This is a guide for people who have been injured in a multi-car accident. The goal is to detail how medical bills get paid through Personal Injury Protection (no fault) auto insurance, better known as PIP, and how the insurance company will pay for the injury claims. This article does not apply to those who caused the accident, also called the at-fault driver.
Car accidents involving multiple cars are quite common. Often, because of the number of different insurance companies involved, the situation becomes quite confusing. Since becoming a car accident lawyer, I have handled countless cases like this. I felt this guide would be important to the clients of Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas to help them understand the process.
Who Pays For Medical Bills after a Multi-Car Accident?
This guide will address the process of payment of Personal Injury Protection (PIP), also called no fault benefits, after a multi-car accident.
To begin, every car registered to a Florida driver must have PIP coverage. If you own a car and have it registered, you must have this coverage or the DHSMV will suspend your license. So, let’s assume that you have it. These benefits are intended for your medical bills, lost wages, and out-of-pocket costs, like medication. The way it works is that PIP will pay 80% of your medical bills. The total PIP available is $10,000. Some insurance companies (like Ocean Harbor/Pearl Holdings, Direct General, Dairyland) charge a deductible of $1,000, which means that you only get $9,000 in benefits. If you are offered a deductible to pay less per month, decline it. The deductible plan always costs my clients more in the end.
*Pro tip-if you have one of the companies that I just mentioned, change immediately. They are a waste of your money and will not protect you if you have an accident. Literally, any other company is better. Learn more about my top picks for Florida insurance here.
PIP for the Driver of the Car
If you were driving the car at the time of the accident, and the car is yours, you will get your PIP benefits through your own car insurance company even if you were at fault for the accident. If you were driving someone else’s car at the time of the crash and you own another car, then your own insurance company will pay for the PIP.
PIP for the Passengers in the Car
If you were a passenger in a car that was involved in a multi car accident then you have more options for PIP. First, if you have car insurance, you will qualify for PIP through your own company. Second, if you don’t have insurance, but live with a relative who does, you will get PIP through that relative’s insurance. Finally, if neither of those apply, you can get PIP through the insurance on the car that you were riding in.
PIP for a Pedestrian Struck by a Car
If you were a pedestrian who was struck and injured by a car, you will get PIP benefits first through your own insurance company. If you don’t have car insurance, but live with a relative who does, then you get the PIP through that relative’s insurance. Lastly, if neither of those apply, you can always get PIP benefits from the at fault car’s insurance company.
PIP for a Motorcycle Struck by a Car
Unfortunately, PIP for injured motorcyclists is not available. The legislature has decided that motorcycles are inherently dangerous and have made PIP not a requirement. Insurance companies will not write PIP for motorcycles. If you own a motorcycle, make sure that you have health insurance because it is often the best and only way to get your medical bills paid. There is one exception-if you hire a lawyer to pursue an injury claim, he or she may be able to find a doctor who will treat you on a letter of protection (IOU) out of what you recover in the case.
How Does Insurance Pay for Injuries When There Are Multiple People?
In the situation when there are multiple injured people as a result of one car’s negligence, you must have a trained eye to find all of the insurance available before you agree to anything. There are two types of possible insurance available:
What are BI and UM?
BI, or Bodily Injury coverage, pays for damages when anyone is at fault for causing an accident. UM, or Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage, protects you when the at-fault driver does not carry BI or does not carry enough BI.
**Pro tip-BI and UM are not required in Florida. But, I highly recommend that you carry both. In order to get UM, you must first buy BI. If you are in an injury accident and don’t have these, you could get sued, lose your license, and owe a lot of money in bills. Be safe and spend a little extra to carry both.
Reading an Insurance Policy to See How Much Insurance is Available
In every insurance policy, whether it is BI or UM, there will be two numbers. Let’s use a 10/20 policy as an example since it is the most common. The first number, here it is 10, means that there is up to $10,000 of insurance money to pay out to a single injured individual. The second number means there is a total of $20,000 to payout to all of the injured people. Therefore, if there are two injured people, each can receive up to $10,000. If there are more than two injured people, then the $20,000 will have to be divided up. The point is that regardless of how many people were injured in the car accident, there is only $20,000 to be paid out.
How Does an Insurance Company Divide up the Insurance Payment?
The most common technique when there are more than two injured claimants is called a global mediation or global settlement conference.
What is a Global Mediation/Global Settlement Conference?
A global settlement conference is a procedure used by the at-fault driver’s insurance company to settle out all of the claims that may be out there. The insurance company will pick a mediator, which is a neutral party hired to help get the claims settled. The insurance company will then send out a notice of this mediation/conference to everyone who is potentially injured. When they do this, it is a strong indication that they intend to pay out all of the insurance money available.
What Happens at Global Mediation/Global Settlement Conference?
At the global mediation, each injured party presents his or her injuries, their medical records, and medical bills. I have handled countless of these mediations and the key is to be prepared. You would be shocked at how unprepared some lawyers can be. The key is to make sure that all of your medical records and bills are submitted in advance and that you understand the claim fully.
The mediator will ask pointed questions such as whether there is UM insurance, health insurance, and other details of the case.
Once each party makes their presentation, the parties then split up and try to settle each claim. Remember, if there are more than two claimants, it is likely that the money is going to be split up in some fashion.
What Happens If the Insurance Money Runs Out?
If all of the BI money is paid out by the insurance company and you didn’t participate or didn’t agree to the amount offered, you are out of luck. I have actually seen this happen in a bus accident case. A few years ago, we represented multiple people who were on a bus when a car hit it. There was 100/300 of insurance available. Approximately ten people were hurt in this accident. The insurance company agreed to pay the full $300,000, but one of my clients did not like the amount offered, so she walked out of the global mediation. The next day she reconsidered, but all of the money was gone and she received nothing. The full $300,000 went to the other nine injured people.
What Happens When There is Not Enough Insurance Money from the At Fault Driver’s Insurance Policy?
Not having enough money to pay out from the at fault driver’s insurance company after the car accident is a common situation. There is often no bodily injury coverage, or just not enough. The only way to protect yourself is to carry UM through your own car insurance plan. If you do not carry it, then the BI policy is your only remedy. If you carry it, and there is not enough BI, then you have a second pot of money to pursue.
How do you Recover More Money After the BI Has Been Exhausted?
After the at fault driver’s insurance money has been exhausted, your only source of recovery is UM insurance. The good news is that there may be UM available from your own policy and/or the insurance policy for the car that you were in. In order to recover against a UM policy, the BI from the at fault driver must have been paid out to you. Once this is done, then you must submit a demand to the UM insurance company explaining why your claim is worth more than what has been paid.
Contact Our Car Accident Attorneys with Questions
Car accidents involving multiple cars and many injured people need special attention. An experienced personal injury lawyer in Florida will be able to guide you through this complicated process. I hope that this guide provided some answers to your questions. If you have been sent a notice for a global mediation or have questions about how these claims work, please contact us for a free consultation.