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Hit by a Drunk Driver? Florida Law says you are a Victim and are Entitled to Additional Benefits

  • By:Christina Goldberg

If you have been involved in a motor vehicle crash caused by a drunk driver, under Florida law, you are considered a victim of a criminal act which may entitle you to compensation through Florida’s Crimes Compensation Act (f/k/a Victim’s Compensation Fund) for losses you have sustained as a result of such a crash. There are certain “allowances” provided for under Florida Statute for victims of DUI crashes, although these “allowances” are frequently ignored unless forcefully pursued by the victim or his/her attorney. Although Florida law requires all of us to carry Personal Injury Protection (P.I.P.) coverage on our vehicles, these statutory allowances can make a very big difference in your out-of-pocket expenditures for medical treatment and property damage resulting from deductible and co-payment requirements on your auto policy.

DO I QUALIFY?

Initially, one must understand how a victim can obtain benefits.  Florida’s Bureau of Victim Compensation has set forth the following Qualification Requirements for receipt of funds under Florida’s Crimes Compensation Act:

  1. The crime (in this case, DUI crash) must be reported to law enforcement within 72 hours;
  2. You (the victim) must suffer personal physical injury or death, with limited funds available to those who have suffered psychiatric or psychological injury as a result of the crime;
  3. Application must be filed within one (1) year after the crime date (although if good cause is shown, this may be extended to two (2) years);
  4. You (the victim) must fully cooperate with law enforcement, State Attorney’s Office, and the Attorney General’s Office;
  5. You (the victim) must not have been engaged in unlawful activity at the time of the crime (in this case, the DUI crash);
  6. You (the victim) must not have contributed in any way to the crime (in this case, the DUI crash); and
  7. You (the victim) must not have a record of felony conviction.

WHAT BENEFITS ARE AVAILABLE TO ME IF I’VE BEEN HIT BY A DRUNK DRIVER?

Assuming you meet the above criteria, the Bureau has made the following benefits available to you upon proper substantiation:

  1. Wage Loss;
  2. Loss of support (of deceased victim);
  3. Disability (for permanent adjudication of disability);
  4. Funeral/burial expenses;
  5. Treatment expenses;
  6. Mental health counseling; and
  7. Property Loss Reimbursement.

A LITTLE EXTRA HELP…

Although it is advised, and we do hope, that you have taken affirmative steps toward protecting yourself and your family by carrying Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage on your automobile insurance policy (see Should you purchase Uninsured Motororist Coverage? ), and that you will have funds available to reimburse you for your injuries, pain, suffering, property damage, lost wages, etc., Florida Statute has provided victims with a little bit of help:

Florida Statute §624.128 reads that “…the deductible or copayment provision of any insurance policy shall not be applicable to a person determined eligible pursuant to the Florida Crimes Compensation Act.”

Although this has long been Florida law, it is easy to forget, or in many cases, it is easy to simply ignore. Typically, if you do not openly and actively pursue this statutory remedy with your insurance company, you will not be afforded the benefit of same. You must ensure, therefore, that you, and/or your attorney, are actively pursuing the benefits made available to you under Florida law. This particular statute can help to save you thousands of dollars in up-front medical costs. Following a serious accident, this can make a huge difference in your peace of mind.

About the Author:

Attorney Christina A. Goldberg started her career in 2007 knowing immediately, that Personal Injury Law was the area that she wanted to focus in.  It was everything to Christina that becoming a lawyer was more than just having clients, it was and always has been, about helping people first.  Her ethics and integrity have been at the center of her career, always striving to do what is right for her clients and her community.  As an active member in the community, serving on the board for several non-profit charities in Sarasota and Manatee counties, she strives to give back to the community that she was born and raised in.  Luhrsen Goldberg based in Lakewood Ranch, is a family-owned law firm, which strives to help Florida families recover after serious injuries as a result of someone else’s negligence.

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Posted in: Drunk Driving, DUI, Personal Injury