If you are a passenger in a vehicle and you are injured in a traffic accident in South Florida, you won’t have many of the difficulties that face drivers after these accidents. First of all, a passenger doesn’t have to fear being found liable for the accident – one of the drivers will be found liable. Secondly, a passenger doesn’t have to worry about intoxication; since passengers aren’t drivers, it doesn’t matter if they’re intoxicated at the time of an accident. If any passenger is injured in a traffic crash, that passenger is entitled by Florida law to complete reimbursement for all medical treatment, lost income, and all other expenses stemming from the accident and injury.

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However, the word “entitled” makes the personal injury legal process sound easier than it is. As a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit, an injured passenger will have to prove that a driver was negligent and will also have to prove that the negligence was the direct cause of the accident and injury. In a two-or-more-car accident, at least one of the drivers will probably be found negligent, and in a single-car crash, the driver is usually negligent. In some rare accidents, there is no negligence. If a deer runs across a highway and a driver runs off the road to avoid it – and hits a tree – there’s probably nothing else the driver could do, so usually, no liability is assigned.

SHOULD AN INJURED PASSENGER FILE AN INJURY CLAIM?

An injury claim by a passenger moves forward like any other auto accident claim, except that the passenger needs to make the claim against both drivers in a two-car accident. The passenger should obtain insurance contact information for both motorists and file a claim with each insurance company. San Bernardino car accident attorney Jeffrey Nadrich points out that the exception is a clear case where one driver is negligent and the other is not, such as a driver crashing into the rear of a second vehicle legally stopped at a red light. However, if the collision happened in a no-fault state like Florida, the passenger should file a personal injury protection (PIP) or no-fault claim against the at-fault driver to compensate the passenger for accident-related medical bills and lost earnings. When the fault is clear, most accident claims are settled without difficulty, but there can be complicated cases that are almost impossible to settle.

Let’s look at an example of a two-car collision with both motorists at fault and one injured passenger. The passenger files a personal injury claim worth $200,000. If a jury determines that both drivers were equally at fault, each auto insurer will pay $100,000. If the jury determines that one driver was more at fault and assesses liability at “75/25,” then one company will pay $150,000 and the other will pay $50,000. Sometimes, however, passengers can get in the middle of a dispute between the two insurers over which driver was more liable, and payment can be delayed.

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Another problem arises in accident injury cases when more than one passenger is injured. Let’s say three passengers and a driver are all injured when the vehicle they are in is rear-ended. If the total value of all four claims surpasses the value of the at-fault driver’s insurance, each injury victim will have to settle for less than each claim is worth. If the injury victims at that point cannot agree on how to split the available compensation, the insurer usually will not settle, and the matter will usually go to court for a final decision by a judge or a jury.

Florida is a no-fault state where drivers are required to carry auto insurance that pays personal injury protection (PIP) benefits. When a policyholder is involved in an accident, PIP benefits pay for medical expenses and certain other costs stemming from the accident such as lost wages and the cost of hiring someone to do household chores. All Florida motorists must carry minimum PIP benefits.

WHAT IS THE “INJURY THRESHOLD” IN FLORIDA?

When a crash occurs in Florida, each party involved relies on his or her own policy to cover medical treatment and other expenses. These benefits kick in regardless of who was at fault in the accident. Florida drivers may step outside of the no-fault system and pursue a claim against an at-fault driver only when injuries arising from the crash are deemed permanent, if substantial and permanent scarring or disfigurement happened, or if the substantial and permanent loss of an important bodily function is a result of the crash. If you are injured in a crash in South Florida, an experienced West Palm Beach car accident lawyer can explain more.

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By law, all Florida drivers must purchase $10,000 in personal injury protection benefits and $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) benefits. Florida does not compel motorists to carry bodily injury liability coverage which pays the costs of others’ injuries if an accident happens. It is against the law to operate a motor vehicle in Florida without PIP and PDL insurance, and a driver’s license may be suspended if a driver is found to be without the minimum requirement.

IS UNINSURED OR UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE REQUIRED IN FLORIDA?

Motorists in Florida are not forced by law to purchase uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance. The coverage must be offered when an auto insurance policy is purchased. The buyer may reject such coverage, but the rejection must be in writing. Uninsured and underinsured coverage pays additional PIP benefits if a policyholder is hit by a driver who is uninsured or who does not have enough insurance to cover the costs of the policyholder’s medical bills and other damages.

Anyone who is injured by a negligent driver in Palm Beach County or anywhere in South Florida should seek medical attention first. Spinal cord injuries and brain injuries suffered in car crashes can be serious and life-changing; sometimes, brain injuries, in particular, are difficult to identify immediately after they happen. Even if you don’t “feel” injured, seek medical attention after an accident. Do that first.

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Finally, anyone who is injured by a negligent driver in Palm Beach County or anywhere in South Florida should have the advice of an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney. Every accident and every personal injury case is different, so a blog like the one you are reading now can only give you a general overview of accidents, insurance, and what you an expect. Your own car accident lawyer can review the details of the accident and your claim and provide the sound legal advice you’ll need after any South Florida traffic collision.