Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Why You should Consider Extended PIP Insurance




Florida law1 requires that every driver have a minimal amount of insurance called Personal Injury Protection, or PIP insurance. Specifically you must carry $10,000 of PIP coverage, which is meant to cover your medical expenses and other losses stemming from injuries sustained in a car accident. This coverage is known as “no-fault,” as it will cover your medical bills and losses whether you caused the accident or another person caused the accident. This no-fault system is intended to reduce the number of personal injury lawsuits that stem from car accidents in the Florida courts.

While $10,000 is the minimum PIP insurance requirement, you do have the opportunity to purchase additional PIP coverage, which is referred to as extended PIP. While many people decline this extended coverage, it may be a mistake to do so.

PIP insurance will cover the following losses in the event of a car accident injury:

  • 80 percent of reasonable medical treatment and services
  • Lost income from work missed work
  • Transportation costs
  • Costs of assistance needed


For many injuries, medical bills alone can easily exceed $10,000, needless to say other losses. You will not necessarily have the right to seek compensation through other means unless you meet specific requirements, so you may find yourself in a difficult financial position if you choose to only have the minimum PIP coverage. Far too many clients come to our office seeking help because they learn they have inadequate coverage after an accident occurs.

Purchasing any type of insurance can be confusing because the policies are not written in Simple language. Policies contain complex legal terms that can be overly-wordy and difficult to decipher. Most people do not fully understand the fine print of their policies when they purchase them. This can lead to a surprise when you make a claim that your policy will not cover all of your losses. While you may not believe that an accident and serious injuries will happen to you, crashes can happen to anyone and you do not want to be left without necessary compensation in the event of a bad accident.

If you were in an accident and are being told your coverage is limited when you did not know that, you should call an experienced attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can determine whether your policy was ambiguous or whether the information provided to you by the insurance company was accurate and adequate for you to make a decision regarding coverage. If not, you may be able to fight for additional coverage.

Consult with an Experienced PIP Insurance Attorney for Help Today

At the Dolman Law Group, we help injured car accident victims through all stages of their case. Whether you need help making a PIP claim or negotiating with your insurer or you need representation in a personal injury lawsuit, we are here to help. Please call our office in Clearwater at 727-451-6900 today.

Friday, March 24, 2017

How Auto Insurance Claims Work in Florida



If you drive a car, you are required by law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to carry insurance to cover accidents. The amount of insurance you are required to have varies by state, but every state has a minimum amount of insurance you are required to purchase. In this legal landscape, two types of auto insurance systems have developed: fault systems (also known as “liability systems”) and no-fault systems (also known as “PIP systems”). Florida is a no-fault system.

Fault Systems vs. No-Fault Systems

The vast majority of states use fault systems, or, as they are more commonly known, “liability” systems. Under these types of insurance systems, the insurance company of the driver who is found to be at fault for the accident pays for the other driver’s losses. An example of the typical types of coverages used in liability systems is below:

  • $5,000 per person toward injury-related costs
  • $15,000 per accident toward injury-related costs (if more than one person is injured)
  • $10,000 per accident in property damage costs


Note that these amounts are paid to the driver who is not at fault for the accident. If you are found to be at fault and you are injured or your car is damaged, your insurance pays for your injuries with medical payments coverage and your property damage with collision coverage, both of which are usually optional add-ons to the above minimum coverages. At their heart, liability systems are concerned with fault—thus, in these systems, litigation is common after car accidents to determine who was at fault for the accident and whose insurance company must pay.

No-fault insurance systems are not concerned about determinations of fault in an accident, as their name would suggest. The policies issued in jurisdictions that follow no-fault systems are known as “personal injury protection” (PIP) policies, and they cover any injuries to the policyholder resulting from an accident regardless of fault. Thus, in states that use PIP systems, each driver’s insurance company pays for its own policyholder’s injuries and damages. After an accident, each driver simply files a claim with his or her insurance company and the insurance company pays for the driver’s losses up to the policy’s limits.

The main benefit of PIP systems is that they usually result in far less litigation clogging up the court systems; instead of fighting over who was at fault in an accident, the insurance companies just pay each of their policyholders for their losses, which makes sorting out exactly what happened in the accident much easier. In states that have replaced their liability systems with PIP systems, the most commonly cited reasons for doing so are that they reduce auto insurance rates, increase the fairness of reimbursement, and reduce the burden on the courts. States with no-fault insurance systems at the time of publication of this article include Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

Insurance in Florida

Florida law requires that all drivers in Florida have car insurance. The minimum insurance requirements the state requires are as follows:

  • $10,000 of no-fault PIP insurance
  • $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL) insurance 


PIP insurance covers your part of any medical expenses and income loss that results from a car accident, as well as:

  • Your child and other members of your household
  • Your child when he or she is riding on a school bus
  • You when you are a pedestrian or cyclist involved in a car accident
  • Passengers in your car who do not have their own PIP insurance and who also do not own a car


PDL insurance covers you for the damages you cause to someone else’s property in a car accident, such as cars, homes, or other buildings.

PIP and PDL requirements are just the minimum amount of coverage required by Florida law. most drivers, especially those with newer vehicles, will want to opt for enhanced coverage, which is available in the following forms:

  • Comprehensive: This coverage pays for damages to your car that are not the result of a car accident, such as scratches, dents, and hail damage
  • Collision: This coverage pays for accident-related damages to your car
  • Towing and labor: This coverage pays for any towing and labor costs that are associated with a car accident
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: This coverage pays for damages incurred by accidents with drivers who do not have insurance


Recommendations

The Florida Bar publishes a pamphlet to residents of the state of Florida with many recommendations on navigating the sometimes confusing landscape of auto insurance and car accidents. A few of their most important recommendations are below.

-Request a quote from several different insurers to make sure that you’re getting the best coverage for the lowest rate.
Make sure that the information on your application is accurate; false information could cause you insurer to cancel your policy or refuse to cover a claim when you make one.

-Make sure that you understand what your policy covers. Every policy should include a “plain language” description this, including a description of the benefits and coverages and a breakdown in how the premium is applied, a summary of what is and is not covered under specific conditions, a summary of the policy’s renewal and cancellation provisions, and a description of any credits or extra charges.

-Get a binder when you sign the application—this can be used as temporary proof of insurance until your formal policy is issued.

-Keep track of your policy renewal dates—most are for terms of either six or 12 months.

-Be sure to report any changes to your insurance agent, including new drivers, new cars, or changes in the use of your car.

Contact a Clearwater, FL Auto Accident Attorney Today

If you have any questions or concerns about Florida auto insurance or have recently been involved in an auto accident, please contact the attorneys at the Dolman Law Group for a free consultation by calling 727-451-6900.



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Car Accidents Caused by Distracted Drivers: Types and Prevention



According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles,1 each year approximately 200 Floridians are killed, 3,000 suffer incapacitating injuries, and 10,600 to 32,000 suffer personal injuries as the result of “distracted driving.” In Florida, “distracted driving” is defined as a crash that occurs because a driver was doing one or more of the following:

  • Using an electronic communication device; 
  • Using another electronic device; 
  • Texting; 
  • Talking to passengers;
  • Eating/Drinking;
  • Reading;
  • Grooming; 
  • Adjusting the radio, 
  • External factors, such as witnessing an accident, and
  • General inattentiveness. 


Nationwide, the Center for Disease Control’s Injury Center2 reports that distracted driving causes nearly one in five motor vehicle crashes.

Categories of Distracted Driving

There are generally three categories of distracted driving:

  • Visual: When a driver’s eyes are not on the road at the time or immediately before the accident;
  • Manual: When a driver’s hands or feet lose contact with the steering wheel or pedals, and
  • Cognitive: When you are not focused on driving, i.e., daydreaming.


Although it seems difficult for the typical driver to image how another driver can lose manual control of the vehicle due to distraction, a 2015 survey3 reported that some drivers actually change clothes and brush their teeth behind the wheel!


Importantly, the reason why texting while driving is extremely dangerous is because it takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off of driving all at the same time. This means you are visually, manually, and cognitively distracted, while many accidents are caused by only one of these categorizations. Unsurprisingly, drivers under the age of 20 have the highest rate of distraction-related fatal car crashes, the majority of which are attributed to texting and use of electronic devices. It was further reported that, when compared to European drivers, Americans had a higher rate of distracted driving incidents overall because they were more likely to be e-mailing, texting, or talking on a cell phone while driving.

Florida Distracted Driving Law


It is reported that distracted driving may be reduced if a state passes and enforces strong distracted driving laws, such as laws against texting and cell phone use while driving. Florida, however, has some of the weakest distracted driving laws in the nation. Under Florida law,4 texting while driving is illegal, but it is not punishable as a “primary” offense. This means that if you are stopped at a red light and a police officer sees you texting, you cannot be stopped for this alone. You must have committed another traffic offense, such as speeding, and a violation of the texting statute would be “secondary” to that offense.

Further, Florida does not have a ban on handheld devices, i.e., cell phone use, or a ban on cell phone use for drivers 18 and under. Florida is one of only a few states that permits drivers under the age of 18 to use their cell phone while driving, which can have a dangerous impact on Clearwater.

Crashes Caused by Distracted Driving

Although many car crashes are caused by a combination of factors, such as aggressive driving, distraction, and intoxication, certain accidents are more likely to be caused by a distracted driver. One such accident is a “rear-end” accident, which occurs when the front-end of your vehicle impacts the back-end of the vehicle in front of you. This is common if you are visually or cognitively distracted such that you do not realize the car in front of you has slowed or stopped before it is too late. Another type of distracted driving accident is an intersection accident, which is commonly caused when you miss traffic control devices such as stop signs and red lights and drive straight into oncoming traffic. This can result in you T-boning another vehicle, which is an extremely dangerous type of accident if it occurs while you are driving over 55 mph.  

How to Prevent Distracted Driving in Florida

Education about the dangers of distracted driving, especially for those under the age of 20, is the key to preventing many distracted driving accidents. It is speculated that if young drivers are presented with the statistical likelihood of suffering or causing a fatal or serious injury due to texting or cell phone use, it would decrease their likelihood of engaging in distracted behaviors. It is further speculated that stronger distracted driving laws and strict enforcement of those laws will also help to reduce distracted driving accidents.

While on the road you cannot always protect yourself from another driver’s negligence, especially if they are distracted, however, there are some tips for staying safe:

  • When stopped at an intersection, wait two seconds after the light turns green before proceeding. This will allow any drivers who might have speed-up to catch or missed the red light to pass.
  • When at a multi-way stop, never assume another vehicle is going to stop or give you right-of-way. Be sure that the other vehicle has come to a complete stop at the stop sign before proceeding.
  • If you witness a driver swerving or engaging in abnormal behavior, change lanes and put distance between yourself and the driver and/or report the driver to the police. 


Injured by a Distracted Driver in Clearwater? Contact an Experienced Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today

If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence or distraction of another driver, you are not alone. In this modern technological era where both navigational services and e-mail are available on your mobile phone, nearly 70% of drivers have admitted to using their device while operating a vehicle. Further, drivers under the age of 20 have been raised with this technology, and it is ingrained into most aspects of their lives.

The Dolman Law Group understands the challenges faced by Florida drivers in this modern era, especially when they are without the full protection of Florida law. We are your go-to personal injury firm for distracted driving accidents in Clearwater. With experience handling complex truck, car, and multi-car cases, our attorneys are here to ensure you get all of the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at (727) 451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900