Dealing with the Insurance Company After a Car Accident in Florida
Conversations with insurance companies are commonplace after a car accident. You will need to talk to your own auto insurance company after a car accident in Fort Lauderdale. You may also need to talk to an at-fault party’s insurance company in a negligence-related incident.
Knowing how to talk to insurance companies – and a few important tips to know beforehand – can help you stay in control of your future. Protect yourself from unsavory insurance practices by knowing the following facts.
For a free case review, call (954) 568-3636. The Boca Raton car accident lawyers at The Law Offices of David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A. offer free case evaluations on new cases to help you understand what your case could be worth.
What Insurance Companies Do I Deal With During a Florida Car Accident Case?
Car accident cases in Florida can be a bit confusing because you will usually be dealing with multiple insurance companies. The first is your own insurance company, which processes your no-fault insurance claim. The second is the at-fault driver’s insurance company, which processes third-party insurance claims.
In Florida, no-fault insurance rules require you to have a PIP (personal injury protection) policy that will cover your own injuries after an accident. Every driver is required to carry at least $10,000 worth of insurance coverage that will pay for 80% of their medical expenses and 60% of their lost wages. However, this does not cover all of your damages and certainly does not cover pain and suffering.
To get the rest of your damages, you will have to file a third-party claim with the at-fault driver’s liability insurance. When you do this, they will often do everything they can to deny liability and block you from being able to get any damages in the first place. Additionally, if they do relent and allow you to claim some damages, they will often try to settle for a low value.
Always speak to a Miami car accident lawyer before accepting money from any insurance company. While your own insurance policy’s payments are yours by right, you might still face issues collecting these damages if your insurance company refuses to acknowledge the terms of your policy. Getting damages from the other driver’s policy might be even tougher.
Notifying Your Insurance Company About the Accident
Notify your insurance company as soon as possible following your accident. Take a look at your policy, which should tell you exactly how long you have to file a claim. Report what happened, but again – don’t admit fault. The insurance company will begin an investigation and the processing of your claim.
What to Do if Your Insurance Company Contacts You Before You Notify Them
Both the insurance company of the at-fault driver and your own will probably call you after the wreck, but you shouldn’t speak with either of them personally. Simply tell them that you have an attorney and they can get a statement from them.
Anything you say to the insurance companies will be held against you, if possible. They will try to use what you say to reduce your recovery.
For example, if you tell your own insurance company that you are “okay” after an accident, then they may question why you need $10,000 or more in medical expenses. Only you and your doctors should be determining what type of medical treatment you need and how much. The insurance company will scrutinize every bit of it if you say the wrong thing.
Why Would Your Insurance Company Contact You After a Crash?
Your insurance company will contact you after a crash to get the details of what happened and find out how much money they need to pay you to compensate you for your damages. Your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance will cover a small percentage of your damages, such as medical costs and lost wages. However, to get compensation for things like pain and suffering, you will have to seek money from the at-fault driver.
Your insurance company will not help you with a claim against the at-fault driver. Only a seasoned Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyer can help you through an opposing insurance claim. The process can be complex and may result in a lawsuit, so you should always work with an attorney who is familiar with the process.
Your attorney will get a statement from you about what happened before, during, and after your car accident. Attorney Fuchs will help you phrase everything in a way that is beneficial to your claim. We will honestly, but carefully, present the information.
The insurance company will ask questions like the following:
- How did the accident occur?
- Were you on your phone while driving?
- Were you otherwise distracted at the time of the accident?
- Did you notice anything suspicious about the way the other driver was driving? (Was he swerving or speeding, for example.)
- What did you do to avoid the accident?
Communicating with the Other Driver’s Insurance Company
You are not obligated to speak with the other driver’s insurance company. If the other driver’s insurer contacts you, refer them to your Fort Lauderdale car accident attorney, or to your own insurance company. Anything you might say to the other driver’s insurance company may not be to your benefit later if you decide to bring a suit, or if one is brought against you.
Any information that you give to the insurance company could potentially hurt your case. As such, it is best to only issue communications to the insurance company through your lawyer Deerfield Beach car accident lawyers, who can look after your best interests.
The Insurance Company is Not on Your Side
First and foremost, recognize that the insurance claims adjuster (the agent responsible for your case when you call someone else’s insurance company) does not work for you. He or she works for the insurance company. The adjuster’s main goal is to get you to accept a minimal settlement to save the company money. The adjuster does not want to maximize your settlement.
Instead, it is up to you to know your rights and explore your options – with or without the insurance claims adjuster’s help. Protect yourself by staying polite during discussions with the adjuster, but not revealing too much information. Keep your answers to questions simple and truthful. Do not admit fault or speculate as to who is at fault for the accident. Instead, stick to the facts and let an investigation answer questions of fault.
Ultimately, our attorneys can help you with the conversations you need to have with your insurance company. We can advise you as to what information it is appropriate to give the insurance company and how to present it to avoid any miscommunications. Often, insurance companies will try to look for admissions of fault in anything you say, so having an attorney advise you throughout this process is important to avoid statements that could be misread as confessions.
The Claims Adjuster Knows Less About Your Case Than You Do
Insurance claims adjusters see multiple cases across their desks every month. They were not there when the accident occurred, nor have they seen your damages in person. The insurance company is not the police or an investigation agency. All of this means that the insurance claims adjuster in charge of your case likely knows much less about your actual accident than you do.
The agent might have more experience with the insurance claims process in general, but you know more about your case. Keep this in mind as you talk to adjusters. Prepare yourself as much as possible for the conversation by gathering information about your case. Get the names of any involved parties as well as eyewitnesses. Take photographs of your property damage and/or injuries. The more you know about your accident before you call, the more confident you will feel during your conversation.
While the insurance adjuster knows less about your case than you do, it is important to remember that the insurance adjuster usually knows more about the law – and about how much their insurance company will be willing to pay for your case. As such, it is best to balance the scales by having our experienced Miami personal injury lawyers on your side whenever you are dealing with insurance.
You Don’t Have to Agree to a Recorded Statement
When talking to the other party’s insurance company, the agent will almost always ask you to give a recorded statement about the accident. Politely decline to do so. The law does not obligate you to agree, and the insurance company could use what you say against you later. For example, if you have not yet been to the doctor and record a statement that you aren’t hurt, then later begin feeling neck pain after your car accident and find out you have whiplash, the insurance company can use the fact that you said you weren’t injured against you.
The “Final Offer” Isn’t Really the Final Offer
During negotiations with an insurance company for a personal injury settlement, the company will likely use language such as, “final offer,” to push you into agreeing to the amount they’re offering. This is a common tactic that does not mean if you say no, you won’t get a settlement. If the insurance company owes you money, it cannot “rescind” a settlement offer because you turn it down. Instead, your case will go to trial for a better offer.
The possibility of the trial is why it’s important to work with an attorney on your case. David Fuchs, a personal injury lawyer in Fort Lauderdale, will help motivate the insurance company to offer a better settlement before having to go to court. The knowledge that you have legal representation and you can go to court is often enough to result in a higher settlement amount. If not, you can take the insurer to court in pursuit of fair compensation with a lawyer by your side. Contact David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A. today to schedule a free initial consultation.
What to Do if the Other Driver is Uninsured
If you have insurance and you get some of your damages paid through your no-fault insurance, that will be helpful – but the $10,000 PIP requirement in Florida ultimately provides quite low coverage when it comes to covering serious injuries. Many cases end up being filed against the other driver’s insurance as well – but if they are uninsured, this can cause significant problems for you.
If the other driver does not have insurance, then there will certainly be no insurance company to file a claim with or negotiate a settlement with. Instead, what you can do is sue the driver directly in many cases. Talk to our Florida car accident lawyers about this option.
Additionally, your insurance might have additional coverage for exactly this sort of situation. Many drivers elect to pay for an optional “uninsured/underinsured motorist” policy. This is additional coverage that you pay for so that if you are ever hit by an uninsured driver – or a driver with bad insurance – you can still recover damages that you need. Talk to our Florida car accident attorneys about whether you have this kind of “UM/UIM” coverage on your policy and how much it could potentially cover if you were hit by an uninsured driver.
Should You Agree to a Settlement or Go to Trial?
When perusing Boca Raton personal injury attorney websites, you might see the assertion that a trial is more likely to end in a greater compensation award than an insurance settlement. While this could be true, what they don’t explain is that trials are riskier and more expensive than a settlement agreement, often making the latter the better option for accident victims. There is a reason that most lawsuits reach a settlement before going to trial. The advantages of agreeing to a settlement are often more worthwhile for both parties.
Settlements Are Fast and Easy
One of the major advantages of taking a settlement instead of going to trial is the amount of time it will take to end the case and receive your check. Two parties can come to a settlement agreement in a matter of minutes in some cases, over the phone or in person. It often just takes a victim agreeing verbally or in writing to a settlement offer from an insurance company. There doesn’t have to be a lengthy discovery phase or jury trial to prove your case or receive compensation.
A trial, on the other hand, could take years to complete. Most trials don’t commence until about a year after filing your initial lawsuit in Florida. Trials take months of evidence gathering, discovery, interviews, expert testimony, and medical documentation. Even if you successfully win your trial, receiving your settlement could take additional months if the other party decides to appeal the case. Even a relatively simple personal injury lawsuit could take three to four years or longer to end.
Settlements Cost Less
Trials aren’t cheap, but an insurance settlement can be. Most personal injury attorneys work on contingency fees, meaning the lawyer will take a fixed percentage (often around 33%, or one-third) of the recovery amount. Should you lose your case, your lawyer won’t charge anything for his or her services. Should a case enter the trial, most attorneys will charge a higher percentage for work done, such as 40%. Trials take more time and effort, resulting in greater attorney fees and court costs. If you’re the defendant, you will generally have to pay your attorney by the hour. A trial could end up costing a defendant thousands of dollars in legal fees.
Settlements Are Private
If you have a reputation to uphold or privacy to protect, a trial might not be in your best interest. According to Florida law, all personal injury trials are part of public record. The only exception is in the rare event that a judge orders to seal the records. Making your case part of public record means that anyone can read all your medical documents, the evidence against you, and other personal information. A settlement, on the other hand, remains out of the courtroom and out of the public eye.
Settlement Damages Are Predictable
When two parties agree to a settlement, they come up with their own agreed-upon amount without intervention from a judge or jury. This makes damages relatively predictable. During a trial, on the other hand, damages can escalate much higher according to the decision of the jury. Pain and suffering damages by jury decision can be much greater than the defendant was expecting or lower than the victim was expecting.
Every case is unique. Talk to a lawyer to find out which course of action is best for your particular claim.
Getting Pain and Suffering Damages in a Florida Car Accident Claim
Generally speaking, pain and suffering damages are blocked entirely in Florida car accident cases unless the injury victim meets certain conditions. Our Miramar car accident lawyers can help you understand whether your injury case meets the standards or not, and we can fight to maximize these damages – potentially requiring us to take your case to trial.
Florida no-fault insurance does not pay for pain and suffering damages. This means that you will not be able to claim damages for pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, or any other non-economic damages through your own no-fault insurance. You will instead typically have to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver to claim these damages.
However, lawsuits for pain and suffering are blocked unless the victim suffers “serious injuries.” Any permanent injuries, serious scarring, or loss of function in a body part typically qualify as a “serious injury” for purposes of this rule. If a loved one died in a car accident or you lost a pregnancy in the crash, that can also allow a lawsuit for pain and suffering damages.
Calculating pain and suffering damages is a bit complex, and insurance companies are often unwilling to settle for fair or high values for these damages. As such, the availability and value of pain and suffering damages is one of the factors that will go into the analysis discussed above as to whether or not a settlement will be appropriate in your case. Our Plantation car accident lawyers can help you with this analysis and advise you on whether a settlement offer is possible or whether more appropriate pain and suffering damages could be available through a jury verdict.
Call Our Florida Car Accident Lawyers Today for a Free Case Review
If you were hurt in an accident and are considering filing an insurance claim or lawsuit for your injuries, call The Law Offices of David I. Fuchs, Injury & Accident Lawyer, P.A. today. Call us at (954) 568-3636 for a free case review with our Florida car accident attorneys.