In Central Florida and the Tampa Bay area, if you are injured in a traffic collision by the negligence of another driver, what’s your legal recourse? You’ll want to discuss the matter with an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney who can give you the sound, candid, and specific legal advice you’ll need. Those who are injured by negligent drivers in Florida are entitled by law to recover full compensation for their medical treatment, lost wages, and all other injury-and-accident-related damages and losses.
However, you’ll have to prove that you were injured, and you’ll have to prove that the other driver’s negligence is the reason why. You’ll need a lawyer’s help. If you are injured in a crash and you file a personal injury claim, you’ll want to know what your claim is worth. After a preliminary investigation, your lawyer should be able to provide you with an approximate figure on the basis of these factors:
- Liability: The key element in any personal injury claim is liability. Which driver was at fault for the accident? In Florida, more than one person can be at fault under the legal doctrine of comparative negligence. For example, if a speeding motorist collides with a driver running a red light, the court assigns each driver a percentage of the fault.
- Non-economic damages: If negligence has caused an injury that’s permanent, “non-economic” damages may be considered for pain, suffering, loss of companionship, loss of consortium, and loss of “the enjoyment of life.”
- Insurance: Insurance is another key element in any personal injury case. How much insurance is available? The more insurance that is available, the more your case may be worth.
If you’re injured because another driver was negligent, you have the legal right to be reimbursed. But what if you are the driver who is negligent and you injure another person? What kind of auto insurance are drivers required to have in Florida, and how much do you need to protect yourself if you accidentally injure someone while driving and you end up on the wrong end of a personal injury claim?
TO DRIVE IN FLORIDA, WHAT INSURANCE IS REQUIRED?
Legally, Florida requires drivers to carry only two kinds of insurance: property damage insurance and personal injury protection (PIP). PIP protects you when you are injured in a traffic collision without regard to who is at fault. You must tap PIP coverage for the first $10,000 in medical expenses and lost income after an accident with injuries. PIP will not protect you from legal action by someone who’s been permanently injured, and it will not pay for non-economic damages.
Automobile owners in Florida are also required to carry a $10,000 property damage policy. This policy covers any damages your vehicle causes to anyone else’s property, but it does not cover your own vehicle, and it does not help you if your vehicle sustains damages when a motorist collides with you and that motorist is uninsured. Some Florida drivers try getting by with this minimum coverage, but they are potentially exposing themselves to dire financial consequences if they are involved in a serious collision.
In a traffic accident, having the right insurance can make all the difference, especially in Florida. It is not required, but it’s wise to carry bodily injury coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, and underinsured motorist coverage. Underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage protects drivers in accidents where the other driver either doesn’t have enough auto insurance or any at all. Many drivers in Florida do not purchase bodily injury liability coverage. This leaves you, if an uninsured driver collides with you, with personal injury protection of only $10,000.00, but just one visit to the ER can easily exceed that.
If the driver who collides with you injures you seriously, doesn’t have bodily injury insurance, and can’t pay a personal injury judgment, you’ll need uninsured motorist coverage – especially if you have little or no health insurance. What does uninsured motorist (UM) insurance cover? It covers your medical costs, wage losses, and expenses for pain and suffering after the $10,000.00 of personal injury protection is exhausted and after the at-fault driver has confirmed there is no auto insurance to cover your damages.
WHAT ABOUT UNDERINSURED DRIVERS?
What about underinsured drivers? Let’s say that you’re injured in a crash by another driver’s negligence and that driver has only Florida’s minimum liability coverage, which will not be nearly enough to reimburse your medical expenses. In this case, the other driver would be considered underinsured. He or she has auto insurance, but it’s just not enough to cover the damages.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage was created to help drivers pay the costs associated with a crash caused by an uninsured or by an underinsured motorist. The limits for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage can range up to $1 million. Therefore, when purchasing UM coverage, your considerations should include how much your car is worth and what kind of health insurance you have.
WHAT DOES UM INSURANCE COVER?
Uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance covers bodily injuries, and some policies in some states also offer coverage for vehicle damages. Along with covering injuries suffered by the driver, the bodily injury portion of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage may also cover injuries to any passengers who are also injured in a traffic collision. A Tampa personal injury attorney can discuss the particulars of your case, but if you are injured in a traffic accident in Florida, these are the first steps to take:
- Seek medical treatment immediately. If you’re injured, that must be your priority. If you don’t seek immediate treatment, and you need to file a personal injury claim, the insurance company may allege that you weren’t genuinely injured.
- Do not speak with an insurance company if you’ve sustained an injury in the collision. Don’t sign any documents. Let your personal injury attorney handle all of the negotiations and discussions. Your attorney is a trained, experienced negotiator.
- Do not try to act as your own lawyer. After a traffic injury, your health and future may actually be at risk. It is never wise to act as your own attorney. In fact, it is highly advised that you DO NOT. In most personal injury cases, an experienced lawyer can negotiate an agreeable settlement out-of-court on your behalf.
In 2011, the Insurance Research Council estimated that one in seven drivers in the United States is driving without any automobile insurance. With that in mind, if you are driving in Florida and you are not carrying UM coverage, it’s a good idea to speak with your insurance agent about your options. If one out of seven drivers is uninsured, and if you are a responsible driver, carrying some kind of UM coverage is genuinely imperative.
Clients often ask me what happens if the person that caused my accident doesn’t have insurance? Well in that situation uninsured motorists coverage may be the only source of funds available to compensate them for their injuries. That’s why I believe uninsured motorist coverage is the most important automobile insurance that you can buy. Uninsured motorist coverage or UM covers you if you’re injured by an at-fault driver who has little or no insurance or no bodily injury coverage.
In Florida, vehicle owners aren’t even required to carry bodily injury liability coverage. Consequently, greater than 50% of the cars that are out there on the road don’t have bodily injury coverage available. That means, that if you’re injured by one of these drivers that has no bodily injury coverage, and you have no insured motorist coverage then most likely you are out of luck. So do yourself a favor, check your own insurance policy and see if you have uninsured motorist coverage and if you don’t, try to buy some. In fact, buy as much as you can.