Some auto accidents are worse than others. While some drivers and passengers are able to walk away, others can find themselves facing life-altering consequences as a result of someone else’s mistake.
In most cases, recovering just compensation for the costs of an auto accident involves dealing with auto insurance companies. Unfortunately, under Florida’s “no-fault” auto insurance law, drivers aren’t required to carry liability insurance—which is the insurance that protects other drivers and passengers when the insured driver is at fault in a collision. Combine this with the fact that Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers in the country, and the result is that many accident victims find themselves unsure of what they need to do to recover their accident-related losses.
Another common scenario involves getting into an accident with a driver who is “underinsured”—who has some liability insurance coverage but not enough to cover a victim’s losses fully. Similar concerns arise when this is the case, and accident victims need to make sure they pursue all available options for recovering the financial compensation they deserve.
So, what are your options?
Potential Sources of Financial Recovery After a Collision with an Uninsured or Underinsured Driver in Florida
While filing a claim with an at-fault driver’s insurance company is one option after an auto accident (provided that you suffered “significant” or “permanent” injuries, as required under Florida’s “no-fault” auto insurance law), it is far from the only option that accident victims and their families have available. That said, the specific options available in any particular case will depend on the circumstances involved. Some accident victims may have multiple options for pursuing a claim. Others may be limited to seeking coverage under their personal injury protection (PIP) policies. When you hire a lawyer to represent you, your lawyer will evaluate your options and help you choose the best path forward.
Recognizing that the options available to auto accident victims vary case-by-case, potential sources of financial recovery after a collision involving an uninsured or underinsured driver include:
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance
If you have auto insurance in Florida, you have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. This is one of the two types of mandatory auto insurance in Florida.
When you get injured in an auto accident, you can file a PIP claim regardless of who was at fault. This is because PIP is a type of “no-fault” auto insurance. But, while auto accident victims can file a PIP claim regardless of fault, this type of insurance has two key limitations:
- PIP only covers a portion of accident victims’ medical expenses and lost wages, and,
- PIP policy limits are usually fairly low (the mandatory coverage amount is just $10,000).
Still, filing a PIP claim can be important after a serious auto accident. Even if your medical bills and lost wages far exceed your coverage amount, filing a PIP claim can help you in the short term. Filing a fault-based claim takes time, so many accident victims will want to take advantage of the “no-fault” coverage they have available.
Along with PIP insurance, some drivers in Florida have medical payments (MedPay) and accidental death/dismemberment insurance. Like PIP, these provide coverage to policyholders and their family members on a “no-fault” basis. However, unlike PIP, MedPay and accidental death/dismemberment insurance are optional—so you will need to review your policy to determine if you have this coverage available.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Insurance
Another type of optional auto insurance coverage in Florida is uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance. While this type of coverage is optional, it is perfect, as it allows you to file a fault-based claim even when the at-fault driver doesn’t have the coverage you need.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance applies in three main scenarios:
1. Accidents Involving Drivers Who Only Have Florida’s Minimum Required Insurance Coverage
Since Florida does not require drivers to carry liability insurance, drivers can comply with the law without purchasing any insurance that protects victims when they cause a collision. If you have UIM insurance and got hit by a driver with only the minimum required insurance coverage, you can use your UIM policy to recover your accident-related losses.
2. Hit-and-Run Accidents
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage also applies following hit-and-run accidents. If it isn’t possible to identify the hit-and-run driver, then a UIM claim will be handled as if the at-fault driver is uninsured. If you (or your attorney) can prove that the hit-and-run driver was at fault and that you suffered a “significant” or “permanent” injury, you can seek coverage up to your UIM limit. If you have multiple vehicles with UIM coverage, you may be able to “stack” your coverage to maximize your financial recovery further.
3. Accidents Resulting in Serious and Permanent Injuries with Costs that Exceed the At-Fault Driver’s Liability Coverage
Even if the driver at fault in your accident opted to purchase liability insurance, there is still a genuine possibility that your costs will exceed the driver’s liability coverage. In this scenario, your UIM policy’s “underinsured” portion applies. You can seek coverage under the at-fault driver’s insurance up to his or her policy limit. Then you can use your UIM policy (or policies) to obtain additional loss coverage.
Rideshare Company Liability
While most drivers don’t have liability insurance in Florida, some exceptions exist. For example, Rideshare drivers are among a few classes of drivers required to carry liability insurance—though they are only required to do so when logged in to the Uber or Lyft app or providing rides.
Rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft also carry insurance that covers their drivers’ accidents. This insurance covers not only rideshare passengers but also other drivers and passengers injured in accidents involving rideshare vehicles. If a rideshare driver’s insurance coverage is inadequate, or if a driver doesn’t have insurance despite the law’s requirements, then filing a claim with the rideshare company’s insurer may be an option.
In Florida, companies are responsible for their employees’ conduct within the scope of their employment. This includes negligent conduct. So, if you were injured in an accident caused by a negligent driver who was working at the time of the collision, you may be able to file a claim with his or her employer.
While this applies to employees who drive for a living (i.e., truck drivers), it also applies to employees who drive as part of doing their job. For example, employer liability may apply if a salesperson is on the way to a meeting or a construction worker is on the way to a job site. Commuting isn’t considered an activity “within the scope of employment,” though exceptions exist. Since companies often have substantial liability insurance policies, discussing this option with your attorney is worth discussing if you have any reason to believe the driver who hit you may have been working behind the wheel.
A Claim Against a Vehicle or Component Manufacturer
In some cases, driver negligence isn’t the only factor to blame for a serious or fatal collision. When driver error is just one of the multiple factors involved in a crash, identifying the additional element (or factors) involved can also identify additional sources of financial recovery.
One possibility is that a defective vehicle (or vehicle component) played a role in the crash. The manufacturer can be liable when a bad car or part is partially responsible for a collision. Manufacturers are “strictly” liable for defects under Florida law, which means that proof of negligence isn’t required to substantiate a claim for just compensation.
A Claim Against a Dealership or Repair Shop
In some cases, dealerships and repair shops can also be held liable (or at least partially liable) for auto accidents. Dealerships can be held liable for selling defective vehicles, and dealerships and repair shops can be held liable for negligent service work. For example, suppose a faulty alignment or brake job causes a driver to lose control. In that case, the dealership or repair shop that performed the work may be legally responsible for an ensuing accident under Florida law.
Accident victims can file claims for vehicle defects and negligent service work regardless of whether the issue affected their vehicle or another driver’s car, truck, or SUV. If you were injured due to a product defect or a dealership’s or repair shop’s negligence, it doesn’t matter whether it was your vehicle or someone else’s failed vehicle.
A Claim Against a Government Agency or Contractor
Similar to vehicle-related issues, road-related issues can also contribute to causing auto accidents in some cases. If you (or another driver) lose control because of a problem with the road, the government agency or contractor responsible for the road may be liable for your losses. Some examples of road-related issues that can contribute to causing accidents include potholes, sinkholes, low shoulders, inadequate lane markings or signage, and poorly timed traffic signals.
Again, these are just examples of some of the potential sources of financial recovery available to auto accident victims and their families in Florida. Suppose you are dealing with the aftermath of an accident and are concerned that you won’t be able to recover your losses from the other driver’s insurance company. In that case, you must speak with a lawyer about your available options.
Maximizing Your Financial Recovery After a Serious Auto Accident in Florida
Regardless of your options, there are some important steps you need to take to protect your legal rights after a serious auto accident in Florida. To help ensure that you can pursue all claims you have available successfully, you should:
- Seek treatment for your injuries. After a serious auto accident, seeking treatment should be your priority. If you have concerns about your ability to pay, a lawyer at Silva & Silva can walk you through what you need to know.
- Document the accident as thoroughly as possible. If you took photos or videos at the accident site, be sure to keep all of these on your phone. Take photos of your damaged vehicle and injuries, and write down everything you can remember about the crash.
- Talk to a lawyer who handles serious auto accidents. Serious auto accident cases present challenges that run-of-the-mill insurance claims don’t. If you need to recover significant accident-related losses, you must choose a lawyer with relevant experience.
Discuss Your Case with a Serious Auto Accident Lawyer at Silva & Silva
We have represented serious auto accident victims and their families for over 30 years. If you need to know more about your legal rights, we encourage you to contact us promptly. To speak with a serious auto accident lawyer at Silva & Silva in confidence as soon as possible, call 305-445-0011 or tell us how we can reach you online now.