Some of your concerns regarding Florida auto insurance laws will probably be addressed in this short and general examination of the topic, but if you are the person injured by a negligent driver on a street or highway in the Tampa Bay area, you should obtain specific and personalized legal advice promptly from an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney. Florida law entitles some of the victims of negligence – who can prove that they are “seriously injured” victims of negligence – to full compensation for their traffic accident-related medical expenses, lost wages, and related damages.
Under Florida law, what automobile insurance is legally required? And how does Florida’s “no-fault” insurance system affect the passengers, pedestrians, and drivers injured in vehicle collisions? Although the state does not make drivers purchase bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage, there are rules. Florida drivers must carry two other types of auto insurance: at least $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, and at least $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL) insurance.
WHAT IS PIP COVERAGE?
Florida became a no-fault auto insurance state and implemented PIP insurance back in 1972. If a PIP policyholder in Florida is injured as the result of a traffic crash, the first $10,000 of medical costs and lost wages are covered by the PIP policy, and it does not matter which driver was at fault – that is why it’s called “no-fault” insurance. PIP coverage is automatic.
If you are injured in traffic in Florida, you may file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who was at fault only in one of these three instances:
– Your injuries resulting from the crash are permanent injuries.
– Your injuries included substantial or permanent scarring or disfigurement.
– The accident has caused you to lose an important bodily function permanently.
PIP coverage in Florida offers no provision or reimbursement for pain and suffering damages, but in the three circumstances listed above, when a crash victim files a personal injury lawsuit separately from the PIP/no-fault system in this state, that victim is allowed to seek comprehensive damages for all of his or her accident-related losses and expenses, including pain and suffering damages and loss of the “enjoyment of life.”
WHAT IS THE PENALTY IF YOU DRIVE WITHOUT INSURANCE?
By law, minimum PIP coverage is absolutely mandatory for all Florida drivers. Driving with no auto insurance in this state is illegal in all circumstances; a driver in Florida with no coverage can face a driver’s license suspension and a fine of as much as $500. And PIP coverage provides additional benefits. PIP covers you in Florida as a passenger in someone else’s vehicle, and it also protects you when you are a bicyclist or a pedestrian.
PIP coverage may additionally apply to:
– a policyholder’s children (and covers injuries that may happen in a school bus accident)
other members of the household
– most passengers, provided they have no PIP insurance and are not vehicle owners
Under Florida’s no-fault auto insurance system, anyone traveling as a passenger in your vehicle who has a PIP policy will be covered by his or her own policy if there’s an accident and that person is injured. Licensed drivers who are driving your vehicle with your permission will also be covered by their own PIP policies if they are injured in a traffic accident while driving your vehicle. Finally, vehicle damage is not covered by a PIP or no-fault claim, so you may need to pursue a vehicle damage insurance claim or lawsuit separately.
Florida law does not compel motorists to purchase uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. The law does, however, require auto insurance companies to offer uninsured/underinsured (or “UIM”) coverage whenever an automobile policy is sold. If the policyholder declines to add UIM coverage, it must be rejected in writing. UIM insurance covers a policyholder injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
Purchasing UIM coverage in Florida is a good idea for every motorist, since it’s estimated that one out of every seven people behind the wheel in the United States is driving with no automobile insurance coverage whatsoever. If you have no BIL coverage in Florida, and if an uninsured motorist crashes into you, PIP provides a mere $10,000 of injury coverage, and if you’re seriously hurt, that amount might not cover one emergency room visit.
You will need UIM coverage:
– if a driver injures you by driving negligently, and
– if that driver does not have bodily injury coverage, and
– if suing that driver is futile because he or she cannot pay a personal injury judgment
AFTER A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT, WHAT ARE THE FIRST STEPS TO TAKE?
If a negligent driver injures you, but that driver has no insurance and no other way to cover your damages, a UIM policy covers your medical costs and lost income beyond the $10,000 of PIP benefits. If you sustain injuries in the Tampa Bay area in a traffic collision or if you have questions about any particular accident case, reach out to an experienced Tampa personal injury attorney who can answer your questions and explain how Florida law may apply to your own situation. But after any traffic crash, drivers should take these steps first:
Seek medical treatment immediately. Even if you do not think that you are injured, get medical attention within 24 hours if at all possible. Your health must be your top priority, and if you take legal action, you will need the medical records.
If you are injured in traffic by a negligent driver, don’t speak to any insurance company representative or sign any documents. Let a trained negotiator – your personal injury attorney – handle the negotiating on your behalf.
Florida’s time limit – the statute of limitations – is usually four years for personal injury claims generated by traffic collisions, but you should actually seek an attorney’s advice as soon as possible if a negligent driver injures you. Although you cannot pursue a lawsuit arising from a vehicle accident in this state unless your case involves “serious injury,” a Tampa personal injury lawyer can review the details, determine if you have grounds for a lawsuit, and offer the legal insights and services you’ll need. If you have been injured by negligence in Florida, take the time to understand your rights and consider your legal options.