Can You Sue an Uninsured Driver in Florida?31Jan
You can sue an uninsured driver in Florida if you suffer serious bodily injuries and damages due to that driver’s negligence. Suing an uninsured motorist does not always make financial sense, as the uninsured driver might not have enough resources to pay for the full scope of your losses or damages. Fortunately, however, several options are available for recovering compensation after an accident caused by an uninsured driver. These options include, but may not be limited to, filing a claim against your PIP policy or uninsured motorist coverage. Suing the uninsured driver should come as a last resort.
Is There an Auto Insurance Requirement in Florida?
Under Florida’s no-fault laws, drivers must carry personal injury protection (or PIP) worth not less than $10,000. The PIP policy offers compensation when you sustain injuries and incur losses due to a car accident.
The policy compensates you even when you are involved in a hit-and-run accident or when an uninsured motorist is liable. What’s more, it compensates you no matter who is responsible for the accident
Asides from the PIP coverage, Florida’s no-faults laws also require motorists to take out property damage liability coverage (or PDL) worth at least $10,000. The PDL insurance raises your settlement amount to $20,000.
Florida laws, however, do not require motorists to purchase or carry Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) coverage. That might explain why 27% of all motorists in the state do not carry auto insurance. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) reported that distracted driving by both insured and uninsured drivers caused over 56,000 accidents in Florida in 2021. At least 75% of those distracted driving-related accidents happened because the driver was not paying attention while driving.
Filing a Claim Against Your PIP Policy
As mentioned above, PIP is mandatory for all Florida drivers. This policy allows you to receive compensation following an accident with an uninsured motorist. You have two weeks after your accident to seek medical treatment if you will be filing a claim against your PIP policy. Damages covered by the PIP policy are as follows:
- 80% of reasonable expenses for all medically necessary procedures and treatment for injuries caused by the accident;
- 60% of lost earnings because of the accident; and
- $5,000 per person for death benefits.
The PIP insurance covers any minors under your care, anyone driving your vehicle without your implicit permission, and any relatives who live in your home but don’t have a car. PIP might not cover the full extent of your losses if you sustain a severe injury after getting hit by an uninsured driver.
The steps for filing a claim against your PIP are generally the same as filing a typical auto insurance claim after a car crash. You should start by calling your insurance company to report the accident.
This first phone call provides an opportunity for the insurance company representative to guide you on how to initiate the PIP claim process. Most insurance companies have user-friendly websites or apps that enable policyholders to file claims conveniently. In this case, the policyholder just needs to click the “Start a Claim” tab on the company’s app or website to initiate a claim.
Provide medical bill receipts, evidence of lost earnings, and receipts of other covered expenses you have paid and continue to pay out-of-pocket once you have started your PIP claim. The insurance company will take the time to review your claim and supporting evidence. The company may conduct an independent investigation to verify the credibility of your claim.
The company will then pay the claim based on the provisions of your policy if it determines the claim is credible. The insurer may decline to cover your losses if it finds your claim invalid.
Florida laws require you to cooperate with your insurer when pursuing a PIP claim. This cooperation involves providing requested information on time. It also involves exercising honesty when describing the type and extent of your injuries.
Filing a Claim Against Your Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Florida
Florida motorists can carry underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage or uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. Carrying these insurance policies is optional, however. The UM coverage applies to cases where the liable driver has no coverage to pay for your injuries or losses.
Notify your insurer that you plan to start a UM claim process against it soon after getting in an accident with an uninsured driver. Some companies have strict timelines for reporting accidents with uninsured motorists.
Do not waste time. Tell your insurer that you plan to start a UM claim immediately after discovering the potentially at-fault driver is uninsured. The same consideration applies when the driver declines to provide you with any insurance information.
It is crucial to note that the amount of your UM coverage cannot be more than your liability coverage. For example, if your liability coverage is worth $80,000, your UM coverage cannot exceed $80,000.
Taking the right steps after a crash involving an uninsured motorist can help protect your right to recover monetary compensation. It can also help you gather adequate evidence to support your claim against your insurer or a direct injury lawsuit against the liable driver.
First, get out of the car and get any other trapped occupants out. Check yourself to find out if you have any gushes, swellings, or injuries. Then, call 911 to report the accident and request an ambulance for the injured.
Next, approach the other driver, check if the driver is okay, and ask for his or her name, address, and insurance status. Also, use your smartphone to take videos and pictures of the scene. Try to find a few people who saw the accident and can corroborate your version of the events leading to the accident.
Let the responding police officer know that the other driver is uninsured. The officer will examine the accident scene, interview all the involved parties and witnesses, and compile a report. A copy of the police report will be essential in filing a UM claim or suing the uninsured driver.
You should also see a doctor, even if you believe your injuries are minor. This visit ensures treatment and documentation of your injuries. Preserve all information and documents related to the treatment of your accident-related injuries. Your medical records and receipts will help support your claim.
How to Sue an Uninsured Driver in Florida
You have a right to recover monetary compensation from an uninsured driver who was liable for the accident that caused your injuries and other losses. This recovery involves filing a personal injury lawsuit against the liable driver. You may choose this option if your PIP and UM coverage are insufficient to pay all your medical bills and other accident-related losses.
You must demonstrate the uninsured motorist’s liability for the accident to win the lawsuit. This demonstration includes presenting adequate evidence to prove the following elements:
- The motorist owed you a legal duty of care;
- The motorist failed to uphold this legal duty of care;
- This failure led to your accident and injuries; and
- You incurred significant damages and losses because of the accident and resulting injuries.
Working with a Clearwater car accident lawyer after an accident with an insured driver is a wise idea. Your lawyer can compile enough evidence to prove each element in your lawsuit against that driver. The lawyer may also discuss other options to recover compensation from the uninsured driver if that driver does not have money to pay the injury verdict. These options include:
Placing a Lien on Assets
Your lawyer can help you place a lien on assets owned by the uninsured motorist. This lien will freeze those assets to prevent the motorist from selling them before or during the lawsuit process to avoid paying your losses. If the motorist sells the assets after the court rules in your favor, you will get a percentage of the earnings from the sale. Note that you can still put a lien on any property the uninsured driver buys in the future if the driver currently has nothing.
Developing a Payment Plan
The liable driver sometimes might have some cash, but not adequate to pay the entire injury verdict all at once. In this scenario, the court can create a payment plan that allows you to receive smaller weekly or monthly payments from the defendant.
How Your Car Insurance Policy Deals with Uninsured Drivers in Florida
How your auto insurance policy will deal with an uninsured driver in Florida will depend on whether that driver has enough money or assets to pay for the covered losses. Generally, your insurer will not sue an indigent uninsured driver. It will, however, pursue reimbursement from an uninsured driver who has adequate resources to fight collection efforts or fulfill a court verdict.
Your insurance company also has options for dealing with liable uninsured drivers who refuse to satisfy court verdicts despite having enough assets to do so. Your insurer might, for instance, put a lien on the defendant’s properties. It might also obtain an order to inspect the defendant’s bank records and go after his or her salary or earnings.