Many people assume that they don't need the advice of an attorney if they're in a minor car accident - but that's often the wrong move. Despite the fact that Florida is a no-fault state, you may still need to consider getting a lawyer under certain circumstances.
When Liability is Unclear
Under Florida's no-fault system, medical bills up to $10,000.00, in connection with a claim are generally paid by your own insurance company regardless as to who caused the accident. There are limitations and exceptions. You do not need to have sustained a permanent injury to collect benefits under no-fault. However, if you are seeking to recovery beyond no-fault and obtain a monetary recovery for pain and suffering, Florida requires that you have sustained a permanent injury, or a permanent aggravation of a previous injury. Often, the full extent of your injuries (and therefore your total medical bills or the cost of ongoing treatment) is unclear immediately.
If it later becomes apparent your injuries are permanent in nature, and you wish to submit a bodily injury claim, or an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim, it is recommended that you hire an attorney. In addition, often times it is unclear who caused the accident. It is possible under some instances, that both drivers bear some responsibility, if this is the case, it's best to have a lawyer representing you from day one, if that's a possibility. Either way, get a lawyer involved from the moment you realize this situation may be bigger than you thought.
You Have to Deal With an Insurance Company
We all have to deal with the insurance company, but an insurance company doesn't make money if they pay out every claim people think is owed them. It's not uncommon for people to be low-balled by the adjuster. If you don't think the insurance company's offer is fair, it's time to get a lawyer involved. In fact, unless you're 100 percent certain you've been compensated for everything you're entitled to, it doesn't hurt to have a legal professional look over their offer before accepting. Many people aren't fully aware of what all their insurance policy actually covers and may miss things. Additionally, the adjuster may claim your policy doesn't cover things a lawyer can prove it does.
And if the terms of the agreement aren't fair and won't pay for all your covered expenses, your lawyer is an expert negotiator who can propose a counteroffer that's better for you, consulting a variety of experts if necessary.
There's a Statute of Limitations
You're limited to certain periods of time (the statute of limitations) in which you can file a claim, either under your own personal injury protection policy or as a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver if your case qualifies to go outside the no-fault system.
But there may be other deadlines, as well. In Florida, for example, if you do not seek treatment for your injuries within two weeks (14 days) of the date of the accident, your no-fault benefits could be limited. A lawyer can help ensure you meet all the deadlines required of you so you don't lose compensation based on a lack of familiarity with the ins and outs of car accident law.
When to Seek Legal Advice
No matter how minor you think your injuries are or how high your current opinion is of your insurance company, it always pays to consult with an attorney, especially since in many cases, it's not going to cost you anything.
If you've been injured in an auto accident, contact the experienced Kissimmee, Florida, car accident lawyers at Draper Law Offices at 866.767.4711 for a free, no-obligation consultation. We'll be able to explain your rights and advise you about dealing with your insurance company, regardless of the severity of your injuries.