If you are like many Florida residents, you lease your car. Leasing can be a cost-effective option for many people, and it avoids the hassle of trying to sell your car when you’re ready to upgrade.
But, what happens when you get in an accident in a leased car—particularly when the accident is not your fault? Who pays for repairs? Who pays for your medical bills if you are injured in the crash? Can you seek compensation for your pain and suffering? Here’s what you need to know:
Florida’s No-Fault Auto Insurance Law Applies in Most Cases
First and foremost, Florida’s no-fault auto insurance law applies in most cases. In fact, in the vast majority of cases, filing a no-fault insurance claim will be your first – and potentially only – source of financial recovery.
While the Florida legislature tried to pass a law that would have eliminated Florida’s no-fault auto insurance law earlier this year, Governor DeSantis vetoed the law in June. As a result, Florida’s no-fault auto insurance law remains in place today.
Under Florida’s no-fault auto insurance law, any vehicle registered in Florida (including any leased vehicle) must be insured with at least $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) and $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) coverage. PIP covers the insured driver’s medical bills and lost wages (minus the driver’s deductible), while PDL covers damage to other drivers’ vehicles.
Of course, the costs of accident-related injuries can easily exceed $10,000, and a serious accident can cause far more than $10,000 in damage to a leased car. Fortunately, Florida’s no-fault auto insurance law allows injured drivers to seek coverage outside of PIP and PDL in appropriate circumstances.
Seeking Compensation for Accident-Related Injuries Outside of PIP
In order to seek compensation for accident-related injuries outside of PIP, you must be able to prove two things. First, you must be able to prove that you suffered a “significant” or “permanent” injury. This is the threshold for filing a claim under another driver’s insurance policy—or under your own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) policy if you have purchased this optional coverage. Florida law defines a significant or permanent injury as one that results in:
- “Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
- “Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement; or,
- “Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.”
Second, you must be able to prove that someone else (i.e. the other driver involved in the accident) was at fault. Driver fault can take many forms, and proving your right to fault-based compensation requires a prompt and thorough investigation. When we represent individuals who need to seek coverage outside of PIP, we look for evidence of mistakes such as:
- Driving while distracted
- Driving while drunk or high
- Driving while drowsy
- Driving recklessly or aggressively
- Ignoring the rules of the road
Depending on what happened, you may have other options as well. For example, if your leased car had a defect, then the manufacturer could be liable for your losses. Or, if a dealership or repair shop performed shoddy service, then the dealership or repair shop could be liable. Since these companies often have substantial insurance policies, filing this type of third party claim could increase the amount you are able to collect for the financial and non-financial costs of your collision.
Seeking Compensation for Damage to a Leased Car Outside of PDL
What about the damage to your leased vehicle? If the other driver’s PDL policy isn’t enough (or doesn’t apply because a third party is liable for the collision), then your options may include:
- Filing a third party claim (i.e. filing a claim against a manufacturer, dealership, or repair shop; and/or,
- Filing a claim under your collision policy (if you have one—this is optional coverage under Florida law).
If your leased vehicle is totaled and your leasing company tries to hold you financially responsible for your remaining lease obligations, this can be a challenging situation. However, if someone else was at fault, you are entitled to just compensation—and this includes any and all amounts you may owe to your leasing company. Typically, the insurance companies and your leasing company will work this out amongst themselves, but it is still a good idea to have a lawyer involved to make sure you aren’t wrongfully held accountable.
While many manufacturers and leasing companies require lessees to carry auto insurance above and beyond the requirements established by Florida’s no-fault auto insurance law (because it protects them in the event of a crash), this additional coverage only applies when the lessee is at fault in a collision. While this is important coverage to have, it doesn’t cover your losses when someone else is to blame.
What Should You Do After Being Involved in an Accident in a Leased Vehicle?
Given the various possibilities for seeking financial compensation, what should you do after being involved in an accident in a leased vehicle? As with other types of car accidents, some of the key steps you need to take include:
- Call 911 – By law, you are required to report the accident if it resulted in injury or property damage in excess of $500. You must also report the accident if the other driver fled the scene. If you were injured in the accident, you should seek treatment immediately—riding in an ambulance to the hospital if necessary.
- Take Photos – It is best to take lots of photos at the scene of the crash. If you have already left the scene, you should take photos to document your injuries and the damage to your leased vehicle.
- Talk to a Lawyer – No matter what type(s) of claim(s) you need to file, it is always best to have an experienced lawyer on your side. We provide VIP service at no out-of-pocket cost.
- Be Careful about What You Say – At this point, you should only discuss the accident with your lawyer. This means no talking to the insurance adjusters, and no posting about the accident on social media.
You will most likely need to report the accident to your insurance company and your leasing company as well. However, as we just mentioned, you need to be very careful to avoid saying anything that could jeopardize your legal rights. To make sure you avoid mistakes, we strongly recommend that you speak with a lawyer before you speak with anyone else. At Brian Guralnick Injury Lawyers, we can explain everything you need to know, and we can assist you every step of the way.
Get a Free Consultation about Your Legal Rights
The team at Brian Guralnick Injury Lawyers Demand More® and so should you. If you have been injured in a Palm Beach County accident, I encourage you to contact me, Brian D. Guralnick, personally to discuss your legal rights. To learn how the injury team at Brian D. Guralnick Injury Lawyers can help you Demand More® for your injuries, call (561) 983-4395 now or contact us online. Isn’t it time that you Demand More®?
You should not take any information in this blog as legal advice in any situation. If you need expertise for a specific issue of yours, contact a qualified Personal Injury attorney.