How Long Will My Car Accident Case Take to Settle in Tampa, FL?

There is no set time frame for settling a car accident case. Under Florida’s current no-fault system, the settlement time frame usually takes place within a couple of months.

However, Florida’s legislature has recently passed a bill to repeal the state’s no-fault insurance system. Some economists believe a no-fault repeal will decrease insurance premiums. It will also increase the time taken to settle insurance claims. Florida’s Governor just vetoed the bill, casting uncertainty on its future.

Here are some insights about how long it could take to settle your insurance claim in the state of Florida and what could happen if Florida repeals its no-fault insurance system.

What is No-Fault Insurance?

Florida currently employs a no-fault insurance system. No-fault insurance was developed in New York during the 1970s in response to skyrocketing insurance rates. Florida adopted no-fault rules soon after.

Under no-fault insurance, your auto insurance includes personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This coverage pays for 80% of your medical bills, up to $10,000. Your insurer pays this benefit to cover claims, regardless of who caused a crash. In other words, the insurer does not need to determine who was at fault for an accident before paying the benefits.

No-fault insurance provides immediate benefits without having to resort to the court system to determine fault.

Problems with No-Fault Insurance

In practice, Florida’s system has gotten bogged down, and Florida insurers cannot provide the “immediate benefits” that were once promised. The state has seen an epidemic of fraudulent PIP claims from drivers who conspire with medical providers to file false or exaggerated claims.

As a result, claims filed with Florida’s insurers must undergo reviews and investigations that slow down claims. As a result, the time that Florida insurers save on investigating fault is now being spent investigating fraud.

Florida Laws Dictate the Minimum Time to Pay Benefits

Florida has several laws that influence how Florida insurers settle PIP claims. Importantly, they must develop and implement timely procedures to investigate claims. This law prevents insurers from simply denying all insurance claims and forcing claimants to file lawsuits. 

Florida insurance laws also set certain timelines in which insurers must process claims. Although the law does not specifically mention PIP insurers, Florida insurance companies generally have 14 days to respond to a claim and to send proof of loss forms to the insured party.

After you provide proof of your injuries to your insurance company, the insurer must begin investigating your claim within ten days. The insurer has 30 days after it receives proof of loss forms to affirm or deny claim coverage. If the insurer affirms coverage, it has 20 days to pay you.

In a perfect situation, you would file the proof of loss forms immediately after receiving them and the insurance company will affirm coverage. In this ideal scenario, your case would be able to settle within 64 days after you had initially notified the insurer of your claim.

Real-Life Timelines

This perfect scenario is rare. After the insurance company sends you the proof of loss forms, you will likely need some time to collect your medical records and other information to support your claim.

Once the insurer begins to investigate, the company can request more information. Its 30-day window for investigating claims does not begin until it receives “completed” proof of loss forms. If the insurer needs more information, the time is paused until the requested information is in hand.

Additionally, Florida’s laws do not require insurers to affirm coverage within 30 days after they receive your proof of loss. The company can affirm or deny coverage after receiving proof of loss. It can also choose to deny coverage or reduce your claim if it provides an itemized list of the reasons for the denial or reduction.

Negotiating a Claim Settlement

If the insurer has a good faith basis for denying or reducing your claim, it will do so. Insurers are in business to make money. The less money they pay out in claims, the greater their profits can be.

Insurance companies often use denials and reductions as a negotiating tactic. Under Florida law, the claim rejection or reduction letter must include the name and contact information of the claims adjuster that is responsible for your case.

When you work with an injury lawyer, your attorney will contact the claims adjuster to begin negotiating your claim. By providing additional documentation and arguing for a better payout, the lawyer can fight to obtain the full value of your claim.

The process of negotiating a settlement will take time. This part of the process could take months on top of the insurer’s 64-day timeline.

What Are Fault-Based Settlements?

Florida allows you to step outside of the no-fault system when a car accident causes:

  • Permanent loss of body function
  • Permanent injury
  • Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement
  • Death

In these circumstances, you can choose to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.

Florida could repeal its no-fault insurance system. If this happens, PIP coverage will cease to exist. This means that you would always have the option to sue the at-fault driver, regardless of the extent or nature of your injuries.

Time to Settle Fault-Based Claims

When you file a fault-based claim, the timelines outlined above apply to your case. In an ideal scenario, a claim could settle in as few as 64 days. But in a fault-based claim, the insurer will require proof of loss and will need to determine fault.

As a result, fault-based claims almost always take longer to settle than no-fault claims. While you can expect no-fault claims to take months, you might wait over a year to settle a fault-based insurance claim.

How Lawyers Affect the Time to Settle Car Accident Cases

Hiring a Tampa personal injury lawyer to help with your insurance claim can significantly accelerate your claim. An experienced injury lawyer knows how to prepare the proof of loss forms and document your losses to reduce the likelihood that the insurer will ask for more documentation. 

A lawyer can also significantly accelerate the negotiation phase of the insurance settlement process by presenting proven arguments for the settlement offer to be increased.

Contact Catania & Catania, P.A. to discuss the settlement of your car accident case in Florida. We offer a free case review and consultation. Give us a call at (813) 222-8545, or contact our Tampa personal injury office online to get started with your case.