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For folks who’ve been injured in car accidents, concerns about money, medical bills, and physical and psychological health are well warranted. After all, car wrecks can have profound and far-reaching consequences. But do those consequences extend to the insurance rates and premiums we pay? And will accidents increase insurance costs even if another party is to blame?

The answer is, as with many things in the legal field, it depends.

Florida has unique laws when it comes to auto insurance, auto accidents, and the rights of injured auto accident victims. Here’s some information to make sense of it all.

Understanding Fault in Florida Car Accidents

In Florida, most motorists know that they must carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance as a requirement to get behind the wheel. This PIP coverage is one of the hallmarks of the state’s no-fault auto insurance system, and it is designed to provide immediate benefits to help auto accident victims cover medical expenses and some (but not all) lost wages incurred because of their injuries – regardless of who is at fault for causing the accident (and even if you caused your own).

But just because Florida has this PIP system in place does not mean that fault is irrelevant in car accidents. In fact, determining fault is crucial for other aspects of compensation, including compensation for property damage and non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

Fault can also factor when it comes to your insurance and how much you pay.

Will Your Insurance Rates Increase After a Car Wreck?

The good news is that in Florida, insurance companies are prohibited from raising your rates solely based on an accident that wasn't your fault. This is outlined in the Florida Statutes § 626.9541, which prohibits insurers from increasing premiums or canceling policies due to accidents where the insured was not at fault. This includes any premium increase for liability, PIP, medical payments, or collision coverage.

This protection is crucial for ensuring that innocent drivers aren't unfairly penalized for the negligence of others, but there are important considerations and some exceptions to the rule.

Substantial Fault

The statute’s prohibition on unfair rate increases applies doesn’t apply if you were “substantially at fault” for causing the accident. While the statute does not define substantial fault, it’s typically accepted to mean 51% or more at fault.

If an insurance carrier finds through their investigation that you were substantially at fault for causing the accident, you’ll be viewed as higher risk. The insurance company, which is inherently risk averse, is likely to increase your rates to account for the increased risk of insuring you. Among many other factors, they may also consider your prior driving history, the severity of the latest accident, and the type of claims arising from that accident when determining how much to increase your premium.

Increased auto insurance rates can remain in effect for up to five years, creating a real financial burden for motorists who must now pay more out of their own pocket just to be insured. This is a big reason why it’s so critical to prove that you were not at fault.

Insurance Rate Impacts When You’re Not at Fault

Even when you aren’t substantially at fault for causing an accident, you’re not necessarily free and clear from potential rate increases or nonrenewal. That’s because there are some exceptions to the rule. Some examples include:

  • Multiple Claims: Florida law prohibits nonrenewal in cases where policyholders have only one accident in which they were at fault within a three-year period, but it doesn’t prohibit insurers from dropping policyholders or increasing their premiums when a policyholder is involved, regardless of fault, in three or more accidents within three years. This means that if you’re involved in too many accidents within a short period – even if you didn’t cause them – you could face rate increases or nonrenewal.
  • Serious Traffic Violations: Drivers who receive tickets in relation to auto accidents aren’t always at fault (or mostly at fault) for causing accidents, especially if the other party’s percentage of negligence exceeded their own. If you receive a citation for a serious traffic violation related to the accident, such as DUI or reckless driving, your rates may increase.
  • Policy Changes: Your insurance rates may increase when you make changes to your policy, such as adding coverage or changing vehicles. Of course, this is an expected increase but something that isn’t uncommon among folks who were recently involved in accidents and have a new perspective on the need to protect themselves. Commonly, victims will see increases if they insure new vehicles after their old ones were totaled and when they add or increase UM/UIM coverage on their auto policies after their accidents, which can provide a major safety net should you be hurt by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

Bringing a Civil Personal Injury Case

Apart from potential impacts to insurance rates, fault also plays a major role in your ability to pursue a civil personal injury claim. Specifically, if you were injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be able to seek compensation from the at-fault party outside of the PIP system.

In Florida, victims can pursue civil personal injury claims outside of PIP only in limited circumstances, these include:

  • Significant or Permanent Injury: If you suffered significant or permanent injuries because of the accident, you may be able to pursue compensation beyond what PIP covers.
  • Damages Exceeding PIP Coverage: If your medical expenses, lost income, and other damages exceed the limits of your PIP coverage, you may be entitled to seek additional compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.

Civil personal injury lawsuits provide a meaningful opportunity to recover compensation for your losses, including damages that aren’t available through PIP, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment or quality of life. However, these civil claims require you to prove that another party was at fault for causing the accident and liable for your resulting damages.

Injured in a Car Accident? Perry & Young Can Help.

Because your degree of fault is a key issue and point of potential contention when it comes to both a personal injury case and the potential impact on your insurance rates, it’s important to demonstrate (through evidence) that you were not substantially at fault. While this is no easy task, working with a lawyer can help you effectively gather needed evidence, construct a strong compelling claim, and pursue the justice you deserve.

Perry & Young is an award-winning trial practice that’s recovered millions of dollars in compensation for victims of motor vehicle accidents. If you were injured in a crash anywhere in Panama City, Tallahassee, Marianna, Panama City Beach, or the Florida Panhandle, we can help you understand concepts of fault and liability and whether you have grounds to pursue legal action outside of the PIP system.

Our attorneys offer FREE consultations and collect no fee unless we win. Call (850) 215-7777 or contact us online to speak with a member of our team.