Deciding whether to accept an insurance company settlement in the wake of a car accident depends on several factors, some of which are directly related to the laws of the state in which the accident occurred. Some states allow car accident victims more leeway in the settlement process, while other states limit and regulate it. In Florida, there are two laws that have a bearing on one’s ability to reject one’s insurance company settlement and thereby pursue additional compensation for harms and losses suffered.
First, Florida is a “no-fault” state with regard to car insurance. A no-fault state requires an accident victim to first seek compensation from his or her own insurance company. Second, Florida is comparative negligence state. Courts in comparative negligence states assign percentages of blame for injuries suffered as a result of negligence, and award damages accordingly. The purpose of this article is to explain how Florida’s no-fault and comparative negligence laws combine to complicate one’s decision to accept or reject a settlement offer from one’s own insurance company in the wake of an accident. Because of Florida’s complex legal thresholds, accident victims are encouraged to speak with a skilled and experienced Florida automobile accident attorney.
Florida is a No-Fault State With Regard to Car Insurance
Florida is a no-fault car insurance state. Roughly a dozen states fall into this classification. The effect of no-fault legislation is to prevent individuals from bringing personal injury lawsuits for damages against an at-fault driver unless the accident results in sufficiently serious injuries. How then, in a no-fault state, does one recover losses such as medical bills and lost income due to missed work that stem from a car accident in which another driver was at fault if one is prohibited by law from filing suit? The answer is that one must first turn to one’s own car insurance provider.
While relaxing the focus on fault can expedite the settlement process and keep the courts from being inundated with auto-accident related lawsuits, it can also result in an insufficient settlement offer. This is because it is simply in a car insurance provider’s interest to limit the benefits it pays out. Like other businesses, insurers are out to make a profit. So what do you do if the settlement offer made by your insurer is not enough to cover your medical bills, vehicle repairs, and lost income for the time you were forced to miss at work while rehabilitating?
The first thing is to explore whether the injuries you have suffered amounts to the kind of “serious injury” that Florida law has established as a basis for stepping outside the no-fault system. A skilled and experienced Florida auto accident attorney will be able to tell you whether or not your injuries are so serious as to free you from the state’s no-fault laws. In considering the seriousness of your injuries, an attorney will look to whether the injury is permanent and whether you have suffered any significant disfigurement or scarring. If you pass the “serious injury” threshold, it may be in your interest to reject the settlement offer made by your own insurance provider and instead file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Doing so allows you to seek significantly more compensation than you could receive via a settlement offer from your own insurer.
Florida is a Comparative Negligence State
Adding additional complexity to the question of whether to accept or reject a settlement offer from one’s own car insurance provider in accordance with Florida’s no-fault law is the fact that Florida is also a comparative negligence state. This second consideration is closely related to the specifics of the accident in which you were involved. Even if you are likely to meet the “serious injury” threshold imposed by Florida’s no-fault car accident law, you must evaluate the extent to which the other driver was at fault. If the other driver was completely at fault, it may be possible to recover significant financial compensation. If you and the other driver were equally at fault, a recovery may not be possible. Again, analysis here is highly fact-specific. Of course, if you were seriously injured in the accident, you may have limited memory of the events in question. For these reasons, it is imperative that you speak with a skilled and experienced Florida auto accident attorney. A skilled attorney will assess the injuries you have suffered and the responsibility of all involved and formulate the best plan to obtain the compensation you deserve for the injuries and losses you have suffered.
What to Do if You Have Been Seriously Injured in a Car Accident
If you have been seriously injured in a car accident in Florida, get the medical attention you need. After you have received treatment for your injuries, reach out to a dedicated Florida auto accident attorney for a consultation about the best way to move forward for your financial future under the state’s no-fault and comparative negligence laws.