If someone is injured in a traffic accident because another motorist was driving negligently, the injured party is entitled under Florida law to be completely reimbursed for all necessary medical treatment, all lost wages, and for all other injury-related losses and expenses. In Florida, victims with serious injuries will probably want to discuss their options for legal action with an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney. Sometimes, however, if an injury is truly trivial, it may be faster and more sensible to seek compensation directly from the insurance firm and outside of the legal process.
Florida law requires any at-fault driver in a crash resulting in bodily injury and property damage to others to have full liability insurance coverage in effect at the time of the crash. This coverage includes minimum limits of bodily injury liability of $10,000 per person, $20,000 per crash, $10,000 property damage liability per crash, and personal injury protection limits of $10,000 per person per crash. Always report any collision to the appropriate law enforcement agency immediately so that you can obtain an accident report. You’ll need it.
Negotiating with an insurance company on your own without an accident report from a law enforcement agency could result in your not being fully compensated for damages. The lack of an accident report can also expose you to personal liability since what happened becomes your word against the other driver’s. Without an accident report completed and signed by a police officer, it will be difficult to pursue a personal injury claim if you need to do that later. You must also:
- Make sure the officer enters complete insurance information on the accident report.
- Report the crash to your insurance company immediately.
- Never confront an at-fault party personally.
HOW DOES NEGOTIATION WORK?
If a minor injury has been caused by another driver’s negligence, and if you elect to negotiate on your own with that driver’s insurance company, contact the company and complete the claim forms and other paperwork. If your claim is not disputed, and if you believe that you are being reimbursed fairly and adequately, go ahead and negotiate directly and on your own. Sometimes, the claim negotiation procedure is no more than a couple of phone calls and possibly an appointment with the claims adjuster.
Prior to speaking with the claims adjuster, determine what your injury claim is worth, and decide on the lowest possible settlement amount that you can accept. Never disclose that figure while negotiating. It’s for you alone, a bottom line to remember while you are negotiating. During your first discussion with an insurance adjuster, point out the strengths of your claim. At that time, the insurance adjuster will probably also explain any weaknesses found in your claim.
WHAT IF THE FIRST OFFER IS RIDICULOUS?
It may take several conversations with an insurance adjuster to arrive at a settlement. Don’t be hurried or intimidated. If the adjuster has details about your claim that you were unaware of, you may have to revise what you believe your claim is worth. The first offer might be ridiculously inadequate – the adjuster may simply be determining if you are easy or hard to negotiate with. Ask why the offer is so low, schedule a second conversation, and consider the reasons for the low offer. However, if the first offer not unreasonably low, counter with an offer that is a just slightly below the amount of your original claim.
When negotiating with an insurance company, identify your strongest points – the at-fault party’s one-hundred-percent negligence, or the weeks of work that you have missed, for instance – and repeat those facts intermittently. Emotional details can sometimes be helpful too. For example, if an injury has kept you from taking care of your kids, remind the adjuster that they are victims too.
When you have an agreed-upon settlement amount, verify it immediately with a letter to the adjuster. Include the amount, the injuries or other damages covered by the settlement, and the date you expect to receive your reimbursement. If you have negotiated in good faith, the insurance firm should swiftly deliver your compensation. If it doesn’t, injury victims in Florida are entitled to hold an insurer accountable for unfair claim settlement practices.
WHAT IF THE COMPANY DOES NOT MEET ITS OBLIGATION?
If an insurance company does not meet its obligation, a personal injury victim in Florida may file an insurance bad faith claim. If you cannot get an insurance company to meet its obligation to you, or if the company agrees to pay you but actually doesn’t, an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney may be able to help. Insurance “bad faith” happens when an insurer deals negligently or unfairly with your claim, such as:
- rejecting your claim but giving you no reason or bogus reasons for the rejection
- constantly requesting new information only as a delaying tactic
- offering to settle your claim for only a fraction of what it’s worth
- consistently avoiding you and giving you poor excuses for inaction
Often, hiring an attorney familiar with insurance bad faith cases is all it takes. Bringing a bad faith claim against the insurance company is only one of your legal options. You might also be able to obtain help from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ Bureau of Motorist Compliance. They’ll need a copy of the accident report and a denial letter from the insurance company.
If you pursue an insurance bad faith claim with a lawyer’s assistance, you may be compensated for both the original settlement amount you were denied and for any extra amount ordered by the court (for example, for your legal expenses). If you need to be compensated for a personal injury, the last thing you want is a war with an insurance company, especially while you are recuperating. A good personal injury attorney can handle all of the legal details on your behalf.
Every insurance firm has to make profits – in fact, profits are imperative – but insurance companies should earn those profits without ducking out of their obligations. Personal injury victims typically pile up medical expenses while they’re also unable to work, so the delay or denial of a personal injury claim can mean real financial hardship for people already suffering injuries. If you’ve been seriously injured, don’t even attempt to deal directly with an insurance company. Have a car accident attorney represent you from the start.
If you’ve suffered a serious personal injury in a Florida traffic wreck caused by another driver’s negligence, do not speak to an insurance adjuster or sign any insurance forms or paperwork. You might be signing away your right to take legal action in the future. In most accident cases with injuries, the wisest move is to have an experienced car accident attorney negotiate a settlement agreement on your behalf.