Frequently Asked Questions - What To Do If You Are Hit By An Uninsured Or Underinsured Driver In Florida-How Much Car Insurance Does A FLorida Driver Need To Carry?
Did you know that Florida is the state with the highest number of uninsured motorists? According to the Insurance Research Council's latest study, 26.7% of drivers in Florida are driving without auto insurance. It is a scary feeling to know that a little over 1 in every 4 drivers on the road is driving without insurance. What happens if I am injured? Who will pay for the damage to my vehicle? Many people who have recently found themselves in this unfortunate situation can only hope that they have enough coverage in their automobile policy to cover their vehicle damage as well as medical expenses.
How Can I Protect Myself from Being in This Situation?
If you are not currently in this situation, now is the time to look at your policy to see what types of coverage you have available to you.
In the State of Florida, there are only two auto insurance coverages that are required to drive a motor vehicle:
- Person Injury Protection (PIP) – Personal Injury Protection (PIP) covers yourself, (whether you are at fault or not at fault), passengers in your vehicle, and household relatives. If you, your passengers, or household relatives are injured in an automobile collision, your PIP coverage will pay 80% of your medical expenses and 60% of your wage loss (if you did not exclude wage loss on your policy) up to $10,000.00. For example, you go to the emergency room for your injuries and incurred a $1,000.00 bill. Your PIP coverage will pay up to 80% of that bill. The 20% percent will be considered your responsibility. The medical bills received by your auto insurance will be paid directly to the medical provider. Even having this required coverage may leave you with out-of-pocket medical expenses, even if you were not at fault.
- Property Damage Liability Coverage- A minimum of $10,000.00 in Property Damage Liability coverage is required in the State of Florida. Property Damage Liability coverage pays for the property damage of the owner of the vehicle who was not at fault. For example, if your vehicle was rear-ended, the at-fault driver's Property Damage Liability coverage pays for the damage to your vehicle. While someone may be insured, there may be a chance that this person may only have the minimum requirement of $10,000.00 in property damage coverage. If you have a newer vehicle and your vehicle is deemed a total loss, $10,000.00 may not be enough to cover the value of your vehicle.
Did you notice the pattern? Even if you are hit by a vehicle that has auto insurance, you still may not be fully covered if you or the at-fault driver only carry the minimum insurance requirements in the State of Florida.
Now Let's go Over the Insurance Coverages that Can Protect You, Your Passengers, Your Family, Your Vehicle and Your Assets
These coverages may be optional but are extremely important to have:
Bodily Injury Liability (BI) Coverage- If you cause a car accident and the accident causes injuries to the person who was not at fault, you Bodily Injury Liability coverage may pay for the medical balances that were not paid by their Personal Injury Protection coverage. Your insurance may also pay them a settlement for their pain and suffering. Having Bodily Injury Liability coverage can protect you from being sued in a civil court. And if you have assets, you may want to protect yourself by carrying a significant amount of Bodily Injury Liability coverage. If you choose to purchase Bodily Injury coverage, the minimum amount you can purchase is $10,000.00 per person/$20,000.00 per accident.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage protects you if you are in a situation where the at-fault driver does not have insurance, does not have Bodily Injury Coverage, or has a very low amount in Bodily Injury coverage. If you sustained injuries in a car accident where the at-fault party did not have Bodily Injury coverage or had a low amount of Bodily Injury coverage, you can make an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist claim to your insurance. This coverage only applies if you were not at fault in the collision. Your UM/UIM coverage pays for any outstanding balances that your PIP coverage did not pay and can pay you for your pain and suffering. In the State of Florida, to purchase UM/UIM coverage, you must purchase Bodily Injury coverage as well.
In Florida, where 1 in every 4 drivers are driving without insurance, Uninsured Motorist coverage is especially important to have. You never know what types of injuries you may sustain in an accident and what type of medical treatment your injuries may require. Having Uninsured Motorist coverage in your policy can give you the peace of mind of knowing that you will be adequately covered if you are ever injured by an uninsured driver or vehicle.
Collision Coverage- Collision pays you, the policyholder, for the damage to your vehicle whether you were at fault for the crash or not. There is no limit to the amount your Collision coverage will pay for the damage or value of your vehicle. However, Collision coverage usually is accompanied by a deductible, which is a fixed amount of the vehicle repair cost that you, the insured, are responsible to pay. For example, say you have a $500 deductible in your policy and the total amount of your vehicle repair cost is $3,500.00. You would be responsible to pay $500.00 and your insurance will cover the rest. If you were not at-fault for the crash, and the at-fault party had insurance coverage, your insurance company can send a demand to the at-fault driver's insurance for reimbursement for what they paid you for your vehicle damage. On your behalf, they can also include the deductible that you paid in the demand.
Comprehensive Coverage- Comprehensive coverage can help cover your vehicle for damages that are not caused by a collision such as natural disasters, falling objects, fire, etc.
What If the at-fault Driver Tells me at the Accident Scene that He or She is Uninsured?
After an accident, the first thing you should do is move your vehicle out of the road if it is safe to do so. Once you are in a safe place:
Call the Police. The absolute next thing you should do when you are involved in an accident is to call 911. If you are physically able to, wait until law enforcement arrives at the scene and make sure they issue a full traffic crash report. Do not let the at-fault driver convince you not to call the police and do not accept money from the at-fault driver. Once the police arrive at the scene, the at-fault driver may provide law enforcement with his or her insurance information. If the at-fault driver fails to provide proof of insurance to law enforcement, he or she may be issued a citation for driving without proof of insurance. The most important thing is to have the full crash report as the police officer will include important information on the at-fault driver's vehicle on the crash report. The information on the full crash report may be used later if you need to send a request to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to run an insurance search on the defendant's vehicle. Without a full traffic crash report, the DHSMV will deny your request for insurance information.
Obtain witnesses' information and Take Photos. Take photos of the damage to your vehicle, the damage to the at-fault person's vehicle, their license plate, and photos of the accident scene if you can.
Treatment. If you are injured, seek treatment within 14 days. Florida Law requires you to see a doctor for the injuries sustained in the accident within 14 days of the date of the crash to qualify for PIP benefits.
Call the insurance companies to report the claim. If you are injured, do not give any insurance a recorded statement until you speak with an experienced car accident attorney first.
What Should I do if the At-Fault Driver was Uninsured?
If you have been involved in a car accident with an uninsured driver, your best option is to call your insurance company and find out how your insurance coverage applies. If you have injuries that will not be adequately covered by any insurance, you should consider talking with an experienced car accident attorney to discuss your options.