When the accident first occurs, the motorist is thrown into a quickly occurring series of events. Impact, confusion, possible pain, exiting the vehicle safely, followed by deconstruction of the accident and assignment of fault.
If you’re involved in an accident, you should first contact local public safety officials by dialing 9-1-1, or otherwise reporting the accident.
If you feel you are injured, you may want to go to the hospital immediately. Keep in mind that you are under no obligation to travel in an ambulance, but if you do, you will be responsible for paying the costs of the ambulance trip later.
If you choose not to go to the hospital immediately after the accident, you will be obligated to seek medical treatment within 14 days of the accident, otherwise you will forfeit your PIP benefits.
What are PIP benefits?
In Florida, all automotive insurance policies include up to $10,000 of medical treatment for an insured following an accident. This is what’s known as No-Fault, but officially PIP stands for Personal Injury Protection. It doesn’t matter who was to blame for the accident, you are entitled to this benefit simply by being insured in the State of Florida.
How is PIP used?
PIP will be billed automatically by your healthcare provider for medical costs you incur.
Can I get PIP payments myself?
No. PIP is not paid directly to a driver, passenger, attorney, or anyone else who does not provide you with medical treatment.
When should I contact my insurance company?
As soon as is practicable after the accident. The insurance company may ask for the facts surrounding the accident, any citations received, and other details. If you have already hired an Attorney, you should inform your insurance company.
Should I contact the other driver’s insurance company?
Probably not. Follow the advice of an attorney. If a statement is required of you, your Attorney will guide you through that process.
When should I contact an Attorney?
As above, as soon as is practicable after an accident. An attorney will serve as your personal representative and guide you through the process ahead. Your attorney is obligated to act for your benefit and in your best interests.
But SHOULD I contact an Attorney?
Almost certainly. A personal injury Attorney will know how to navigate between the insurance companies, medical professionals, and the court system.
What about the cost? I’ve heard Attorneys are expensive.
This is, unfortunately, a common misconception. Attorneys will evaluate your case and give you options, usually at no up-front cost. Personal injury Attorneys often apply what’s called a “contingency fee” in accident cases. This means you will not have to pay the Attorney to start working on your case. The Attorney’s fee will be based the amount recovered. This way, the client doesn’t need to pay anything up front and the Attorney’s fee will be automatically deducted at the end. Contingency fees may vary by Attorney and some may not accept cases based on a contingency fee, you should discuss this with your Attorney. In Florida, contingency fee amounts are limited by statute.
I’ve decided to hire an Attorney, what’s next?
Your Attorney will provide you with a retainer/client/fee agreement that will outline the way the case will be handled by the law firm. Additionally, the Attorney is required to provide you with a “statement of client’s rights” that outlines what the client is entitled to. This is required by statute.
Your Attorney will advise you on where to seek treatment if you do not currently have a treatment provider. He/She should also outline the timeline and set proper expectations in regard to the treatment plan (several months to over a year), the legal, negotiation, and filing process after the final physician’s report is issued, and your potential recovery options. The Attorney should also address any other concerns the client may have.
Ok, I’ve hired the Attorney, received the necessary paperwork, and am continuing treatment, what now? Follow your doctor’s instructions! Your treating physician will guide you through the treatments and make medical recommendations. At some point, usually several months after you’ve started treatment, your treating physician will make a determination as to impairment, and will then issue a report.
What’s in the report?
The report will be a brief history of your initial visit, symptoms, and treatment. It will also include an itemized list of your treatments, as well as the physician’s medical opinion on your injuries. A copy of this report should be forwarded to your Attorney.
What will my Attorney do with the medical report?
The report will be used as the underlying basis for the “demand”
What’s a demand?
The demand is the formal documentation sent to the insurance company. It will outline the facts, treatments, injuries, and opinions of the legal and medical professionals. It will also include a request for financial compensation for the client.
What if the insurance company won’t pay the amount listed in the demand?
This is often, but not always, what happens. The insurance company will provide a counter-offer to the Attorney’s demand, a financial compensation amount they are willing to pay. This is where the Attorney will negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf in order to recover as much as possible.
What happens if the negotiations stall, or the settlement amount isn’t has high as I wanted?
At some point, there will be a time when the Attorney feels that the insurance company has reached its highest offer. At this point, the client will choose whether to accept this amount or file a lawsuit seeking to recover additional funds.
What happens if we file a lawsuit?
This begins the litigation process. This is a complicated field that will vary based on facts, injuries, treatments, witnesses, and many other factors. This decision should be candidly discussed with your Attorney.
Ok, we’ve finished the settlement/litigation process. What now?
If the Attorney’s efforts were successful, the Attorney should be receiving a check on your behalf. This will be the recovery amount.
So that’s it? I get the check from my Attorney?
Not quite! From the recovery amount, your Attorney will deduct their fees and any legal costs thus far incurred. The Attorney will also settle some/all outstanding medical fees you have incurred as a result of the accident up to that point in time. Remember earlier when we mentioned PIP? This is why seeking medical treatment within 14 days and speaking with an Attorney is so important! If PIP isn’t covering any medical costs, those costs are likely to come out of your recovery amount.
After those expenses are removed, what happens next?
Your Attorney should be ready to issue you a check for the final amount! You will receive communication from the Attorney’s office advising you on how to receive your funds.
What if I have questions about the case after I receive my recovery? Will my Attorney still speak to me?
I certainly hope so! You should not hesitate to contact an Attorney after representation on a case has concluded.
At RAK Law, we joined the legal field to help people navigate life’s legal hurdles, and we want to hear from you. Please contact us immediately if you have questions or concerns regarding any legal matter and want to speak with an attorney right away.