Driving is considered a convenient mode of transportation for many people. It is also an inherently dangerous activity that can lead to accidents resulting in bodily harm. If an injury is severe, you may be rushed to the emergency room following a vehicle collision.
Under Florida law, your automobile insurance provider is required to offer minimum coverage for medical care, regardless of which driver was at fault. However, know that what happens in the ER may be used in court.
The Importance of Documenting Your Accident
Medical treatment is considered a crucial piece of evidence in a personal injury lawsuit. This means that the nature of your treatment will be used to prove that you are entitled to recover money damages from another driver.
For this reason, it is important for you to receive appropriate medical care. Be vocal about all injuries and pain you are suffering following the accident. This will help ensure that you are treated correctly for the harm you suffered. It will also create a record that can be used in court.
What You Say Can Be Used Against You
It is important to note that medical evidence can also be used by the defense. Once you waive doctor-patient confidentiality by supplying your medical chart in trial, the information contained in these documents will be part of the court record. The other driver’s attorney will use this evidence to try to make the case that you are not entitled to the damages you are claiming.
This is also true of statements you make to medical professionals. For that reason, it is good practice to limit what you divulge to only that which is necessary for treatment. You do not need to get into discussing which driver was at fault for the accident.
You Can Follow Up With Your Doctor
After an ER visit, you generally have more control over who you see for any follow-up care. This might be a medical professional that you are more comfortable with, such as your family physician. When thinking about your future medical treatment, some thought should be given to who you want involved in your legal case.
If you go to court, your doctor may be asked to testify about your condition. He or she may also be asked questions regarding the information contained in your medical records. Generally speaking, the medical professional that has been treating you has more credibility than an expert witness hired specifically to testify at trial. This is particularly true for permanent or more long-term injuries where there is an initial diagnosis and then ongoing care.
It is important to follow your doctor’s advice while you are recovering from your injury. This includes fully participating in the rehabilitation process and attending all follow-up visits. Doing so will help ensure that you are in the best position to improve your health. It will also help you establish in your lawsuit the fact that you were actually injured in the accident and were in need of medical care.
Florida’s Minimum Mandatory Insurance Law
Note that Florida’s Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) law applies to automobile insurance. This law specifies the state’s minimum no-fault protection requirements. Specifically, it requires that all Florida drivers must have an insurance policy that provides up to $10,000 of immediate medical care coverage for drivers involved in an accident.
Now, the driver must receive this compensation regardless of who was at fault. The purpose of the rule is to encourage those injured in car accidents to promptly seek medical care. The law applies to the driver, members of the driver’s household, and certain passengers that do not have their own insurance. Further, the insurance must cover 80% of the medical care following an accident, up to the policy limit.
The 14-Day Rule
Keep in mind that you must seek medical care within 14 days of the accident to be covered under PIP. The care can be provided by a doctor, physical therapist, dentist, hospital staff, emergency medical personnel, and chiropractors. However, the treatment cannot be provided by a masseuse or acupuncturist.
Now, you have no claim for PIP coverage if you fail to seek medical treatment within 14 days. In these cases, you may be able to rely on coverage from your personal health insurance policy.
Note that it is always best to seek medical care as soon as possible after an accident. Not doing so can do more than disqualify you for PIP benefits. It can make your claim seem less legitimate and make it more difficult to win a personal injury lawsuit.