The Importance Of Uninsured Motorist Coverage In Florida

Here in Palm Beach County and throughout the state of Florida, if a negligent driver injures you in a vehicle collision, what can you do? And if the driver who injures you has no automobile insurance, will you be able to obtain compensation for your medical expenses? How can a car accident lawyer help?

Uninsured driving is becoming a growing concern both here in Florida and across the nation, and if you are injured by an uninsured driver, it may be difficult to obtain compensation for your medical treatment after an accident.

According to CBS News in 2017, about 27 percent of the drivers on Florida’s streets and highways – more than one in four – is driving without auto insurance.

WHAT AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE IS REQUIRED FOR FLORIDA DRIVERS?

The state of Florida has some of the most complicated auto insurance laws in the nation, so if you are involved in a vehicle accident, having the auto insurance that you need is absolutely imperative.

Florida law requires drivers to have the following minimum automobile insurance:

1. at least $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance
2. at least $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL) insurance

If the legally-required minimum auto insurance is your only coverage, you could face overwhelming financial challenges if you are involved in a traffic accident with serious injuries.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM and UIM) insurance is not mandatory in our state, but any accident lawyer in Florida will tell you that you absolutely must have it.

WHAT MAKES AUTO INSURANCE SO COMPLICATED IN FLORIDA?

Because Florida is a no-fault auto insurance state, your own PIP insurance is supposed to cover the first $10,000 of your medical bills and lost wages after you are injured in traffic, and it does not matter which driver was at-fault for the accident.

As mentioned previously, Florida’s auto insurance laws are exceedingly complicated. For example:

1. If you do not comply with the state’s “14-day rule” and have a medical exam conducted within 14 days of any traffic accident in Florida, you probably cannot be compensated – at all – for any injuries, even latent-or-hard-to detect injuries, that you sustain.

2. You will be limited to $2,500 of PIP compensation unless a healthcare provider can confirm that your condition is an “EMC,” an emergency medical condition.

3. If you comply with the 14-day rule, and you suffer an emergency medical condition, PIP insurance pays for (only) 80 percent of your crash-related medical expenses up to $10,000.

Anyone who has suffered a severe spinal cord injury, a traumatic brain injury, an injury requiring amputation, or any long-term or permanent injury will need considerably more compensation.

WHAT ARE FLORIDA’S RULES FOR AUTO ACCIDENT INJURY LAWSUITS?

Florida law does not provide much help to injury victims unless their injuries are severe. If your damages exceed your PIP limit, you may file a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault driver in Florida only in one or more of these three circumstances:

1. Your injuries are permanent.
2. You have suffered scarring or disfigurement that is permanent or extensive.
3. You have permanently lost a key bodily function.

If you make it through all of the legal barriers, and if you qualify to file a personal injury lawsuit, your next consideration will be the at-fault driver’s resources.

IS A LAWSUIT ALWAYS AN INJURY VICTIM’S BEST OPTION?

In one out of four Florida traffic accidents with injuries, according to the CBS statistics cited above, the at-fault driver will be uninsured.

If the driver who injured you has no auto insurance coverage, filing a lawsuit probably will not help you.

The leading reason why drivers are uninsured is that they cannot afford automobile insurance. In fact, uninsured drivers almost never have the ability to pay an injury verdict or settlement.

HOW CAN UM AND UIM COVERAGE HELP?

In Florida, an accident victim’s next option is his or her UM and UIM coverage. That’s why it is so important to have this coverage even though the law in our state does not require it.

Florida law, however, does require automobile insurers to offer UM and UIM insurance to their policyholders, and if you decline UM and UIM coverage in our state, you must do so in writing.

If a negligent, uninsured driver injures you in traffic, and that injury is severe or catastrophic, your PIP insurance might not even cover the full cost of your initial emergency room visit.

You will need UM and UIM insurance to cover the cost of medical bills and lost wages beyond your PIP limit. In some instances, a car accident doctor may be able to help.

WHAT IF YOU HAVE NO UM/UIM COVERAGE?

If you are injured in Florida by a negligent, uninsured driver, and you do not have UM and UIM coverage, finding compensation will be tricky.

You may or may not be covered under another provision of your auto insurance policy. You may find some help with medical expenses through your health insurance, but health insurance won’t replace lost wages, and again, each policy’s details are different.

If you’re are injured by an uninsured driver, and you have no UM/UIM coverage, speak with your accident attorney, who may be able to suggest other sources of compensation.

AFTER A TRAFFIC COLLISION, WHAT ARE YOUR PRIORITIES?

After any vehicle collision in Florida, if you have been injured, take these measures first:

1. Be examined by a healthcare professional. If you are not treated at the accident scene, get a medical exam within 24 hours. You may have sustained a hard-to-detect injury that needs treatment, and if you file a lawsuit, you will need the medical record.

2. If you’re injured, do not speak to an insurance adjuster or sign any insurance documents. Let your accident attorney – a skilled and experienced negotiator –– do the talking.

If you are injured by any negligent driver in South Florida, whether or not that driver is insured or uninsured, the wisest option is putting your case immediately in the hands of a West Palm Beach personal injury attorney and then adhering to that attorney’s advice.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER?

What are the three key facts that everyone in this state needs to remember about accidents with uninsured motorists?

1. The importance of having UM and UIM insurance coverage cannot be overstated.

2. If you are injured in an accident, you must have a medical exam within 14 days if you expect to receive compensation.

3. Don’t try to act as your own lawyer. Florida auto insurance law has too many exceptions, deadlines, and complications. Let an experienced West Palm Beach personal injury attorney handle the case on your behalf. It’s your health, your future – and your right.