Florida has a no-fault car insurance system. Unfortunately, few Florida drivers understand what this means. While no-fault insurance provides the first layer of insurance after a car accident in Florida, after a serious accident, fault still matters.
It’s important to bear in mind that an admission of fault could affect your claim for injury compensation. A court may even find you liable for someone else’s injuries.
Curious about negligence, liability insurance, and some reasons you should not admit fault after a car accident in Miami, FL? Learn more in this short guide.
Florida No-Fault Auto Insurance
No-fault insurance was invented in the 1960s. At that time, auto insurance premiums had skyrocketed in big cities like Boston and Miami due to the high risk of getting into an accident.
No-fault coverage lowers premiums because it was designed for minor accidents, which make up the vast majority of car crashes. A no-fault policy in Florida covers up to $10,000 in medical and disability expenses, which is enough to cover most minor injuries.
In the 1960s, courts were clogged with car accident lawsuits. Under fault-based insurance policies, an insurer can deny a claim by arguing that its policyholder was not at fault for an accident.
But under no-fault insurance, accident victims cannot file a lawsuit if the damages fall within the policy limit of the no-fault coverage. The no-fault insurer cannot deny the claim based on fault alone. In other words, the insurer pays the claim without ever examining fault.
The Florida Legislature adopted no-fault insurance in 1972. Florida was the second state in the country after Massachusetts to switch to a no-fault system.
How No-Fault Insurance Works
To register your car in Florida, you must buy personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This serves as your no-fault insurance. After most accidents, you will deal with your insurer for medical and disability benefits instead of working with the other driver’s insurer.
With PIP coverage, your insurer pays benefits regardless of fault. You receive insurance payments whether you bear all, some, or none of the legal fault for the accident.
With this type of cover, the insurer examines two primary issues:
- Were you injured in a car accident?
- Were your losses reasonable and necessary?
This process differs from a fault-based insurance state. In those states, you exchange insurance information with the other driver. Everyone — including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists — files a claim against the driver who they think caused the accident.
With fault-based insurance, the driver’s insurance company looks at who caused the accident. If their policyholder did not cause the accident, the insurer is not liable for any of the claims and will deny all of them. This can lead to a long back-and-forth with the driver’s insurance company, even for minor accidents.
When Fault Matters in Miami, FL
Florida has two exceptions to the no-fault system. When a claim falls under either of these two exceptions, the accident victim can file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver.
Significant and Permanent Injuries
The first exemption gives accident victims the right to file a claim for a significant and permanent injury. This includes:
- Fatal injuries
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of an important bodily function
- Injuries you cannot recover from with reasonable medical certainty
Florida requires all drivers to buy bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage. This pays other people that you injure in a car accident you cause.
When you file a claim against an at-fault driver, their insurer will examine who caused the accident. BIL coverage is fault-based. Thus, the insurer only pays the claim if its policyholder caused the accident.
The second exemption allows accident victims to file a claim for uncompensated economic losses. In other words, an accident victim starts with a claim under their PIP coverage. The no-fault insurer pays benefits up to the $10,000 policy limit. If the accident victim exhausts the PIP benefits and still has losses remaining, the accident victim can pursue compensation for those excess losses.
For example, suppose that you had $25,000 in medical bills and lost income after your accident. Your no-fault insurer paid $10,000 in benefits, leaving you with $15,000 in unreimbursed expenses. You can file an insurance claim against the at-fault driver for $15,000. The driver’s insurer must pay your claim if it determines its policyholder caused the accident.
Consequences of Admitting Fault After a Miami, FL Car Accident
To be safe, it is best not to admit fault after a car accident in Florida, regardless of its severity. True, it’s possible that admitting fault after a car accident will not carry any consequences since everyone could file a claim under their PIP coverage. You might never hear from the other drivers again.
But many things have to go right for that outcome to occur. Your injuries must fall within your PIP policy limits. If your injuries fall within the exception to the no-fault system, the other driver’s insurer could use your admission of fault to deny your claim. You could have to fight the claim denial or even file a lawsuit to recover injury compensation.
Other people’s injuries must also fall within their PIP policy limits. If they exhausted their benefits or suffered significant permanent injuries, they could file a claim against you. Your admission of fault could make you liable for the other people’s injuries.
If their damages exceed your BIL policy limits, other affected drivers and passengers could go after your assets to make up for the shortfall. That’s why admitting fault can have such significant legal consequences.
The Role of an Injury Lawyer
You might not intend an offhand remark to have legal consequences. But that is exactly the risk you run when you admit fault after a car accident.
Other drivers and their lawyers can twist your words into an admission of liability. As a result, you may not be able to recover compensation for your injuries. Other injured people could seek compensation from you.