Car Insurance: Get the Right Coverage!

auto accident

If you own a motor vehicle which is registered in the State of Florida, you are required to have certain types of coverage, namely Property Damage and Personal Injury Protection. If you have only these two types of coverage, you have what is mandated by the State. You do not have “full coverage.” Many people mistakenly assume that if they carry the required coverage, that is all they need – nothing could be further from the truth!

At Hicks & Motto, we can’t begin to tell you how many injured people have come into our office in the last 25 years after having been in an automobile accident and thinking they have “full coverage,” since they have the coverage which the State requires all automobile owners to have. It is heartbreaking to tell them that they actually have no insurance coverage which will pay them in the event they need to be off work for an extended period of time, or that will pay their medical bills for extended hospitalization or surgeries.

There are two additional types of coverage which are, in my opinion, extremely important to purchase. The first of these is called Bodily Injury Liability (“BI”) coverage. That coverage is designed to protect your personal assets in the event you cause or contribute to an automobile accident. For example, if you are involved in an automobile accident which is totally or partially your fault, and anyone is injured, the injured party or parties can sue you. This is the case if you are driving the automobile or if you own the automobile which is involved in the accident.

If you don’t have BI coverage and the injured person or persons obtain a judgment against you for damages they sustained on account of your negligence, your personal assets can be in serious jeopardy. Further, you will either have to defend yourself in court or hire an attorney at your own expense to do so. If, on the other hand, you had purchased Bodily Injury Liability coverage, your insurance company will not only provide an attorney on your behalf, but they will also pay the injured parties’ damages up to the limits of your coverage.

If the driver who caused the accident does not carry BI coverage and you are seriously injured, you may have no recourse against that driver, unless they have sufficient personal assets against which you can collect a judgment. So, how do you protect yourself in that situation? Uninsured (or underinsured) Motorist coverage, called “UM” for short, is the answer. If you have UM coverage, your own insurance company will pay you for your damages if the at-fault driver either doesn’t have Bodily Injury Liability coverage, or doesn’t have sufficient coverage to adequately pay all of your damages. UM is very valuable coverage to have – IT PROTECTS YOU.

In addition to discussing Bodily Injury Liability and UM coverage with your insurance agent, be sure to also ask them to review your current policy to be sure you are carrying adequate Property Damage coverage. In this day and age, when many vehicles on the road are worth $50,000 or more, you need to be sure you have enough Property Damage insurance. Also, carefully look at your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage and Medical Payments coverage. In my experience, for just pennies a month, you can increase your Medical Payments coverage to the maximum allowed by law. Make sure you understand what it means if you have a deductible on your PIP and ask how much it would cost to remove that deductible.

If you are involved in an auto accident, call Hicks & Motto, P.A. for a free consultation.

–Samuel S. Cohen, Esq.

 

Annual Medical Costs Related to Bicycle Accidents Soar Into the Billions

Bicycle accidents are on the riseA study published this week in the journal, Injury Prevention, estimates that from 1997 to 2013, the medical costs for non-fatal bicycle crashes involving adults increased by an average of $789 million each year. In 2013 alone, total costs were $24.4 billion — about double the amount for all occupational illnesses, the researchers wrote. Those figures cover emergency transport, hospital charges, rehabilitation, nursing home stays, the cost of lost work, and quality of life, among other things.

The rising costs can be partially explained by how bike crashes have changed in recent years, according to Thomas W. Gaither, one of the study’s authors. In the past, there were many “non-street” incidents, but these days most involving adults are crashes with motor vehicles. In 1997, 46 percent of injuries occurred on a street, while in 2014, nearly 67 percent did. This increases, “the velocity of the crash impact and, as a result, the severity of the injury,” Gaither explained. He and the other researchers also suggested that, “streets might also predispose to more injuries due to the coexisting environment with urban areas, increased population density, or the presence of more unyielding street furniture” (meaning things such as telephone polls, fire hydrants, parking meters, and the like).

Despite the bad news about the medical and cost consequences, the researchers said they still thought cycling’s health benefits outweighed its risks. But they concluded the study findings show that there should be a policy focus on injury prevention, adding that better design of roadway infrastructure, and even of bikes and cars, might be in order.

Legal rights are affected by an accident, and it is in your best interest to have a knowledgeable attorney review the facts of your case before you decide what course of action to pursue. An attorney can negotiate a replacement bicycle and/or compensation for damage to your bicycle, and negotiate a bodily injury settlement with the insurance company that takes into account all of your damages, including your pain and suffering. You can learn about all your legal rights and speak directly with an attorney for a free consultation with Hicks & Motto.

Here’s a quick list of what to do in case of a bicycle accident:

  1. Check yourself – do a cursory and visual search of your person to determine if you have sustained any injuries that need immediate attention. If necessary, call an ambulance. Do not be a hero!
  2. Assist the injured – check with each person involved in the accident to see if they have been hurt. If necessary, call an ambulance.
  3. Call the Police!
  4. Gather as much information as you can – take pictures of the scene; document the make, model, and license plate of the offending vehicle; gather the vehicle’s driver information including name, address, phone number, license number, and insurance information.
  5. Do not admit fault – your comments made in the tension and excitement of the moment may not be accurate! Wait for all the facts, and consult an attorney before admitting to responsibility, especially if you received a traffic ticket.
  6. Obtain witness information – write down the names and addresses of all the witnesses or involved parties to your accident. Don’t forget any passengers of the vehicles. Ask the witnesses what they observed.
  7. See a doctor – serious injuries do not always show immediate symptoms. It is smart to have your doctor or an emergency room doctor examine you as soon as possible. With the recent PIP law changes, you need to see a Medical Doctor within the first 14 days after your accident.
  8. Bicycle Repair – take you bicycle to a reputable shop with skilled mechanics to evaluate the damage.
  9. Tickets – don’t admit fault even if you are given a citation. The police officer is only giving his or her opinion of what happened. The ticket itself does not affect your case.
  10. CALL HICKS & MOTTO – Be sure after your accident you contact your law firm right away. A lawyer can give you advice, and help you through the process whether you are at fault or not.

Riding Your Bike in Florida

May is National Bike Month, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists and celebrated in communities from coast to coast. Established in 1956, National Bike Month is a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling — and encourage more folks to give biking a try.

Whether you bike to work or school, ride to save money or time, pump those pedals to preserve your health or the environment, or simply to explore your community, National Bike Month is an opportunity to celebrate the unique power of the bicycle and the many reasons we ride.

So you wake up, throw on your kit and your helmet, log in to your Strava, and head out on your morning ride. Lights are on, a quick 20 miles before work. As you near the halfway point, every cyclist’s fear happens – you get hit by a car!

Here’s a quick list of what to do in case of a bicycle accident:

  1. Check yourself – Do a cursory and visual search of your person to determine if you have sustained any injuries that need immediate attention. If necessary, call an ambulance. Do not be a hero!
  2. Assist the injured – Check with each person involved in the accident to see if they have been hurt. If necessary, call an ambulance.
  3. Call the police!
  4. Gather as much information as you can – Take pictures of the scene; document the make, model, and license plate of the offending vehicle; gather the vehicle’s driver information including name, address, phone number, license number, and insurance information.
  5. Do not admit fault – Your comments made in the tension and excitement of the moment may not be accurate! Wait for all the facts, and consult an attorney before admitting to responsibility, especially if you received a traffic ticket.
  6. Obtain witness information – Write down the names and addresses of all the witnesses or involved parties to your accident. Don’t forget any passengers of the vehicles. Ask the witnesses what they observed.
  7. See a doctor – Serious injuries do not always show immediate symptoms. It is smart to have your doctor or an emergency room doctor examine you as soon as possible. With the recent PIP law changes, you need to see a Medical Doctor within the first 14 days after your accident.
  8. Bicycle repair – Take you bicycle to a reputable shop with skilled mechanics to evaluate the damage.
  9. Tickets – Don’t admit fault even if you are given a citation. The police officer is only giving his or her opinion of what happened. The ticket itself does not affect your case.
  10. CALL HICKS & MOTTO – Be sure after your accident you contact your law firm right away. A lawyer can give you advice, and help you through the process whether you are at fault or not.

Florida Bicycle Law Summary

Bicycle Regulations (see Section 316.2065, F.S.)

  • A bicyclist must obey all traffic controls and signals.
  • A bicyclist must use a fixed, regular seat for riding.
  • No bicycle may be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed or equipped.
  • Parents and guardians must not knowingly allow a child or minor ward to violate any provisions of this section.
  • Every bicycle must be equipped with a brake or brakes which allow the rider to stop within 25 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement.

Sidewalk Riding (see Section 316.2065, F.S.)

  • When riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks, a bicyclist has the same rights and duties as a pedestrian.
  • A bicyclist riding on sidewalks or in crosswalks must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and must give an audible signal before passing.

Lighting (see Section 316.2065, F.S.)

  • A bicycle operated between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with a lamp on the front exhibiting a white light visible from 500 feet to the front and both a red reflector and a lamp on the rear exhibiting a red light visible from 600 feet to the rear.
  • Additional lighting is permitted and recommended.

Roadway Position (see Section 316.2065, F.S.)

  • The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle.
  • A bicyclist who is not traveling at the same speed of other traffic must ride in a designated bike lane or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. A bicyclist may leave the right-most portion of the road in the following situations: when passing another vehicle moving in the same direction; when preparing for a left turn; when reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, or turn lane; when a lane is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side.
  • A bicyclist operating on a one-way street with two or more traffic lanes may ride as close to the left-hand edge of the roadway as practicable.
  • Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding two abreast shall not impede traffic when traveling at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions existing, and shall ride within a single lane.
  • §316.083(1): the driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle must pass the bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle at a safe distance of not less than 3 feet between the vehicle and the bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle.

Left Turns (see Section 316.151 (1)(b)(c), F.S.)

  • A bicyclist intending to make a vehicle left turn is entitled to full use of the lane from which the turn is made. After scanning, signaling, and moving to the center of that lane, the bicyclist must check the signal, and then proceed when it is green and safe to do so.
  • In addition to the normal vehicle left turn, a bicyclist may proceed through the right-most portion of the intersection and turn as close to the curb or edge as possible at the far side. After complying with any official traffic control device, the bicyclist may proceed in the new direction.

Signaling Turns (see Sub-section 316.155(2) and 316.157(2), F.S.)

  • A signal of intention to turn must be given during the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning. If a bicyclist needs both hands for control, the signal need not be given continuously.
  • A bicyclist may signal intent to turn right either by extending the left hand and arm upward or by extending the right hand and arm horizontally to the right side of the bicycle.

Headsets (see Section 316.304, F.S.)

  • A bicyclist may not wear a headset, headphone, or other listening device other than a hearing aid when riding. Wearing a headset blocks out important audio clues needed to detect the presence of other traffic.

Civil Penalties (see Sub-section 318.18(1),(2),&(3), F.S.)

  • Non-moving violations, such as failure to use required lighting equipment when riding at night, failure to have working brakes.
  • Moving violations, such as running stop sign or signal, riding against traffic
  • Violations of Chapter 316, F.S. by a bicyclist 14 years of age or younger

Local Ordinances

  • The local governments of counties, cities, towns, and other municipalities can adopt ordinances regulating bicycle riding.  Some towns may also have registration and licensing ordinances. Sidewalk riding may be prohibited entirely or only in certain areas such as business districts. Local law enforcement agencies can provide copies of local ordinances.

Legal rights are affected by an accident and it is in your best interest to have a knowledgeable attorney review the facts of your case before you decide what course of action to pursue. An attorney can recommend appropriate medical treatment, negotiate a replacement bicycle and/or compensation for damage to your bicycle, and negotiate a bodily injury settlement with the insurance company that takes into account all of your damages, including your pain and suffering. You can learn about all your legal rights and speak directly with an attorney for a free consultation with Hicks & Motto.

Is There Insurance Coverage If I Am Injured By or Riding In Uber or Lyft?

So, you decide to use Uber because it is easier or safer. Maybe you use Lyft for a ride. But what happens if your Uber or Lyft ride becomes an auto accident in Florida?

Uber, and its similarly operated competitor Lyft, allow smartphone users to digitally request rides from drivers who operate their own cars. Riders pay for the travel by credit card though the company’s app. Uber, Lyft, and other Transportation Network Companies (TNC) are revolutionizing the way people travel. But one thing hasn’t changed – people get seriously injured in car accidents all over the state of Florida. And when good folks get injured in an Uber or Lyft crash, they should talk to an attorney skilled in handling personal injury claims as soon as possible.

The absence of adequate insurance for drivers of an Uber or Lyft has generated controversy. The politicians and the public wanted to know who would be responsible when:

  • An Uber or Lyft car injured another driver, motorcyclist, pedestrian, passenger, or bicyclist.
  • A passenger in a Lyft or Uber car was injured as the result of the negligence of an uninsured or underinsured driver.
  • A Lyft or Uber driver was injured by an uninsured driver.
  • An Uber or Lyft car injured another driver, motorcyclist, pedestrian, passenger, or bicyclist while awaiting a ride.

These ride-sharing companies answered the question by promising that they had insurance coverage with one million dollar ($1,000,000) insurance policy limits. Uber and Lyft promised that if one of their “Partners” (read Drivers) injured another driver, pedestrian, or motorist while they were “on the clock,” then the Uber driver was covered for one million dollars ($1,000,000).

They also promised that if an Uber or Lyft customer was injured due to the negligence of an uninsured motorist, then Uber and Lyft have one million dollars ($1,000,000) in uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance coverage. In other words, the Uber or Lyft passenger with personal injuries as a result of an accident with someone who did not have car insurance, or not enough car insurance, would have one million dollars ($1,000,000) in insurance available to compensate them for injuries and damages.

But the question of PIP, or Personal Injury Protection, benefits has not been resolved. It is fairly certain that the Uber or Lyft driver’s personal automobile policy would deny coverage. Most auto policies exclude coverage when its insured driver is using the insured vehicle for a commercial purpose like driving for Uber or Lyft unless the insurance company knows about it in advance, which is commonly referred to as a livery exclusion. If the insurance company knows that the insured person or vehicle is driving for Lyft or Uber, then they can offer the correct policy of insurance and charge an appropriate premium.

On May 9, 2017, Governor Rick Scott signed into law House Bill 221, which will take effect July 1, 2017.

HB 221 sets various levels of insurance that either the ride-hailing company or driver’s personal policy must provide as drivers turn apps off and on, and transition from regular civilians to the ride job. That way, if a driver is involved in an accident in the period after logging into the app but before accepting a ride, the driver will have insurance coverage. Similarly, the driver will also have coverage during the period after the driver has dropped off a rider and before the next ride.

If you are interested in becoming, or already are, a driver for Uber or Lyft, please review your insurance coverage immediately. A new coverage, commonly called Rideshare, extends your personal auto insurance coverage through Periods 0 and 1 as shown below. Your full Rideshare coverage ends when you accept a ride request in the app (Period 2). When you drop off the passenger at their destination, Rideshare coverage once again applies while you are still logged into the app and until you accept your next ride request. Although this does reflect an increase in costs to the driver, it can be considerably cheaper than buying a commercial policy.

Rideshare coverage

Our attorneys closely watch the law as it develops in the area of Uber or Lyft car injury crashes. If you were injured by an Uber or Lyft driver, seek appropriate emergency medical treatment, and then contact Hicks & Motto, P.A

PIP Rates Rise Despite Reform

PIP, or Personal Injury Protection, is a mandatory portion in all Florida automobile insurance policies, providing up to $10,000 in no-fault medical and lost wage benefits to a person who has been injured in an auto accident. In 2012, the Florida Legislature, along with Governor Rick Scott, made it a top priority to help automobile insurance companies reduce the benefits they were obligated to pay to an injured person after an auto accident. The automobile insurance carriers, along with Governor Scott, promised reduced rates and significant premium cost savings to Florida drivers as a result of the PIP reforms and a dramatic reduction in benefits.

Monday was the deadline for automobile insurers to file their 2013 rates with the state, and unfortunately for the citizens of Florida, half of the early filings approved by regulators show an increase in PIP rates up to 26.3 percent. Hicks & Motto has a dedicated team of PIP attorneys and support staff standing up to these automobile insurance carriers by seeking justice for consumers, and ensuring PIP automobile insurance carriers pay the appropriate benefits.


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