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Personal Injury

Understand Florida’s Personal Injury Laws — Before You Get Hurt

Under Florida law, vehicle owners must carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. If you’re injured in a car accident, your PIP coverage is designed to pay up to $10,000 of your medical expenses and/or lost wages, depending upon the extent of your injuries.

In January 2013, however, the Florida Legislature placed restrictions on PIP claims. If you don’t understand these changes — and don’t follow the new rules — your car accident could be painful in more ways than one.

The Clock Is Ticking

Under the former PIP laws, a person injured in a car accident had an unlimited time to seek medical treatment for their personal injuries.  Days, weeks or even months after the accident, you could visit a doctor to have your injuries assessed and treated.  Given that, in some cases, the effects of a car crash aren’t always immediately apparent, this extra time was often necessary.

Under the new PIP law, you now have only 14 days from the time of the accident to visit a “qualified medical professional,” which the law defines as a medical doctor, osteopathic physician, dentist, physician assistant or advanced registered nurse practitioner for treatment.  If you need follow-up treatment, it must be as a referral from one of those providers in order to be eligible for compensation under PIP.

Benefit Limits

Not only do you have less time to seek treatment for your injuries under the new law, there are also new limits on how much you can collect.  The law now limits emergency medical treatment reimbursements to a maximum of $10,000 and non-emergency treatment payments to $2,500.  In that the average PIP claim was well over $10,000, often including reimbursement for non-medical services and lost income, backers of the new law argue that it will shrink claim amounts, keeping coverage costs manageable.

What This Means for You

It remains to be seen whether the new laws will lower insurance premiums for Florida families.  For accident victims, however, the new laws may make it more difficult to get reimbursed for reasonable and necessary medical expenses following an auto accident — especially for injuries that are not immediately apparent.  Also, since the new law allows insurance companies to require a “second opinion” from a provider of the insurer’s choosing, it is very likely that legitimate claims will be denied on the basis of contradictory diagnoses from doctors paid by large auto insurance companies.

For these reasons, it’s important to seek the services of an experienced personal injury attorney when you are involved in a car accident, even if your injuries seem very minor at first.  At the Fernandez Firm our attorneys can help you navigate the PIP claims process to get the compensation you deserve from the insurance company or responsible at-fault driver.

If you are in an auto accident — even if you do not think you have suffered a serious injury — get medical treatment right away.  Doing so could prove invaluable down the road, improving your odds of receiving the money you need to cover your medical bills, lost wages and get on with your life.