Far too many passengers suffer injuries every day in traffic accidents on Florida’s busy streets and highways. Could one of those passengers – today or in the future – be you?
Many of these injuries are trivial – minor scrapes and bruises – but some of the injuries that passengers sustain are catastrophic. Some are permanently disabling. Others are fatal.
You’re about to read an overview of your rights as a passenger in Florida, and you’ll also learn how to exercise those rights – and why you should – if you are injured in a traffic accident.
Everyone’s a passenger at one time or another. If you are injured by negligence while you’re a passenger, knowing your legal rights is imperative – especially in Florida, where traffic accident law is a bit more complex than it is in most other states.
WHAT ARE A PASSENGER’S RIGHTS IN FLORIDA?
It doesn’t matter if the driver you were riding with was negligent or if another driver was negligent – your rights as a passenger are the same.
If you are injured in a Florida traffic accident because one of the drivers was negligent, it is imperative for you to discuss your rights and options immediately with a personal injury attorney.
HOW DOES FLORIDA’S NO-FAULT INSURANCE WORK?
Florida is one of twelve states with no-fault auto insurance. Under a no-fault insurance system, when you are involved in an accident, your auto insurance provider automatically pays for certain damages, regardless of fault, up to a specified limit.
Drivers in Florida are required by law to carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) insurance coverage.
PIP covers injuries that policyholders suffer in traffic accidents regardless of which driver was at-fault. If you are injured while you are someone else’s passenger, you may be compensated for your medical bills through your own PIP policy.
If an injured passenger does not own a vehicle or have any PIP coverage, the injured passenger may still be covered under the PIP policy owned by:
1. the owner of the vehicle the passenger was traveling in
2. a related member of the passenger’s household
3. the at-fault driver
WHAT IS THE 14-DAY RULE?
However, this state’s 14-day rule – clarified in some detail below – requires auto accident injury victims to have a medical examination within fourteen days after an accident if they expect to be compensated.
If you do not have the medical exam within fourteen days of the accident and injury, under Florida law, your auto insurer can legally and legitimately deny your injury claim.
If you are injured as a passenger in a traffic accident anywhere in this state, get medical help first. Then get legal help as quickly as you can.
Having the advice and guidance of an experienced Florida accident attorney will be imperative after you’ve been injured by a negligent driver here in Florida.
HOW DOES THE 14-DAY RULE WORK?
Exactly how does the state’s 14-day rule work? Like this: If you are injured in a traffic crash in Florida, and if you do not seek medical treatment within fourteen days, your auto insurer will not be compelled by Florida law to reimburse you.
The 14-day rule ostensibly keeps the price for auto insurance lower in our state, but if you have sustained a hard-to-detect injury, or if you have sustained an injury that remains latent for two or more weeks, the 14-day rule could hurt you – literally.
And even if you comply with the rule, you will be limited to only $2,500 of your $10,000 coverage unless you have sustained what the law in Florida calls an “emergency medical condition.”
WHAT ARE THE FIRST STEPS AN INJURED PASSENGER SHOULD TAKE?
If you are injured as a passenger, if you have complied with the 14-day rule, and if your damages exceed $10,000 (and they will if you’ve been hurt seriously), you should be able to sue the at-fault driver for the remainder of your damages. You’ll need an accident attorney’s help.
If you’re injured as a passenger in a vehicle crash in Florida, do not admit fault, and do not sign any insurance forms or documents before you have an attorney’s advice. Let your attorney do all of the talking to – and the negotiating with – the insurance company.
Get medical treatment immediately after the crash – or at the scene. Don’t wait fourteen days. At the accident scene, take photographs of any of your visible injuries. Get the names, insurance details, and contact information for all of the drivers involved.
WHAT ELSE WILL YOU (AND YOUR ATTORNEY) NEED?
Also, try to get the names and contact details of any witnesses to the accident. Summon police to the accident scene, and make sure that you can obtain a copy of the police accident report.
Keep and make copies of all of the bills, forms, reports, and any other documents generated by the collision and injury.
With the pertinent photographs and documents, a skilled accident attorney can offer you the exact legal recommendations and insights that you’ll need.
Nothing is a higher priority than your health and future.
If you have been injured in a Florida traffic accident, the smartest thing you can do is to seek medical attention at once – at least within fourteen days – and then arrange to consult a good Florida personal injury lawyer.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER?
Experienced Stuart personal injury attorney Jordan Wagner of Kibbey Wagner PLLC sums up the rights of passengers by saying, “if you’re a passenger, you have multiple insurance coverages you can potentially pursue, depending upon who is at fault and what is available.”
Attorney Wagner continues, “You have the other driver’s bodily injury coverage, you have the driver of your car’s bodily injury, you have the owner of the vehicle’s car that you’re in, his or her uninsured motorist coverage, and your own uninsured motorist coverage at your disposal.”
Jordan Wagner’s conclusion: “Again, this is all dependent on who is at-fault and what coverages are there. Almost always, though, if you’re a passenger, you’re not fighting over liability since it’s the rare circumstance where a passenger did something wrong to cause an accident.”
WHAT’S THE COST TO LEARN MORE ABOUT YOUR CASE AND YOUR RIGHTS?
It will not cost you even a dollar to learn more about your rights and about how Florida law applies to your circumstances. Almost all of Florida’s personal injury lawyers offer a free first consultation and case review.
Florida has established a four-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases arising from traffic accidents. But if you are injured, you must not wait four years – or even four weeks – to put a personal injury lawyer on your case.
By immediately obtaining legal counsel, you’re telling the insurance company that you won’t be cajoled or bullied into agreeing to a settlement that’s insufficient compensation for your lost wages and medical expenses.
HOW MUCH TIME DO INJURED PASSENGERS HAVE TO TAKE LEGAL ACTION?
The statute of limitations protects the integrity of evidence and eyewitness testimony. Over time, evidence deteriorates or disappears, and the memories of the witnesses will fade – if those witnesses can even be located.
That’s why it’s critical to put your injury case in the hands of a trustworthy Florida accident lawyer as soon as possible after you sustain any injury in a traffic collision. It’s your health, your future – and it’s your right.