You’re going to feel shaken in the hours and days immediately following a car accident in West Palm Beach. The last thing you are going to want to do is to negotiate with insurance companies, and yet you have a financial motivation to file a car accident injury claim as soon as possible.
Insurance companies know this. They know that it feels like a big hassle to call in your claim, file the necessary paperwork, and wait seemingly endless weeks to hear a response. They may actually take advantage of this situation by using a few key tactics, all of which have the typical effect of lowering the amounts they pay out to claimants. That is their central goal, after all: to reduce payouts and improve profits.
Claimants usually approach this situation on uneven footing. Few people know the ins and outs of insurance policy and relevant state and federal law. They may not know their legal rights, including the right to appoint a West Palm Beach car accident lawyer and to defer questions to their attorney.
You can speak with an attorney in West Palm Beach during a free, no-obligation consultation to answer your questions about insurance and learn the best legal strategies to use in these situations. Schedule your free consultation now by calling (800) 916-8108 or by using our convenient online contact form.
When to File a Car Accident Injury Claim Against Another Driver’s Insurance
Florida law requires that all drivers carry a minimum insurance amount of $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) coverage.
Some drivers can optionally decide to carry bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance, which pays for the medical costs and other damages to accident victims after they were involved in a collision caused by the policyholder.
PIP insurance is referred to as “no-fault” insurance because it pays for your medical costs no matter who caused the accident. However, Florida car accident victims have the option to pursue a BIL claim against an at-fault driver if they have a qualifying “serious injury.”
Examples of serious injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Significant disfigurement
- Full or nearly full disability for 90 days
- Permanent limited use of an organ or appendage
- Significant limited use of a bodily system or function for 90 days
If you have a major injury and think that another driver with a BIL policy could have been at-fault for your accident, it is crucial that you obtain their insurance information and file an injury claim with their insurance company.
Why? Because PIP insurance has major limits. It only pays a portion of your lost wages, for instance, and it won’t provide any money for the pain and suffering of you and your passengers.
Not all drivers have a BIL policy in Florida, though, because it is optional for non-commercial drivers. However, if you were hit by a commercial vehicle — like a taxi, tractor-trailer, or company car — then they are required by law to have a third-party liability policy offering at least $50,000 in BIL coverage (F.S. 627.7415). Savvy non-commercial drivers may also carry a BIL policy because it can prevent them from getting sued.
If you have a major injury, then it is crucial to first investigate whether the other drivers involved in your accident had a BIL policy. You can work with an experienced car accident attorney in West Palm Beach to file a claim and pursue the full value of your injuries.
Reporting Your Accident to an Insurance Company (If You Were Presumed Not at Fault)
No matter what form of insurance you are using to pay for your injury costs, the process of evaluating your claim will be almost the same.
First, the insurer will gather information about you, the accident, and others involved. By looking at the police crash report and other evidence, they can determine the circumstances of the accident, including who was at fault.
Once your claim has begun, insurers will wait for you to tell them the full cost of your medical bills, related out of pocket expenses, and other costs. If your accident involved damage to your vehicle, then they will gather an estimate of the repair costs from a body shop they trust. The insurer will then make an offer compensating you for your covered losses.
Don’t Accept the First Offer Until You Know Your Full Damages
Unfortunately, many car accident victims jump at the first insurance offer they receive. They may decide that the settlement is larger than they expected, or they may be exhausted from waiting to hear back from the insurance company (a common tactic used to wear down claimants).
Once an offer is accepted, then there is next to zero chance that you can renegotiate a larger settlement later on. Many car accident victims assume that they have all their losses covered only to discover that they have future medical costs or other accident-related expenses.
The only way to know if your settlement offer is actually fair is to review the exact language of the relevant policy and review all of your expenses since the accident, one by one, to see if they apply. Because the legal language regarding coverage can often be complex, appointing a West Palm Beach car accident lawyer can provide the guidance and thorough examination you need to ensure all expenses are accounted for.
Insurers may try to scare you into accepting the offer by implying that you won’t be able to get anything if you say no. This is not true; insurance companies are open to demands for compensation and even potential lawsuits until an agreement is reached and an official settlement is signed.
Be Careful When Talking to Other Driver’s Insurance Companies
Insurance adjusters representing the at-fault driver may seem friendly, but they are not your friends. They will do anything they can to reduce the value of a claim or find a reason to reject it outright.
One strategy is to get the injury victim to admit that they were partially at fault for the accident. Florida’s comparative fault laws (F.S. 768.81) reduce the value of a claim by the percentage of fault attributed to the claimant.
Another strategy is to argue that some of your injuries or costs were related to a pre-existing condition. That way, insurers can avoid reimbursing you for medical costs they allege weren’t related to the accident.
Because of these risks, avoid discussing specific details about the accident, your current medical status, and your medical history. Any time these questions come up, you can deflect by saying that the full details about your accident will be disclosed pending a private investigation and that your health status is an ongoing matter. You do not have to disclose prior health conditions since this is private information, except in situations where the insurance company is alleging fraud or involved in an active lawsuit with you.
Try to restrict the information you share with insurers to your contact information, your occupation, the hospital where you received treatment, and details they can find for themselves on the car accident report.
If insurers are asking too many questions or attempting to say that some of your injury costs are not covered by their policy, then you can speak to a car accident lawyer in West Palm Beach to defend your rights and assert your claim to the fullest extent of the law.
Don’t Sign Anything or Make a Recorded Statement without Consulting an Attorney
Be particularly cautious about signing forms, and never provide a recorded statement to insurers. The forms you sign may waive some of your rights or give insurers unneeded access to your medical history. A recorded statement may later be used against you to allege inconsistencies or argue that you admitted to fault.
Protect your legal rights, and consult with a lawyer if you feel like your claim is being handled in an adversarial way.
When to Talk to a West Palm Beach Car Accident Lawyer
Hiring an attorney to represent you after a West Palm Beach car accident can always be a good idea, but there are several situations where it especially important in order to assert your legal rights. These situations include:
- Major injuries that require surgery or extended hospitalization
- Claims involving commercial vehicles or businesses
- Complex accidents where fault is unclear
- Accidents where you are alleged to have been partially or wholly at fault
- Insurance companies asking too many questions about your medical history or fault
- Claims severely reduced or denied
No matter what the reason is, you have the right to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer in West Palm Beach. You can schedule a free case review and consultation session with one of our experienced car accident attorneys when you call (800) 916-8108 or use our quick form to contact us online.