Options for Compensation After an Accident With an Uninsured Motorist
Our West Palm Beach uninsured motorist lawyers can help you navigate these options.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage
Florida is a no-fault state, which means when a driver is involved in an accident, they turn to their auto insurer for coverage regardless of who was at fault. This policy is called personal injury protection (PIP), which covers 80 percent of your medical expenses and 60 percent of your lost wages. Per Florida’s 14-day rule, you must seek medical care within 14 days of your accident to recover compensation from your PIP policy. PIP coverage does not pay for pain and suffering damages.
What Exactly Does PIP Pay For?
As previously mentioned, under your PIP policy, you can recover the following up to your policy limits:
Unlike other no-fault states, PIP insurance in Florida only covers 80% of your reasonable medical costs related to an accident. For example, if you have $10,000 in medical expenses, PIP will pay for $8,000. The types of costs that are reimbursed include ambulance services, hospitalizations, x-rays, surgeries, prescription medications, rehabilitation, doctor visits, ongoing care, etc.
If you are unable to work due to the accident, 60% of lost wages will be covered but are subject to the $10,000 limit. This payment also includes services you normally provide but cannot, such as childcare, daily chores, etc.
If the policyholder is killed in a collision, PIP covers funeral and burial expenses in addition to medical bills or lost income, up to $5,000.
PIP will only cover up to $10,000, which is the state’s minimum and maximum required limit for PIP coverage. If your expenses exceed it, your only option is to file a lawsuit directly against the at-fault party. PIP is different from bodily injury liability insurance, which some other states require, that pays for the medical expenses of drivers and passengers in other vehicles when you are at fault for a collision.
What Is Not Covered by PIP Insurance
- 20% of your medical bills
- 40% of your lost income
- Property damage: Florida drivers are also required to carry $10,000 in property damage liability coverage (PDL) to pay for the property they cause damage to. However, in an accident with an uninsured driver, you will have to cover the costs of repairing or replacing your vehicle unless you have purchased optional insurance coverage.
- Pain and suffering
When your losses exceed your PIP coverage limit, you are typically able to pursue a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company for the difference. When an at-fault driver is uninsured, the only option is to take legal action against them personally.
Uninsured Motorist Protection
Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is optional in Florida, which means there is no guarantee you carry it. However, the law requires you to reject this coverage in writing, so if you do not remember doing so, you may have it. UM covers policyholders for injuries caused by accidents with uninsured drivers. The policy limits will be similar to your bodily injury coverage (PIP protection) or higher. If your injuries meet the state’s “serious injury threshold,” then UM will cover your non-economic losses, such as pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, etc. Since an at-fault driver is typically responsible for property damage, UM coverage will pay for the repairs or replacement of your vehicle, up to policy limits.
Optional Car Insurance Coverage
In addition to UM coverage, drivers in Florida can choose to purchase additional insurance coverage. Because state law only allows you to carry coverage in specific amounts, the following types of insurance may help you with expenses if an uninsured driver hits you.
- Collision: This type of insurance will cover the costs of repairing or replacing your vehicle along with other expenses, regardless of who was responsible for an accident.
- Comprehensive: This coverage pays for damages caused by non-collision circumstances, such as theft or hitting an animal.
- Medical Payments: Provides additional payment towards medical bills beyond the $10,000 PIP limit.
- Rental Car Reimbursement: If you need a rental car while waiting for your vehicle to be repaired or to receive payment for its replacement, this coverage will pay for it.
- Roadside Assistance: If you need your car towed after an accident with an uninsured driver, your insurer will send a tow truck if you have roadside assistance added to your policy.
Filing a Lawsuit Against the At-Fault Driver
If your injuries meet the state’s serious injury threshold, you can pursue a lawsuit against the at-fault driver personally. Florida’s serious injury threshold states that a plaintiff (victim) can recover compensation from the legally responsible party only if their injury consists of one or more of the following:
- Permanent and substantial impairment of an important bodily function.
- A permanent disability or injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability.
- Permanent scarring or disfigurement.
- Wrongful death.
However, these cases are not always successful since the driver may not have any assets if they do not carry auto insurance. Meaning they will not be in a financial position to pay for the damages they caused. Additionally, the uninsured driver may declare bankruptcy if you win, then they will no longer be responsible for paying your settlement.
Suppose your case is worth pursuing and there is evidence of the uninsured driver’s fault. In that case, you can recover the difference in expenses that PIP did not cover, costs for future medical treatment, and possibly pain and suffering damages. If the at-fault party has the ability but is not compliant in paying your awarded settlement, there are several options to recover your compensation. Those include:
- Garnishing the defendant’s (at-fault party’s) wages.
- Garnishing the defendant’s bank account.
- Putting a lien on their non-homestead real estate.
- Seizing personal property via a levy.
It may also be possible to have the uninsured driver’s license suspended until you are paid in full.