I've been in an accident with someone who has no insurance. Now what do I do?
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Accidents
Car owners are required by law to carry liability insurance that covers personal injuries and property damage in the event of a car accident. Different categories of insurance differ in whether there are any restrictions on an accident victim's right to sue and whether the insurer pays first-party benefits regardless of who is at fault. The minimum amount of coverage required in Florida is a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and a minimum of $10,000 in Property Damage Liability (PDL) automobile insurance. PIP covers 80 percent of all necessary and reasonable medical expenses up to $10,000 resulting from a covered injury, no matter who caused the crash. PDL coverage pays for damage to another person’s property caused by you or someone else driving your insured vehicle.
Proof of PIP/PDL coverage must be issued by an insurance company licensed in Florida to sell policies or by qualifying for a self-insurance certificate issued by FLHSMV.
In tort liability states, recovering money from a driver who is at fault depends on that driver having adequate insurance. Unfortunately, many drivers do not carry insurance, or they may not carry enough to cover catastrophic injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries.
Florida requires automobile insurers to offer uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage in case the driver who causes the crash either does not have insurance or has only the bare minimum liability coverage. In the latter situation, the minimum coverage may not be enough to cover a car crash victim's medical bills as Florida does not require an insured party to carry bodily injury limits.
Reasons to Purchase Uninsured Motorist Coverage
The goal of uninsured motorist coverage is to pay for medical bills and other injury related expenses and damages in case the driver who caused the accident doesn't carry car insurance.
If the driver who caused the accident is affluent and uninsured, you may sue him or her and be able to recover for your damages. However, most people who choose not to carry insurance are not affluent and do not have significant assets from which you can recover damages. These people are considered judgment-proof.
Uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) coverage pays for your medical bills if you are in a crash caused by an uninsured driver. If you don’t have UMBI, health insurance will normally cover these bills. But the biggest difference between health insurance and uninsured motorist coverage is that UMBI generally includes loss of wages, funeral expenses, and sometimes even pain and suffering.
In short, uninsured motorist coverage in Florida is an inexpensive way to gain extra coverage in case you are ever hit by a driver without insurance. Adding uninsured motorist coverage to a typical Florida car insurance policy will only cost about $270 per year, on average. So, even if you have health insurance, uninsured motorist coverage is still a good long-term investment.
Even when drivers do carry insurance coverage, many of them do not carry sufficient insurance coverage for purposes of serious injuries. In those cases, you can file an underinsured motorist coverage claim with your insurer to fill the gap between your bills and the amount you recovered from the other driver's insurance.
Suppose, for example, you are in a car crash caused by another driver, suffer a catastrophic injury, and incur $250,000 in medical bills. If the driver who is at fault carries liability insurance that only offers a policy limit of $50,000, you will be left with bills of $200,000. Although you may find out the limits of the other driver's coverage relatively quickly, it may take time before you realize that your claim is much larger than that driver's policy limit. Often, doctors and hospitals send bills much later than the date you are seen. Moreover, some injuries can take up to a year to fully manifest and be understood.
Filing an Uninsured Motorist Claim
If you think you might need to file an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, you should contact an attorney to properly assess and understand you rights.
When you make an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, your insurance company will investigate your medical treatment and your injuries. Typically, your insurance contract will place a duty on you to cooperate with your insurance company, but your insurance company, in turn, has a duty to handle your claim in good faith. When insurance companies approach the claims of their insured members in an adversarial way or unlawfully deny claims, they may be subject to bad faith lawsuits.
Protecting your claim and your legal rights
You should contact Brad Stackhouse at Stackhouse Law at your earliest opportunity. Accidents involving an uninsured/underinsured motorist, should be evaluated by a competent attorney.