How Long Do You Have To Go to a Doctor After a Car Accident?
Bill Allen | June 16, 2023 | Car Accidents
Florida is one of only 12 states to use no-fault insurance. Florida’s system limits the time you have to see a doctor if you plan to pursue a no-fault claim under your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance policy. This time limit helps insurers verify that the source of an injury was a covered car accident rather than another activity or event.
This time limit does not apply to all accident victims. Those who suffer significant, permanent injuries can potentially pursue an injury claim against the at-fault driver and their liability insurance policy. But even though Florida does not set a statutory time limit to see a doctor, you should still see a doctor as soon as possible.
Florida Auto Insurance
Florida has gone through many attempts to change its auto insurance laws. Some of these succeeded, while others failed. The state used a fault-based system until the 1970s before switching to no-fault insurance. It repealed the system in 2007 before re-enacting it.
Since 2007, Florida’s legislature has attempted to repeal the system several times. In its most recent attempt, a repeal bill passed with a nearly unanimous vote in 2021 only to get vetoed by the state’s governor.
Under the current system, every car owner living in Florida must buy personal injury protection (PIP) coverage in their auto insurance policy. This coverage pays for injuries to:
- Drivers of the insured vehicle
- Passengers in the insured vehicle, even if they are not named on the policy
- Pedestrians and cyclists hit by the insured vehicle
The benefits paid to these accident victims include:
Each injured person can receive up to $10,000 in benefits regardless of fault. This means a driver can claim PIP benefits even when they caused the accident.
Time Limits on Seeing a Doctor
For an insurer to pay PIP benefits, the claimant must have seen a doctor within 14 days of the accident for initial services and care. One of the state’s concerns about no-fault insurance from the beginning was that drivers might contrive to fake an accident or even conspire with other drivers to stage a crash.
Since all the conspirators can make a PIP claim against their policies, no one pays the price for phony claims except insurers – unless the claimants get charged with fraud. Florida has moved to protect insurers from fraudulent claims by limiting the benefits accident victims receive. This makes fraudulent claims both illegal and unprofitable.
The time limit also serves to reduce the risk of fraudulent claims. Accident victims are less likely to fabricate injuries if a doctor must verify them within 14 days of the crash.
Exceptions to PIP Insurance Coverage
Florida’s no-fault system has an important exception to its no-fault system. When accident victims suffer significant, permanent injuries, they can skip the PIP claim and pursue a fault-based claim against the at-fault driver.
Under Florida law, significant, permanent injuries include those that cause:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important body function
- Significant and permanent scarring and disfigurement
- Permanent injury
The disadvantage of these claims is that the accident victim must prove the at-fault driver acted intentionally or negligently in causing their injuries. Negligence happens when a driver fails to exercise reasonable care while driving and, as a result, injures someone. Examples of negligence include:
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Failing to yield at an intersection
- Making an unsafe lane change
- Failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk
The advantage of these claims is that you can seek all your damages instead of the portion of your medical costs and lost income covered by PIP coverage. Specifically, you can pursue 100% of your medical costs, lost income, diminished earning capacity, and pain and suffering losses.
Is There a Time Limit for Going to a Doctor in Fault-Based Claims?
Unlike PIP claims, Florida law sets no time limit for you to see a doctor if you plan to file a claim against the at-fault driver. In theory, you do not even need to see a doctor before filing an insurance claim or lawsuit against a driver who caused your significant, permanent injuries.
But even though you do not need to seek medical attention, you should still consider seeing a doctor as soon as possible after your accident for several reasons, including:
Creating a Paper Trail
When you see a doctor for car accident injuries, the doctor will create a medical record. This record will help you:
- Document the injuries you suffered
- Prove the crash caused your injuries
- Establish how the injuries limited your activities and impacted your ability to work
- Justify the amount of your financial losses
- Show that your injuries are both significant and permanent
Medical records will help you overcome the threshold obstacle of proving a significant and permanent injury. They will also provide evidence of several key facts necessary to recover fair compensation.
Getting a Treatment Plan
Under Florida law, a judge or insurance adjuster can reduce your damages in proportion to your percentage of fault for your injuries. Your fault can arise from your actions that contributed to the cause of the accident. But you can also bear fault by worsening your injuries due to an unreasonable failure to seek medical attention.
When you see a doctor, you will receive a diagnosis and treatment plan. As long as you follow your doctor’s advice, you will significantly reduce the odds that you will be blamed for worsening your injuries.
Identifying Any Hidden Injuries
Visiting a doctor soon after your accident can identify any hidden injuries that might affect you. By getting a diagnosis of your hidden injuries, you can pursue a claim for compensation for losses caused by the injury.
For example, suppose that you have back pain that radiates into your leg after a car accident. If you get diagnosed with a herniated disc, you can pursue significant compensation since doctors cannot treat deformed discs.
When To See a Doctor
Seeing a doctor after your car accident will help you avoid worsening your injuries, start your recovery, and protect your legal rights. Consequently, you should always consider seeing a doctor as soon as possible when you get injured in a crash.
Contact Our Ocala Car Accident Law Firm in North Central Florida
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