I was injured in a car accident, and the other motorist was uninsured or underinsured. How can I recover damages?
You have been in an auto accident and you have been injured. You need medical treatment. Who is going to pay for it? The other driver, right? Not always. Florida is a no-fault state. Therefore, each motorist must first seek compensation from their own insurance company regardless of who is at fault. This most often means that you are seeking coverage under your own auto policy’s coverage for Personal Injury Protection or PIP. Although state law requires most drivers to carry at least $10,000 in PIP, that may not be enough to cover all of your expenses and fair compensation if you need it after an accident.
A common misconception is that if your own auto insurance policy also has bodily injury coverage then you should also be covered within those limits. Not true. Bodily injury (BI) coverage only covers someone else who was injured in the accident, not you. It is only required to be carried in rare circumstances. That is why it is so scary when you learn that many motorists drive around either completely uninsured (i.e. no bodily injury coverage at all) or underinsured (i.e. they have minimal bodily injury coverage).
If you have sustained certain types of qualifying permanent injuries, you may advance a claim against the other driver. But when they do not have bodily injury coverage at all, or even if they do it is very low, resolving your claim favorably may be in jeopardy.
Suing the individual driver is not always a viable option as lawsuits take considerable time and money to bring, and even if you get a massive judgment against the other driver in the end he or she may not have any assets from which you can collect from. They may be “judgment proof,” as we say, meaning that you must look back to your own auto policy.
Top personal injury lawyers know that one of the key ways victims of car accidents can recover a fair and appropriate amount of damages when the other driver is uninsured or underinsured is by filing a personal injury claim with their own auto insurance company under uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM) coverage. In Florida, UM coverage is an optional form of protection in the event of injury by an uninsured or underinsured driver. You may want to call your local agent to see whether you have this coverage. Insurance companies have mastered the art of convincing their insured clients that this “optional” coverage may not be a worthwhile investment. Nothing is farther from the truth. If an accident causes you permanent injuries with exorbitant medical bills and future medical needs, and the other driver either has no BI coverage or very little, you will be left holding the bag unless you have ample UM coverage.
Insurance companies often fight hard to minimize the amount of compensation they pay out — especially in UM claims. That is because the law on UM coverage is very nuanced and particular. A knowledgeable Florida car accident attorney can stand up to insurers and help determine the best possible avenues for recovering damages against uninsured drivers.