Any car accident is scary. You’re driving along when — BOOM! — your car crumples. Whether or not you suffer injuries, you will likely be shaken up by this type of collision.
When the at-fault driver doesn’t have car insurance, however, your feelings of fear may quickly turn to despair. How are you going to get your car fixed? Who will pay for your medical treatment?
It is normal to feel this way after an accident, especially when you find out that the other driver is uninsured (which you may only learn after the accident). Fortunately, there are options for recovering even if you have been hit by an uninsured driver. Although the situation is less than ideal, a Miami car accident attorney can help you decide how to proceed.
Are Florida Drivers Required to Purchase Car Insurance?
Under Florida law, all drivers of motor vehicles must maintain a minimum level of car insurance. To purchase and maintain a Florida license plate and registration, a driver must have $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) and $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL). As long as you have a valid Florida license plate, you must have at least this much insurance coverage.
PIP is also known as Florida no-fault car insurance. In essence, it covers your own damages — regardless of who is at fault for the accident — up to the limits of your policy. It will also cover other members of your household and certain passengers. PDL covers damage that you may cause to others’ property in an accident involving a motor vehicle.
Florida law, incredibly enough, does not require drivers to purchase bodily injury liability insurance. This type of coverage pays for injury or death to others caused by car accidents.
Florida has the highest percentage of uninsured drivers in the country. According to a 2017 report from the Insurance Research Council, 26.7% of Florida drivers do not have car insurance. Drivers can have their drivers’ license, license plate and registration plate suspended for up to 3 years if they fail to keep insurance.
If you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver, there are steps that can be taken in an attempt to recover for your losses. While it may be more challenging than seeking compensation from a fully insured driver, a skilled lawyer can work with you to assist you in the legal process.
How to Obtain Compensation After Being Hit by an Uninsured Driver in Florida
Because Florida is a no-fault state, the first place that you will have to look after an accident is your own insurance policy. Your PIP coverage may be sufficient to pay for any medical treatment that you need from the crash. However, in many cases, PIP will simply not be enough to pay for your medical expenses or other damages.
One option is to sue the uninsured driver. You can file a lawsuit against him or her, and if you win, you may be able to recover damages from their assets. Unfortunately, many uninsured drivers don’t have insurance because they cannot afford it — which usually means that it will be difficult to collect a judgment against them.
However, if the uninsured driver has a job, then the judge may order him or her to pay you a small amount each month in damages. If he or she has any assets, you may be able to place a lien on the assets or otherwise get at them to be compensated for your damages.
As an alternative, you can look to your own insurance for a recovery. Uninsured motorist coverage is an option for Florida motorists. It offers payment to policyholders who are in an accident with an uninsured driver.
While uninsured motorist coverage is not mandatory in Florida, it is an incredibly smart idea to purchase this added coverage. Given the high percentage of Florida drivers without car insurance, it is generally worth spending the extra money to protect yourself. Underinsured motorist coverage will also help to cover the difference between your total damages and the at-fault driver’s (minimal) insurance coverage.
Importantly, uninsured motorist coverage can only be purchased if you have Bodily Injury Liability coverage and cannot exceed your Bodily Injury ILiability limits. If you only maintain the standard minimum $10,000 PIP and $10,000 PDL coverage, then you cannot purchase uninsured motorist coverage. Be sure to talk to your insurance agent about your options when making coverage decisions.
Even though you will be making a claim against your own insurance company if you file an uninsured motorist claim, it may still be a challenging process. Insurance companies are for-profit businesses, and rarely want to offer settlements for a high dollar amount. Be sure to consult with an experienced Miami car accident lawyer who has experience with uninsured motorist claims before signing any paperwork offered by your insurance company.
Work with a Personal Injury Attorney in Miami
People who drive without car insurance put everyone at risk — yet more than a quarter of all Florida drivers engage in this behavior. If you have been hit by an uninsured driver, you may think that you are out of luck when it comes to getting money for your damages. However, there may be ways to be compensated, from your own PIP insurance to a lawsuit against the driver to an uninsured motorist policy.
The law firm of Kaire & Heffernan is devoted to advocating for victims of all types of accidents — including those drivers who have been hit by motorists without insurance. We offer free initial consultations, provide services in both Spanish and English, and never charge a fee unless we recover money for you. Contact our office today at 305-372-0123 or online to schedule an appointment with a personal injury attorney in Miami.
Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 15 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for 4 years.