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Florida Auto Accidents: Changes to PIP are more complex than they seem

Home to 16 million people, Florida is known for its strong tourist economy. Florida’s population grows every winter as “snowbirds” travel south to enjoy the state’s moderate temperatures and vast and beautiful coastlines. In fact, the population can increase by as much as 20 percent each winter. While these visitors bring a lot of money to our economy, it cannot be overlooked that many do not know their routes, are unfamiliar with the area, and may at times even be distracted by the sites and scenery. Over 200,000 auto accidents happen in Florida every single year. The law is constantly changing, so if you are injured in a car accident, you want to retain legal representation immediately.

With all of those accidents occurring every day, it should not be surprising that 2,372 people were involved in fatal car accidents in 2009 alone. In 2013, Tampa was home to over 135 individuals involved in fatal accidents.

Changes in the law require you to get evaluated by a doctor within 14 days

With so many Floridians being injured in car crashes, there are laws designed to provide emergency care for those injured in accidents, while also limiting the range of what can be covered. Under your insurer’s PIP (or personal injury protection) coverage, you are eligible for payment of medical expenses. Florida is a “no-fault” jurisdiction, which simply means you are eligible to receive PIP regardless of fault. There is a catch, however. In 2013, the law changed in a significant way. You must now seek initial medical treatment within 14 days of the accident. Otherwise, you entirely forfeit your entitlement to PIP even though you may have paid the premiums for years. As always, even that has a catch.

What is initial medical treatment?

You can seek initial care at a physician’s office (MD or DO), a hospital or urgent care facility, or a chiropractor (DC). But be careful about this, as it is not as straightforward as it may seem. If you are found to have an emergency medical condition, you may receive up to $10,000. If not, you are limited to $2,500.

What is an emergency medical condition?

Emergency medical conditions are defined as those that cause serious jeopardy to the patient’s health, serious impairment to bodily functions, or serious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part.

It is very important to note that chiropractors, by law, cannot make a determination whether a condition qualifies as an emergency medical condition. Therefore, it is highly advisable that you first visit a licensed physician or go to the emergency room following an accident. This way, you preserve your greatest potential benefits under PIP.

Ultimately, regardless of changes in insurance law in Florida, it is always best to seek an attorney’s opinion and advice regarding your injuries and your rights. As Florida continues to grow and more people make it their seasonal or permanent home, the laws will no doubt change many more times. If you or someone you care about is injured in an automobile accident, the Tampa personal injury attorneys at the Romero Law Firm can give you the answers you need to make informed choices and ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve.

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