In the state of Florida, if you are injured in a traffic collision and you do not obtain medical attention within 14 days, your insurance company may not compensate you. Many people feel no pain immediately after a crash because adrenaline can mask the sensation of pain, but it is imperative to obtain medical treatment immediately, even if you do not “feel” particularly injured. You will not only be looking at Florida’s 14-day limit, but you should also understand that some injuries which are not immediately apparent may slowly become serious medical conditions.
For a variety of reasons, it’s never wise to refuse medical attention after a traffic accident. Many fear the expense and the days that might be lost from work, but you should put those anxieties aside after an accident. If you’ve been injured, as soon as you’ve obtained medical attention, you’ll want to discuss the accident, your injuries, and your legal rights with an experienced Tampa personal injury lawyer.
How does the 14-day rule work? Tampa personal injury attorney Jeffrey Hensley explains: “If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, Florida law requires you first seek coverage for medical care under the Personal Injury Protection (PIP) portion of your own insurance. Under PIP, you are entitled to coverage for 80% of reasonable and customary expenses for medical care up to $10,000. There is one condition though; you must receive treatment within 14 days and your doctor or advanced registered nurse practitioner must determine that you have an ‘emergency medical condition.'”
Thus, if you are injured in a traffic collision and do not seek medical attention in the first 14 days, you will not be able to use your PIP coverage. If you do not seek medical attention immediately because you believe at first that you are not injured, and then your back starts hurting on the 15th day after the collision, your doctor will not be allowed to submit the bill to your PIP insurer – no matter what kind of injury you’ve sustained.
IN FLORIDA, WHO LEGALLY QUALIFIES AS A HEALTHCARE PROVIDER?
This doesn’t necessarily mean that accident victims must go to an emergency room immediately after every crash. You may still elect to be seen by your own healthcare provider. You can see your own doctor, dentist, or chiropractor, or visit an ER. In some cases, accident victims might receive medical attention at the crash site from a paramedic or EMT who can provide initial medical services that satisfy the 14-day rule.
What is important is obtaining medical treatment within the first 14 days. However, as of 2013, acupuncturists and massage therapists no longer qualify under Florida law to treat accident victims and receive payment through PIP policies. Why is there a 14-day limit for seeking medical treatment after traffic accidents in the state of Florida? The rule was supposed to result in lower costs for auto insurance in Florida, but according to the Palm Beach Post, drivers in this state now pay the nation’s fourth highest automobile insurance rates.
The 14-day rule was one of several changes to Florida law that went into effect back in 2013. Drivers in this state have also been required since 2013 to carry $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance. However, if you are injured in a traffic collision, you are limited to only $2,500 of the $10,000 unless you suffer what Florida law calls an emergency medical condition (or “EMC”).
WHAT CONSTITUTES AN EMERGENCY MEDICAL CONDITION?
The 2013 law does not spell out what constitutes an EMC, but other laws in Florida define an emergency medical condition as a condition that, without immediate medical attention, can reasonably be expected to result in severe or permanent dysfunction of one more parts of the body. In most cases, only traffic accident victims with a diagnosed EMC qualify to take advantage of the full $10,000 of their PIP insurance; in most cases, victims with less serious injuries qualify for only $2,500 of coverage.
To qualify for the full $10,000 of your PIP coverage, your healthcare provider should use the phrase “emergency medical condition” and indicate that you require immediate medical attention. If your healthcare provider simply says you “were injured” and “require treatment,” you’ll be restricted to only $2,500 to cover that treatment. If you feel that the insurance company is wrongly limiting your benefits to $2,500, speak about your situation with an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney.
Historically, attempts to end PIP insurance in Florida have failed because insurance companies and hospitals have lobbied to protect the system as it is. In 2016, another proposal to end PIP, authored by State Senator Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, failed to pass the Florida Senate’s Banking and Insurance Committee. Senator Brandes told the Palm Beach Post, “The system is broken and rife with fraud and abuse. There is no amount of tweaking that will fix PIP.”
DO YOU HAVE RECOURSE IF YOU MISS THE 14-DAY DEADLINE?
The 14-day limit establishes a brief period of time for traffic accident injury victims to seek medical treatment, and those who wait more than 14 days may expect no PIP compensation. However, if you failed to seek medical treatment within the 14-day period, and you later learn that you’ve been seriously injured and need compensation, you may – in some cases – still have recourse. The denial of your claim by your insurance company isn’t necessarily the end of the story.
Frequently, a personal injury attorney will be able to persuade an insurance company to reevaluate and approve your claim. If the company doesn’t cooperate, your attorney can help you file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages. Most personal injury lawyers will meet with you for no cost, and if you have grounds for filing a personal injury claim, most personal injury attorneys will work on a contingency basis, with no legal fees due until and unless you win. After you are injured in a traffic accident, you lose nothing by speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
If you are injured in a traffic crash in central Florida – or anywhere else – admit no fault and sign no insurance documents before consulting a personal injury lawyer. Get medical treatment at once, and if it is at all possible, take photos of your visible injuries both before and after your treatment. Obtain contact and insurance information from the other driver and get the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses. Call the police and obtain a copy of their accident report. Keep copies of all of the documents and other paperwork related to the accident and injury.
When you have photos, the appropriate paperwork, and the necessary contact information, a good personal injury attorney can then provide the specific legal recommendations you’ll need. Nothing is more important than your health and your future, so if you’ve been involved in a Florida traffic crash, the wisest thing to do is to get medical attention immediately – or at least within the 14-day limit – and then speak with a good personal injury lawyer.