By: David A. Makofka, Esq.
If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, there are some very important things that you may wish to know, especially if you intend to pursue a legal claim against either the at fault driver/s and/or an insurance company.
First and foremost, now matter how you think you may feel following a motor vehicle accident, seek immediate medical attention! Even small collisions with minor impacts can have serious medical consequences. The emergency room is always a good idea, followed by some form of follow-up treatment with either a family doctor or specialist, depending on the nature and severity of the injuries sustained in the wreck. Follow the recommendations of your treating physicians. Whatever you choose to do however, do something. Your health and any potential legal claim depend on it. This is vitally important information, in large part, because Florida’s old Personal Injury Protection or “PIP” law changed substantially on January 1, 2013, and these changes can have a major impact on your life as explained below.
The old PIP law, which was adopted in 1972, was in place primarily to ensure that victims of auto accidents could quickly treat their injuries, regardless of who caused the accident or was “at fault.” It basically required drivers to carry insurance that would cover up to the first $10,000.00 of their medical bills. As a result, the old law made medical treatment for auto injuries accessible to injured persons, and was a law that helped countess people over the past decades.
The new law, which took effect on January 1, 2013, was created on the theory of combating insurance fraud. Critics of the new law argue that while it may have been created to fight insurance fraud, it has had a predictably and equally dangerous side effect of harming medical providers and those persons injured in auto accidents by limiting medical care for injured persons. This is because in Florida, the law now limits the amount of time injured persons have to receive PIP benefits after an accident.
You now only have 14 days following an accident within which you must seek medical treatment or else you will forfeit your right to that medical treatment under PIP. The old law had no such time limits on seeking treatment. If an injured person seeks treatment after the 14 days, the insurance company will not reimburse the cost of the treatment. Further, insurance policyholders may only be eligible for $2,500 in coverage rather than the previous limit of $10,000, depending on whether the injury sustained in the accident is deemed serious enough by the insurance company to justify the higher benefit amount.
Given the very short treatment window that the new law imposes in Florida, it is now essential to seek immediate medical treatment following an auto accident in this state. Remember, “If you delay, they may not pay.”