Getting into a car accident comes with a long list of issues to deal with: doctor appointments, medical bills, time missed from work, car repairs, car rental costs, the chance of a lawsuit… While it’s never a pleasant experience, things can get even uglier if you realize that the other person involved in the accident either does not have enough car insurance to pay for damages, or worse yet, doesn’t have car insurance at all.
Yes, Florida Statute 324.021 law requires everyone who drives a motor vehicle in the State to carry car insurance. However, about one in four motorists are driving without coverage. If an uninsured motorist crashes into your car, they will face suspension of their driver’s license and car registration, as well as civil penalties. But that doesn’t resolve your problem of having all these costs and no one to answer for them. This is where uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage comes in.
What is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
While Florida law does require every single motorist to have car insurance, only certain amounts are mandatory. For example, the minimum coverage required is for $10,000 to cover for bodily injury of one person, and $20,000 to cover injuries to two or more persons, and $10,000 to cover property damage.
Meanwhile, Florida Statute 627.727 establishes that in addition to the required minimum, all car insurance policies have to offer optional coverage to be available in the event the policyholder gets into a car accident with someone who:
- Is unable to make payments to cover for damages resulting from an accident due to being insolvent,
- Has only the minimum coverage required by law, and the damages sustained in the accident are in excess of those minimums
- Doesn’t have any car insurance at all
When you first sign up for car insurance, you get several coverage options presented to you, including different amounts for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If you choose not to have such type of insurance, you must decline that in writing (the insurance company typically will give you a form stating that you do not want such coverage, and all you have to do is check a box and sign it).
What to Do If You Get into a Car Accident with an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist
Finding out that the other party in a car accident does not have any way to cover for your injuries and damage to your car can be infuriating. With that being said, you do have alternatives to help pay for costs:
1. Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
In addition to minimum coverage, Florida law requires all car insurance policies to provide Personal Injury Protection (PIP). Regardless of who was at fault for the accident, PIP will cover up to 80% of medical bills and 60% of lost wages, for up to $10,000. To receive these benefits, you are required to file your claim within 14 days from the date of the accident. That deadline is non-negotiable. If you’re worried that doing so will make your insurance costs go up, do know that an insurer may only increase premiums if you were found substantially at fault for the accident.
2. Med Pay Coverage
While PIP is mandatory, Medical Payment Coverage (Med Pay) is another form of optional insurance. This type of insurance covers the remaining 20% of medical bills not covered by Personal Injury Protection.
3. Filing a Lawsuit Against the Other Driver
If your damages exceed the $10,000 and have no uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, your only recourse will be to file a lawsuit against the other driver. Winning a case against someone who’s insolvent may be as difficult as getting blood out of a turnip. However, at least with a judgment against the other person, you have additional legal recourse to help you collect, such as garnishing wages.
Call Clark Law for a Free Consultation
There are many factors that can affect the outcome of a claim after a car accident. This is why it’s crucial to talk to a personal injury attorney. Not doing so could greatly affect your chances of getting adequate recovery for your damages.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.