If you have been injured in a car accident in Florida, you may have realized by now how little insurance, if any, most drivers carry. Lack of coverage to pay for the injuries that a driver causes to another person is a significant problem that has plagued Florida for years. But, year after year, no changes are made to either strengthen the protections or to actually enforce the existing laws. As a result, approximately 33% or more of all car accidents have insignificant insurance limits to fully compensate victims.
At St. Petersburg Personal Injury Attorneys McQuaid & Douglas, we have successfully handled every type of car accident claim that exists. Our track record for recovering maximum value is unmatched in the area. If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a car crash and are looking for aggressive and honest lawyers, then please contact us immediately.
What Are the Car Insurance Coverage Requirements in Florida?
As mentioned above, Florida’s car insurance system is broken. To most people’s surprise the only requirements of Florida law in order to register and insure your vehicle is property damage of $10,000 and no fault or PIP coverage up to $10,000 (and some policies even have $1,000 deductibles). Property damage pays for the damage to another’s car or personal property. PIP coverage pays 80% of the driver’s own medical bills, lost wages, and out of pocket expenses up to that $10,000 limit. So, as far as protecting other drivers, Florida really only requires that your insurance pays for the property damage up to that minimal amount. If the damage to your car exceeds $10,000, then you better have protected yourself and bought coverage for that rainy day.
The same goes for your injuries. Florida does not require Bodily Injury (BI) coverage. BI coverage is the insurance that pays for pain and suffering, permanent injuries, medical bills, lost wages and out of pocket expenses. So, if someone hits and injures you, you better have protected yourself by purchasing Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. UM coverage is coverage that pays for your losses if and when the other driver does not have any or enough insurance to cover your claim. Because so few people actually carry enough BI insurance to cover your losses, UM insurance is something that every driver in Florida should carry. Sadly, because UM costs a little more to buy, very few people understand that this protection is well worth the cost and decline it.
What Does Full Coverage Mean?
I wish I had a nickel for every person who sat in my office and told me that they had full coverage only to find out later that they were not covered for their car accident injuries. There is no such thing as one definition of “full coverage” in Florida. People have so little understanding of their car insurance coverages, that full coverage means something different to every person. As mentioned in the above, the only two required coverages are property damage of $10,000 and PIP insurance. For many people, this means full coverage. But, there are so many other car insurance options that most laypeople have no idea what is available or what they even cover. And, even if they have purchased more coverage than what is minimally required, they still may not have purchased enough!
Rather than get into a dissertation about insurance coverages, my advice is to speak to an insurance agent about what you should carry. With the advent of so many companies cutting out agents and selling directly to customers online, I understand that this can be challenging. But, you are not going to get advice on what coverage you need by filling out some boxes online. You truly need a professional to explain to you what the risks and rewards are of each type of coverage. If you simply guess at what you need or try to save money, I can guarantee you will regret it eventually.
Is There a Way to Force Someone to Pay out of Pocket for My Injuries?
Yes. It is possible to force the at-fault driver to make a personal contribution toward your losses, but most lawyers will not try it and don’t even know where to start. Every experienced car accident attorney should investigate a personal contribution toward the settlement.
In every case, I run an asset search on the at-fault driver. This asset search provides valuable information on collectible assets. In most situations, if an at-fault driver has significant assets, then he or she normally will have ample insurance limits. But, some unsophisticated people who do not understand their liability risk and how insurance works, make mistakes. And, in some situations, wealthy people commit crimes, such as DUI, which exposes them to personal liability.
If my asset search reveals a defendant who has significant assets and not enough insurance, then I demand a financial affidavit. If they don’t provide one to me, I know that they have significant assets and are collectible. In these situations, I refuse to accept the insurance money without a personal contribution from the defendant. In most situations, wealthy people understand that it is in their best interest to pay something out of pocket in order to limit their risk. Thus, they will usually pay something in addition to what the insurance company has already paid. But, the risk of this tactic is if you demand a personal contribution, you must be prepared to file a lawsuit and pursue the case vigorously. This costs time and money, but normally will pay off in the end.
I have been successful in forcing many at-fault drivers to pay out of pocket in addition to what the insurance company has paid. This tactic takes skill, knowledge of what assets are collectible, how to garnish wages, and the ability to win a judgment at trial. Most car accident attorneys do not even try this technique because it is much easier to simply cash the insurance check and walk away. I believe that this is a disservice to the client.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in a car accident by someone who is wealthy, you have a good chance of either high insurance limits or forcing the person to pay something out of pocket. These techniques are aggressive, sophisticated, and cannot be accomplished by an inexperienced or lazy lawyer.
If you have been seriously injured and you suspect the at-fault driver has assets to pay for your losses out of pocket, then please contact me for a free case evaluation.