A Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyer can help you navigate the difficulties and legalities of dealing with insurers—either your own, or that of another driver. These companies can be reluctant to pay out even the most legitimate claims for items that are supposedly covered by a given insurance policy. The last thing you need on top of dealing with your injuries or your grief is to have to argue with an impersonal insurance company about getting the damages to which you may be legally and rightfully entitled. I have been a personal injury lawyer in Fort Lauderdale for over twenty years, and I will work diligently to see that your insurance company treats you fairly.
Getting Legal Assistance in Settling Serious Auto Insurance Claims
Have you ever had to make a claim with your automobile insurance company? Most people have, at one time or another. Many insurance claims deal with relatively minor issues: a cracked windshield; towing for a vehicle that has broken down; stolen wheels or an audio system; a “fender bender” or other ding in the body of a car; or even a more major accident involving body damage to the vehicle with no or only minor personal injuries.
These types of accidents are usually handled fairly easily with insurance companies—either your own, or even that of another party that was involved. You typically just have to make the call, follow through with the paperwork, have the claims adjuster inspect the damage if necessary, and, depending upon your policy and your deductible, receive a check in the mail and be on your way.
But sometimes dealing with insurance companies can be much more complicated, especially in accidents that involve significant injuries, multiple vehicles, hit-and-run drivers, uninsured or underinsured drivers, or property damage. In these instances, Fort Lauderdale automobile insurance lawyers can provide a valuable service.
Insurance Coverage in South Florida
Like many states, Florida has a mandatory automobile insurance law. That is, in order to register a vehicle, the owner must provide certain minimum insurance coverage. Florida’s minimum, however, is very minimal: $10,000 of personal injury protection and $10,000 of property liability coverage. This may be sufficient for the types of minor incidents noted above, but it can be far from adequate when it comes to serious accidents that involve injuries.
One of the most important protective measures a person can take when it comes to the financial impacts of an automobile accident is before the accident occurs. This means purchasing sufficient—and the right kind of—automobile insurance coverage that will help you no matter what happens and no matter who is at fault. Some important insurance types of coverage that a Fort Lauderdale vehicle owner may consider are:
- Collision Coverage: This is intended to cover the costs of vehicle repair in the event of damage caused by a collision. While property damage coverage may cover some of this, collision coverage focuses solely on the vehicle.
- Comprehensive: This covers for items other than collision—for example, if the vehicle is stolen, crushed by a tree, or damaged in a flood, comprehensive coverage would provide compensation.
- Increasing the limits of Property Liability Coverage: this covers any type of property damage incurred as a result of an accident where the insured is found liable.
- Increasing the limits of Personal Injury Protection: some people who have very good medical insurance sometimes think they do not need to be as concerned about this; however, personal injury protection can also be extended to cover passengers or other injured parties who may not be on an individual’s health insurance policy.
- Personal Injury Liability Coverage: this is intended to cover legal liability for bodily injury liability caused by the insured driver in a vehicle accident.
- Personal Liability Coverage: this can cover other personal liabilities outside of property damage liability.
- Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP): this is intended to cover the full dollar amount of an asset to the insured. For example, if a vehicle is totaled and the compensation limits covered by the property or collision coverage do not cover the amount owed on the vehicle, GAP insurance will cover the difference, so that the insured does not end up making payments on a wrecked vehicle sitting in a junkyard.
- Medical payment coverage: because Personal Injury Protection Coverage extends only to 80% of the medical bills, this can cover the payments you may owe on the 20% that would be your responsibility.
- Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage: as its name implies, this provides coverage in the event that you are involved in an accident with a driver who has either no insurance or minimal insurance; it also kicks in when you are involved in a collision with a hit-and-run driver. In Florida, this type of coverage is all but essential: according to an Insurance Research Council study conducted in 2009, nearly 23% of Florida vehicle owners were uninsured. For a small fee, this protection can be “stacked”—that is, if you have coverage on three cars, the individual amounts can be combined, if necessary, to cover the costs of an accident.
- Loss-of-use coverage: usually a very inexpensive addition to a policy, this would cover the costs of a rental vehicle when the covered vehicle cannot be used as a result of an accident—either because it is being repaired, or has been totaled (short term).
- Towing: this is also a low cost addition to a policy, or even no-cost perk for South Florida drivers who purchase policies with multiple coverage and high limits. (Alternatively, membership in clubs like AAA will sometimes cover towing, without having to add this to your automobile policy.)
Insurance coverage and policies can be very confusing, and it is often hard to gauge exactly how much insurance you should carry on your vehicle or vehicles. The more coverage you elect to take, the higher your premium. People are understandably reluctant to pay high insurance premiums, particularly if they have made no or small claims in the past. In fact, as the high uninsured motorist numbers often attest, when budgets are tight, people often cut down on their insurance coverage, or reject it altogether.
However, when serious accidents occur—and they are not, unfortunately, uncommon—having complete and generous automobile insurance coverage is critical. Some questions to evaluate in determining how much coverage you should have are:
- What you are willing to risk with your personal assets in the event of a bad accident;
- What other sorts of coverage do you have (for example: an umbrella policy attached to your homeowners and/or automobile policy, medical insurance coverage, disability insurance coverage, or life insurance coverage) that will assist you or your family in the event of a serious accident;
- What is/are your automobile/automobiles worth, and what do you owe on it/them;
- Are you financially responsible for a spouse and/or children who would be devastated by inadequate coverage in a given accident event;
- What is each vehicle’s usage, importance, and value—for example, is one car used only by one driver for commuting, and another used by your spouse and/or children, or another barely used at all;
- What deductible can you afford and what deductible are you willing to pay/risk? (Note: while higher deductibles can significantly lower premiums, they often mean that small items are not covered at all.)
By carefully reviewing these and similar questions, and by seeking competitive quotes from different companies, you may be able to find a policy and a premium that give you relative peace of mind without overburdening your budget.
If You Are Involved in an Accident
When you are involved in an accident, especially if there are injuries involved, it is perfectly normal to feel a bit shaken up. However, you still have to keep your wits about you—and also make sure that you protect and provide for yourself and your family financially.
- Always attend to injuries first—either your own, or that of other people, whether they are your own passengers or the occupants of other vehicles.
- If you can do so, and if there are serious injuries involved, contact emergency medical personnel and law enforcement right away.
- Follow legal requirements: show your license, provide your name, address, automobile registration information, current contact information, insurance information, etc. to others involved and to law enforcement.
- Fort Lauderdale car accident lawyers remind drivers to think carefully about what happened. When an event is fresh in your mind, you can recall details more clearly; however, those details become blurred over time. Particularly if an accident was caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, make sure you are clear in your mind what happened and how, and the sequence of events. When you get an opportunity at a later time, you may want to make private notes of these matters.
- While accident reports must be filed for serious accidents (either by law enforcement or by you), it is important not to state anything that could in any way be construed as an admission of fault—even if you believe you may be at fault or partially at fault—to anyone, whether law enforcement, insurance investigators, or even friends or family members. First, it is often natural, especially if someone is injured or killed, to second-guess yourself, even when you have done nothing wrong. For example, you may tell yourself if you had only hit the brakes a fraction sooner, or veered left instead of right when you saw the car ahead spin out of control, the accident would not have happened, or happened the way it did. Just because something bad happened does not mean you are responsible. Second, even if you did something wrong (you were going five miles over the speed limit, for example), it is quite possible that other factors were the more critical or even completely responsible, regardless of your actions: a faulty tire blew out, the other driver was texting while driving, etc. Consequently, while you can convey factual information accurately, avoid making personal statements of your unsubstantiated beliefs or feelings that convey any indication of legal culpability.
- Finally: consult an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as practicable if you or family members in your vehicle have suffered serious injuries or death. A Fort Lauderdale injury attorney cannot only assist you in dealing with the legal paperwork, but also do the important legwork necessary to investigate the accident, advise you on how to protect yourself, and assist you with the legal aspects of the accident while you concentrate on the important job of recovering.
Fort Lauderdale Injury Lawyer David I. Fuchs Can Help You with Your Automobile Insurance Claims
If you or someone you love has been injured in an automobile accident, contact your accident attorney in Fort Lauderdale toll-free at (800) 570-2858. Your call is free, your consultation is free, and there is no obligation to hire me as your attorney. I will not charge you any up-front fees for my services: you pay attorneys’ fees only if and when you recover damages.
Call me, and let me handle the paperwork by sifting through any insurance legalese and settlement offers and contracts. I believe in clear and honest communication with my clients, from the outset of the case to its resolution. I will help you hold the insurance companies accountable under their obligations.