Although Florida law requires every motorist to carry automobile insurance, the reality is that over one-quarter of the state’s motorists are driving without car insurance. In fact, according to recent data from the Insurance Research Council, Florida holds the number one spot for states with the highest estimated percentage of uninsured drivers. Beyond the uninsured motorists, many people who are driving on South Florida roadways and highways do have automobile insurance coverage, but they are “underinsured,” meaning that they do not carry an adequate amount of coverage.
With so many uninsured and underinsured drivers, the likelihood of being in an accident where the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured is substantial. When this happens, the medical expenses, lost wages and other damages can be financially devastating to parties who are injured in the accident.
What auto insurance are Florida drivers required to carry?
Like most states, Florida requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of auto insurance coverage. However, Florida’s insurance requirements are fairly minimal. The only required coverages in Florida are:
- $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP), and
- $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL).
PIP insurance covers the policyholder’s own medical expenses, and PDL covers property damage only. So, as you can see, Florida drivers are not legally required to carry any coverage for the cost of other accident victims’ injuries. As a result, even if the driver who hit you was insured, there is still a very good chance that his or her insurance will not come close to covering all of your accident-related losses.
How does uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance work?
In a normal scenario, when you suffer significant or permanent injuries in a car accident, you can seek compensation under the at-fault driver’s bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance policy (even though BIL insurance is not required in Florida, many drivers still carry it). But, if the driver who hit you is uninsured, or if his or her BIL coverage is not enough, then you must look elsewhere for your financial recovery.
If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance, then your insurance company will “stand in the shoes” of the at-fault driver’s insurer, and it will be obligated to provide coverage if you are able to prove liability. The key here is that uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is fault-based coverage (unlike PIP). So, even though you are filing a claim with your own insurance company, you must still be able to prove that the other driver was at fault in order to secure coverage.
In addition to accidents involving uninsured and underinsured drivers, UIM coverage can also be used to secure financial compensation in cases involving hit-and-run accidents and stolen vehicles.
Should you opt to pay for uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance coverage?
Due to Florida’s limited auto insurance requirements and its extremely high rate of uninsured drivers, as a West Palm Beach vehicle accident attorney, I strongly recommend all drivers buy uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage if they can afford it. The coverage will ensure that you have access to financial compensation if the costs of your injuries exceed your PIP coverage (as will often be the case) and the other driver’s insurance is inadequate or non-existent (as will often be the case as well).
How much coverage should you buy?
The amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage you should buy depends on a few different factors.
First, you should consider what you can afford. While having uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is important, so is being able to pay your other bills on an ongoing basis. Second, you should consider your income and expenses. Since uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance provides coverage for lost earnings (among other losses), you will want to try to be sure that your coverage is adequate to cover your financial needs if you are unable to work due to serious injuries sustained in a vehicle collision.
Finally, you should consider what other amount you would be willing to accept as “just compensation” for your pain and suffering, emotional trauma and other non-financial losses. Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance covers these losses as well, and in many cases they are substantial.
How do you file an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim?
The process of filing an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim starts with notifying your insurer of your vehicle collision. However, when you report the accident, you need to be very careful to avoid saying anything your insurance company could use against you.
As mentioned above, even though you are filing a claim with your insurance company under your policy, you are still filing a fault-based claim that requires proof of liability. If you admit liability (rightly or wrongly) or say anything else that could hinder your recovery, you might not end up with the compensation you deserve.
How do you prove the amount you are entitled to recover?
There are two aspects to proving an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim in Florida. In addition to proving liability, you also need to prove the amount you are entitled to recover (this is the amount of your “just compensation” or “compensatory damages”). One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is settling their insurance claims before they know the full extent of their losses.
Before you even think about settling, you need to make sure you have a clear understanding of the financial and non-financial costs of your injuries. This requires evidence including:
- Medical records
- Prescription records
- Employment records
- Professional opinion letters or testimony
- Testimony from friends and family
- Your own notes regarding the effects of your injuries
Do you need a lawyer to file for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage?
Strictly speaking, no. You do not need to hire a West Palm Beach vehicle accident lawyer to handle your uninsured/underinsured motorist claim. However, this does not mean that handling your claim on your own is a good idea. Proving fault and damages are both extraordinarily complex legal processes; and, even once you have the necessary evidence, you still need to convince your insurance company that it is obligated to pay. Without an experienced attorney advocating on your behalf, you stand almost no chance of recovering the full financial compensation you deserve.
What should you do if your insurance company denies your uninsured/underinsured motorist claim?
If you tried to file an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim without an attorney and your insurance company denied your claim, it is not too late to seek legal representation. In fact, right now, this is your only practical option for recovering your losses. You should discuss your situation with an attorney promptly, and I encourage you to contact my West Palm Beach law offices to schedule a free consultation.
How does uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance come into play for hit-and-run accidents?
If you were injured in a hit-and-run accident, you can use your uninsured/underinsured motorist policy to seek just compensation (assuming it is not possible to identify the hit-and-run driver). For insurance purposes, hit-and-run accidents are treated similarly to accidents involving uninsured drivers.
Fast Facts: Seeking Financial Compensation After an Accident Involving an Uninsured, Underinsured or Hit-and-Run Driver
Are you looking for help and don’t have time to waste? Here are the key facts you need to know about filing an uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance claim in Florida:
- If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage under your auto insurance policy, you can use this to recover your accident related losses.
- Filing an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim requires proof of fault, similar to a claim filed under a negligent driver’s insurance policy.
- Due to the need to prove fault and to the extent of your financial and non-financial losses, it is important that you hire an experienced West Palm beach auto accident attorney to represent you.
- If you attempted to file an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim on your own and your insurance company denied your claim, it is not too late to hire an attorney to help you.
- If you were injured in a hit-and-run accident, you can use your uninsured/underinsured motorist policy to recover just compensation.
Obtaining Financial Compensation From Your Insurance Carrier can be a Difficult Process
Whether you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident in West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale or any other nearby area, you should seek assistance from a qualified West Palm Beach vehicle accident attorney. The Hollander Law Firm is dedicated to helping people who have been seriously injured in all types of accidents, including crashes involving uninsured and underinsured motorists. When you are injured in these types of collisions, recovering fair monetary compensation can be a very difficult process.
Even if you carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage under your own policy, getting the money you deserve is rarely easy. Insurance companies frequently attempt to underpay these claims, and in some cases, they will deny the claim completely.
Our firm’s founder, Attorney Gregg Hollander, has decades of experience handling motor vehicle accident claims for clients located in West Palm Beach. He is fully prepared to go head-to-head with the powerful insurance carriers. Gregg understands how the insurance industry operates, and he will fight to get you the compensation that you deserve.
Injured in an Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Crash? Schedule a Consultation With a West Palm Beach Vehicle Accident Attorney
At the Hollander Law Firm, we are committed to helping victims in West Palm Beach and other nearby parts of Florida. If you have been involved in a car crash with a driver who is underinsured or carries no auto accident coverage at all, we may be able to help you obtain compensation to deal with your injuries and other financial hardships. You can reach our auto accident law firm today by calling our offices at 561-556-7873.