has their own UM coverage and no other at-fault party has available coverage, then the passenger may look to his UM carrier for coverage. It is important to understand the type of coverage you have even if you are involved in an accident as a passenger. Consult with your attorney to determine the types of coverage to purchase and maintain at all times.
Lawsuit vs Insurance Claim? Which is Best for a Passenger?
Generally, a claim is what is brought immediately after the accident. A lawsuit is often times necessary when the parties are unable to amicably resolve the claim. There are advantages and disadvantages for both the claim and lawsuit. Time, expenses, attorney fees, and coverage issues come into play when making the decision to file a lawsuit as compared to resolving the claim. An experienced attorney will be able to help to make the decision on how to proceed with your individual situation.
Due to the varying factors in each individual case, it is critical to speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident. Please give us a call at (305) 662-6178 to schedule a free consultation.