Florida is one of the nation’s few “no-fault” states. What is a no-fault state? In most states, the insurance of the person who caused an auto accident pays for the damages to all the involved vehicles and the injuries sustained by all passengers. In a no-fault state, each driver’s insurance pays for their own injuries and vehicle damage.
Florida’s unique no-fault insurance laws have some profound implications for people involved in accidents with uninsured motorists (UM) and underinsured motorists (UIM).
People who drive without insurance may justify their decision by telling themselves it’s a victimless crime. In many respects it is – until they get into an accident.
In most states, drivers are on the hook for damage to their own vehicle if they’re hit by an uninsured driver. If they don’t have adequate uninsured motorist coverage, those costs could come out of their own pocket.
In Florida, if you’re hit by an uninsured driver, your insurance will automatically pay for the damages thanks to no-fault laws. The uninsured driver is the only one who is completely out of luck, because the other driver’s insurance coverage won’t provide any compensation for their damages or injuries.
Florida is one of the few states in the nation that doesn’t require drivers to carry uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist coverage. The current insurance requirement in Florida are:
It should be noted that those policy limits are not all that high. Even minor auto accidents can result in severe injuries and medical costs well over the $10,000 per person bodily injury limit. Carrying higher limits or adding uninsured motorist coverage can help protect drivers who reach their limit in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Yes, if your medical costs exceed your limits you can hold the responsible driver liable for your additional costs. It’s not uncommon for serious head injuries, broken bones, burns or lacerations to cost far more than $10,000 in hospital stays, surgery and rehabilitation. The driver who caused your injuries should be the one who pays for any additional costs you incur over your policy limit.
Severe injuries often require emergency surgeries, weeklong hospital stays and months of rehabilitation. In cases of permanent disability, injured people may be forced to invest in mobility enhancing equipment to get around, must pay for home modifications and may even need round-the-clock nursing care for the remainder of their life.
People with those types of injuries may never be able to return to work. They could be losing out on hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars’ worth of future income and compensation.
There will also be emotional and physical pain and suffering the injured person will endure for the rest of their life after the accident.
In traumatic injury cases, $10,000 won’t go far, and it shouldn’t be the injured person’s responsibility to foot the bill for an accident caused by someone else’s negligence.
Florida’s personal injury laws work similarly to those of other states once a driver’s own policy limits have been reached. You can still hold the other driver financially responsible for the remainder of your costs, plus any pain and suffering, lost wages and punitive damages that may be justified in an auto accident case.
Just because you purchase UM/UIM coverage doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get all the money you need to recover. Florida has specific statutes, such as F.S. 627.737, that limits the scenarios in which your insurer must honor your coverage. Your injuries need to be serious before the coverage goes into effect.
Even then, insurance companies aren’t exactly happy to pay for injuries someone else caused. In far too many cases they leverage the small print in your long insurance policy contract to avoid having to pay you the full value on your uninsured motorist injury claim. They may even try to deny your claim altogether.
Paying your premiums every month doesn’t necessarily buy you any goodwill with your insurer. They are still a for-profit business, not a charity. Every dollar they must pay you for your claim is a dollar out of their investors’ pockets.
Most people think of auto accident injury lawyers as fighting against the other driver’s insurance company. But there are scenarios in Florida where you may benefit from representation against your own insurance company, especially in cases where the driver who caused your injuries was uninsured or underinsured.