Frequently Asked Questions - What Happens If The Other Person Doesn't Have Insurance?
So you’ve been in an unfortunate automobile accident that has resulted in property damages and personal injuries. Hopefully, you prepared for just such an event by doing the right thing and purchasing adequate automobile insurance to protect both yourself and your assets (just in case you happen to be the cause of the accident). And you would certainly like to hope that the other driver has done the same thing. But the sad truth is that not every person driving on the Florida roads is covered by an automobile insurance policy. And, even if the other driver has previously purchased an automobile insurance policy, it may afford only the most minimal coverage. Actually, more people than you would ever like to imagine neglect to carry liability coverages, coverages that extend to the other driver who is found to be not at fault. In fact, the state of Florida is one of the states having the largest population of motorists who carry no liability insurance at all.
After a motor vehicle accident, once things have settled down and have been sorted out, it is an unpleasant shock to discover that the at-fault driver has neglected to purchase Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) insurance coverage. (At the present time, BIL coverage is not required in the state of Florida, and many drivers opt to not purchase this coverage in an effort to cut the costs of their premium.) So, once you have the proof that no BIL is on the at-fault driver’s policy, you may very well begin to wonder just how in the world you are going to pay for your mounting medical expenses.
The driver injured through the fault of another person may initially wonder if the at-fault driver can be pursued through a civil lawsuit. That certainly can happen, but the fact is that usually a driver not purchasing a good amount of automobile insurance coverage usually will be in possession of substantial personal assets to pursue.
But don’t panic. In a case where you have suffered injuries and damages in an accident with an at-fault driver who has not prepared for liability, you can, hopefully, be able to look to your own policy’s coverages.
First of all, Florida is considered to be a no-fault state (not all states are) which simply means that after a motor vehicle accident, the injured party or parties should quickly begin treating for their injuries using their own automobile policy for their initial medical expense coverage. Specifically, the Florida No-Fault Motor Vehicle Law mandates that drivers carry Personal Injury Protection, also called PIP, coverage, and that makes this type of coverage a required limit of coverage on Florida automobile insurance policies. PIP coverage is included by law so as to be immediately available to begin paying for the driver’s medical expenses no matter who is found to be at fault for the accident. The purpose of this state-mandated coverage is to make it easier for the injured person to begin medical treatment without worrying about who or what is going to pay their initial medical bills thus giving some peace of mind.
The currently required minimum level of PIP coverage currently is ten-thousand dollars; the option to purchase higher limits is offered by insurance companies. Of the amounts of the limits, the injured person’s medical bills will be covered at eighty percent and lost wages, if applicable, will be covered at sixty percent unless wage loss coverage is specifically excluded on the individual policy. PIP may also cover other expenses for services that the injured person may be unable to do temporarily due to his or her injuries, such as child care services, and it includes a five-thousand-dollar death benefit which is payable in the event that the driver passed away as a result of the accident. It is very important to remember that under Florida law the injured person must treat with a medical provider within fourteen days of the accident to be in compliance with the coverage requirements. And note that PIP “follows” the individual policyholder which basically means that, should you be in an accident while riding in someone else’s car or driving a rental vehicle, for example, it will be your automobile insurance policy’s PIP that covers your medical expenses, not the PIP coverage of the car’s owner or the car rental company.
Another very important limit of coverage to have on your policy just in case that your accident is caused by an uninsured driver is what is termed Uninsured/underinsured Motorist coverage – an optional coverage in the state of Florida that is mandated to be offered to the consumer by the automobile insurance companies. While not a required purchase, UM/UIM benefits can definitely prove to be invaluable as they can come into play when the cost for treatment of your accident-related injuries exceeds your policy’s PIP coverage limits and the at-fault driver’s policy does not afford BIL coverage or does not include BIL coverage limits high enough to adequately cover your medical expenses in the present and in the future. Moreover, UM/UIM can also help to pay for wage loss and repairs to your automobile, along with compensation for your pain and suffering and future lost wages. Keep in mind that in the case where the policyholder who chose to purchase UM/UIM coverage places more than one vehicle on the same policy, each of those vehicles must be covered by the same limit amounts. And, lastly, the UM/UIM limits cannot exceed that policy’s BIL coverage limits.
To recap, when purchasing an automobile insurance policy, don’t forget to protect yourself from accidents caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver. Of course, purchase the required Personal Injury Protection coverage and consider purchasing a limit above that of the mandated ten-thousand dollars. But also strongly consider adding the uninsured/underinsured coverage as well. It may very well provide protection to avoid financial disaster in the case that your accident-related injuries far exceed your Personal Injury Protection limits, something that can easily occur.