June 30, 2016

What to do after a car accident that’s not your fault

No matter the case, being involved in a car accident is an unfortunate ordeal. There are all sorts of things one needs to deal with – one’s own health, the health of one’s passengers, any damage done to the car, any tickets, increased car insurance rates, medical bills, future medical issues…the list goes on and one. When you’re involved in a car accident caused by another driver, it can feel exponentially less under one’s own control. So, what does one do after a car accident that’s not your fault?

What to do after a car accident

Even before we dive head first into whose fault it is, your primary to-do list never really changes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a car accident that’s not your fault, you’ve been hit by a drunk driver, or if you were committing the age-old sin of distracted driving and the collision is actually your fault, the first steps are always the same:

  1. Ensure your health
  2. Ensure the health of anyone in the car
  3. Notify the authorities
  4. Get the information of any other driver
  5. Visit your doctor
  6. File a claim with your insurance company

Once you’ve gotten through that laundry list we can start pointing fingers…sort of.

In Florida, nobody’s really at-fault (to a degree)

Florida is one of the states on the list of no-fault states. What does this mean? Well, while in some states, and in some cases, the law cares that’s it’s a car accident that’s not your fault, and can attribute a percentage of fault to both drivers in a car accident (even if driver A ran a red light and collided into driver B, driver B had driven out to the middle of the intersection to turn left instead of stopping behind the line, contributing to 15% of the blame), the state of Florida turns a blind eye to who caused the accident.

In Florida, though, this is not the case. In the eyes of the law, neither party can be considered at-fault if the collision

  1. Does not cause more than $10,000 in damage, medical bills, and lost wages
  2. Does not cause permanent injury

And, as in all things law, there is a very specific definition of “permanent injury”. Florida statute (627.737(2)) defines “permanent injury” as:

  • Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
  • Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement;
  • Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement;
  • Death

So, in layman’s terms, as long as the car accident is fairly minor, the law does not see either driver to be at-fault, nor does it seek to assign any percentage of fault to either driver.

Personal injury claims after a car accident

By law, the minimum amount of car insurance a driver can opt for is $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (also known as PIP) with a $1,000 deductible. Therefore, so long as the accident does not cause more than $10,000 in damage, each driver’s own car insurance pays damages for the driver’s medical bills, lost wages, damages to the car, etc., up to 80% of any medical bills and 60% of lost income.

Confused yet? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. It’s a complicated law, so let’s look at an example.

Mary is hit by another driver. She opted for the minimum required car insurance: $10,000 PIP with a $1,000 deductible. She didn’t suffer any life-altering injuries, but she still walked out of the hospital with a $2,000 medical bill. Her injuries also kept her out of work for a month, resulting in $3,000 in lost income.

As Mary’s insurance covers 80% of her medical bills, she’s entitled to receive $1,600 from her insurance company to cover her time in the hospital; her insurance covers 60% of her lost wages, as well, which comes to another $1,800 in her pocket. In the end, while the accident cost Mary $5,000, she only got $2,400 back after paying her $1,000 deductible. Because Florida is a no-fault state, Mary didn’t suffer any major injuries, and expenses didn’t go over $10,000, she cannot sue the driver who hit her for the rest of the damages.

Another rule under Florida’s no-fault law is that the insured filing a claim for a car accident must seek medical attention within 14 days of the accident. Even if you don’t feel any physical effects of the accident, get a checkup. If you feel fine and then start feeling sore 15 days later, your medical bills will not be covered by your insurance.

Who pays a passenger’s medical bills?

While one may assume that passengers would be covered under the insurance of the driver, this is not actually true. In fact, passengers are left to depend on their own insurance. That’s right: you may find yourself filing an insurance claims for an accident where you were neither driving or in your own car.

This is one reason why it’s important that all drivers have car insurance. So, what happens when you’re involved in a car accident that’s not your fault, but you don’t have a car or car insurance? The law looks to your resident relatives, or those living with the passenger who are related by blood or marriage, for coverage. Many are quite surprised to find themselves filing a claim with their car insurance for an accident involving neither themselves or their car!

You may also be interested in:

When to Hire a Car Accident Attorney
Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Aggressive Driving Facts
Jones v. Alayon: a Look into Seatbelt Laws
Someone Took My Car Without Permission and Had an Accident
Why Taking Pictures at the Scene of an Accident is Important
Houck v. Enterprise: Rental Car Laws