Underinsured Motorist Car Accidents

If you own a motor vehicle in Florida, you are required by law to purchase a minimum amount of insurance coverage for it. However, as the Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm know, that coverage does not go as far as one would hope in the event of a serious crash. That’s what underinsured motorist coverage is for.

Florida follows a system of no-fault auto insurance coverage. Per F.S. 627.736, all drivers (with a few exceptions) are required to purchase their own personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which covers your own injuries – regardless of fault – up to $10,000. Only if your injuries are deemed severe or debilitating may you pursue further damages from the at-fault driver.

Still, if the at-fault driver is only carrying the minimum amount of statutorily-required coverage, you are likely to be left holding some hefty bills – and perhaps no way to cover them if your injuries forced you to take time away from your job.

This is where underinsured motorist coverage is so critical.

Although these benefits are not required by Florida law, the fact that so many people are uninsured (1 in 4 Florida motorists) and so many more carry only minimum levels of insurance, every driver should carry it.

UIM Benefits Explained

Auto insurance policies do not have to contain UIM benefits, per F.S. 627.727. However, auto insurance companies are required to offer them – together with UM (uninsured motorist) coverage, which extends coverage in the event of a collision with an uninsured driver or a hit-and-run driver who is never identified.

Most policies do come standard with UM/ UIM benefits, though policyholders can expect to pay extra. If drivers wish to turn down this coverage to avoid paying the higher premiums, they can, but only via written waiver.

PIP benefits are intended to cover medical bills and disability benefits (up to 60 percent of any loss of gross income/ earning capacity) – up to $10,000 – and $5,000 in death benefits. However, legislative changes to the law have made it so that in order to receive that full $10,000 amount, claimants must receive initial care and services within 14 days of the crash and benefits are limited to certain kinds of medical practitioners (i.e., excluding massage therapy and acupuncture, among others). Further, if a provider determines the injured person did not suffer an “emergency medical condition,” reimbursement under PIP is limited to $2,500.

When your damages exceed this amount (as they often will in a bad car accident), you can step outside of that no-fault system to pursue damage against the other driver. If that driver lacks enough insurance to fully compensate you, then you can turn to your UIM benefits, which should cover the difference.

This is especially important also because Florida does not require motorists to carry bodily injury liability insurance, which is coverage that protects them from liability when someone else is hurt. F.S. 324.021 under Florida’s Financial Responsibility law does require individuals to be personally responsible for up to $10,000 in coverage for harm to an individual and $20,000 for coverage to two or more, so many auto insurance policies do offer this. Not everyone takes it. Even those who do often only take the minimum. If you are seriously injured in a car accident, that $10,000 is going to be quickly exhausted.

This is again where UIM benefits are so crucial. UIM benefits can also be used for passengers and pedestrians. The coverage “travels” with the insured, meaning if you are injured as a passenger or a pedestrian, your own coverage will still be accessible to you.

If you do purchase UM/UIM benefits, you will be required to carry an equal amount of bodily injury liability coverage.

Fort Lauderdale Attorneys Helping You Obtain UIM Benefits

The legislative intent of F.S. 627.727, Florida’s UM/UIM statute, was to make it so that an injured driver, passenger or pedestrian receives the same recovery for personal injuries that they would have had the tortfeasor (i.e., at-fault driver) been insured to the same extent as the UIM coverage.

Florida courts have underscored this purpose in numerous rulings holding this coverage is not to be whittled away with exceptions and exclusions (as is so often the norm with insurance policies).

That does not mean you won’t be in for a fight to obtain coverage. As our car accident lawyers in Fort Lauderdale know well, insurance companies are always out for their bottom line. While they are legally bound to act in good faith, that does not always happen. We have seen countless claims denied or insureds offered far less than they deserved because insurance companies are trying to minimize payouts.

Because underinsured motorist coverage is offered by an insurance company, you may be bound by certain contractual obligations, and you are required to cooperate with your insurer in their investigation. Hiring an attorney does not undercut that obligation. It protects your rights and best interests. When insurers know you’re working with a highly experienced injury lawyer, they are less likely to take their chances offering you an unfair deal, which often means claims are resolved more quickly.

In situations where UIM insurers deny claims or offer unfair settlements, our legal team is prepared to fight.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Fort Lauderdale car accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm by calling (954) 761-4011 or (954) 761-3641.

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