Florida Auto Accidents Involving Uninsured Motorist
You’re driving home from a long day at work and just want to get home, change into some PJ’s, and binge watch some Netflix. But just before turning on your street – bam! A car plows into your rear fender. Your neck and head hurt but you shake off the cobwebs and get out to see the damage. You find your car’s trunk is now pulverized snugly into the back seat. Injuries and damages for this wreck can cost you thousands of dollars. Usually, the driver’s automobile liability insurance would help pay for the damages but after exchanging insurance information with the other driver, what happens when you find out that they do not have enough insurance coverage to pay for fixing everything or for all your medical expenses? Surely your state-required insurance limits will cover the damages? Sadly, all too often the coverage amounts fail to cover the entirety of the damages.
Since 2008, the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law (section 627.7407 of the Florida Statutes) requires drivers in the State of Florida to have a minimum amount of:
- $10,000 coverage for property damage liability (PDL), which covers damage you or a member of your household caused while driving; and
- $10,000 coverage in personal injury protection (PIP), which covers medical bills and lost wages.
These minimum coverages have to be in place to drive a vehicle in Florida, so many drivers assume this is all the coverage they’ll need. However, these limits are incredibly small in an accident case where repair costs and medical bills can be massive. No-fault means that in an accident, it doesn’t matter who was at-fault, your insurance carrier will be who you submit a claim with to pay for damages. The law states that they are to pay 80% of the damages, up to the $10,000 limit. On the positive side, not having to prove who was at fault helps to streamline the claims process for filers and keeps the courts clear of smaller cases involving suing for damages in accidents. Negatively, it puts you on the hook for filing a claim with your insurance carrier and, as a result, consistently puts Florida in the top 5 states in the nation for most-expensive auto insurance premiums. The claims process can be frustrating when your insurance carrier refuses to play ball.
Take the following example: you are in an accident where you were struck by a vehicle with no insurance and suffered serious injuries. Over the next few months, you have visits to the doctor, X-rays and MRIs, and many trips to rehab – not to mention thousands in vehicle repair costs. When the total of these damages surpasses your PIP’s $10,000 limit, you’ll need additional means to recover. This can involve filing a UM/UIM claim under your carrier or possibly suing the at-fault driver personally if they have assets. Chances are, if a driver (illegally) carries no insurance, they probably won’t have significant assets to go after.
Florida’s no-fault law also allows insurance carriers to assign a percentage of liability to those involved in the accident. This means your own insurance carrier’s claims adjusters may try to pin some of the blame on you so they don’t have to pay out as much. Even if they can show the accident was only 1% your fault, that’s 1% less than they have to pay. Bottom line, insurance carriers are in business to make a profit. You are not held snugly in “good hands” and, remember, Flo is just an actress. These carriers spend billions on marketing campaigns to convince you they’ll act in your best interest and then when it comes time for a claim, will use a creative assortment of tactics to delay and underpay. When they employ these tactics across the organization, they save millions every year. Farah and Farah attorneys have seen these same tactics used time and again and over the years have developed winning strategies to combat them – our results prove this.
Understanding Your Options in Automobile Insurance
Most automobile insurance policies in the State of Florida come prepackaged with uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. However, this coverage is voluntary meaning drivers can opt out at any time and may do so without realizing it. To save money on premiums, this “additional coverage” may be excluded. One may be surprised to learn that when seeking a premium discount, your agent may seek to cut voluntary coverages such as UM/UIM. Be careful that among the piles of documents signed there isn’t a statement voluntarily opting out of UM/UIM coverage. It’s always a good idea to check with your agent to ensure you have this coverage active. In our example above, the victim could file a claim under their UM/UIM after the PIP limits were reached. The coverage limit amounts start small – usually $10,000 per person/ $20,000 per accident. Allstate Insurance Agent Mike Wawzynski recommends having at least this minimum coverage amount as the premium portion for UM/UIM coverage is but a fraction of the total premium cost – for a North Florida family with two cars Allstate quoted just $10/month. Drivers should also look to maintain Bodily Injury Liability (BI or BIL) coverage, which covers death or serious injury you caused while driving and puts your carrier on the hook for providing you with legal representation if you are sued as a result. Fun fact, if you are convicted of a DUI in Florida, you will be required to carry BI coverage for at least three years once your license is reinstated. It is important to note that UM/UIM limits will not exceed BIL limits.
UM/UIM coverage also extends outside of automobile accidents for things like being injured bicycling or even as a pedestrian. Additionally, coverage kicks in if you are injured in an accident while riding in someone else’s vehicle and covers members of your household and other passengers that don’t drive that were riding with you. Don’t forget, if your health insurance helped pay for medical bills, that insurance carrier may have the legal right to seek reimbursement for the money they paid out. Subrogation provisions in the policy documents help these carriers demand repayment for the benefits you received.
Farah & Farah auto-accident attorneys have handled cases where insurance carriers were trying to take all or nearly all of the settlements our clients received. Using expert knowledge and years of experience, we’ve formed the best defenses to limit or even eliminate the amount the carrier can seek. When you’ve been hurt in UM/UIM accident, it’s important to know your rights and understand all of your options. We’ll go through your policy with you to help you understand your coverage. We’re really good at holding carriers to the terms of your policy and getting the compensation you need to be whole again. Contact us to get answers about your case – anytime, day or night.