Uninsured Motorist Car Accidents
One in every four drivers in Florida lacks auto insurance. That’s one of the highest rates nationally.
Although Florida is a “no-fault” state when it comes to crash protection insurance, damages for many accidents often exceed the amount of required personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, intended to cover medical expenses and certain non-medical-related costs (such as lost wages).
Florida allows injured drivers and passengers to step outside the no-fault system to recover damages against the driver who caused an uninsured motorist accident if:
- The injuries are deemed permanent;
- There is permanent disfigurement or scarring;
- There is significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
However, as the Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm, are well aware, because so many drivers are uninsured, injured persons may be left with just one other option for compensation: Uninsured Motorist Benefits. There are also Underinsured Motorist Benefits for the many cases in which the at-fault driver has insurance, but coverage is inadequate to cover victim’s total damages.
While driving without insurance in Florida is illegal, most people don’t have enough coverage to pay for injuries they cause in a crash. This is where UM/UIM benefits come in.Explaining Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Benefits
UM/UIM benefits are not required in Florida. However, insurers do have to offer them and benefits usually come standard in most policies, though policyholders will pay extra to have this added protection.
Insureds in Florida who decline UM/UIM benefits must sign a waiver.
F.S. 627.727 is the statute governing uninsured and underinsured vehicle coverage in Florida.
While drivers are required by law to carry a minimum of $10,000 in PIP benefits to cover their own personal injuries in the event of a crash, this often doesn’t even cover the cost of the emergency room bill. In many cases, people injured in auto accidents must undergo surgeries and require ongoing care and medications. They often miss work and their finances take a huge hit.
If the other driver lacks coverage or enough coverage to pay for damages, UM/UIM benefits will kick in.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits generally cover:
- Medical expenses (not fully paid by PIP benefits)
- Lost wages
- Future medical expenses
- Future wage losses
Another benefit of this coverage is that it “travels” with the insured. So if you have coverage, but are injured as a passenger in another vehicle or as a bicyclist or pedestrian, your coverage should extend to that uninsured motorist accident.
Unfortunately, many insurance companies fail to explain the importance of carrying this type of coverage, which is often quite affordable. As our Fort Lauderdale lawyers can explain, it can essentially save your finances in the event you are struck by an irresponsible driver who carried minimum or no insurance.Stacked UM/UIM Coverage
One of the ways motorists can maximize their coverage of UM/UIM benefits is to “stack” it. This is a way of increasing your coverage limits based on how many vehicles you insure.
So for example, if you have $25,000 in uninsured motorist benefits on three vehicles and are injured in an uninsured motorist accident while operating one of those vehicles, you may have the option of combining coverage limits for each vehicle under that policy. That means you’ll have up to $75,000 in coverage, rather than just $25,000.
If you stack across policies, you can do the same even if you’re working with two different insurance companies, so long as the policies are in your name.
While most states don’t allow stacking, Florida is one that does allow it, both across policies and within a single policy. It is one of only seven states that allow it in both instances and one of only 17 that allows stacking at all.Collecting UM/UIM Benefits
Just because you carry UM/UIM benefits does not mean such benefits will be easy to recover. Auto insurance companies are notoriously tight-fisted. And the company will take any potential loophole that might be exploited or opportunity to limit coverage.
Some of the arguments insurers commonly put forth to deny UM/UIM coverage include:
- No coverage on the policy for the claim represented
- The other party is adequately insured
- You do not quality as a named insured on the policy
- Your coverage lapsed
- Amount of damages claimed exceeds policy limits and insurer won’t cover the excess
Overcoming these assertions requires an experienced Fort Lauderdale lawyer. We advise against accepting the first offer made by insurance companies, especially without first consulting an experienced injury attorney.
In some cases, insurance companies act in bad faith by denying claims they know are legitimate. In these cases, a separate lawsuit may be filed and victims may in these instances collect additional damages if successful.
Contact Fort Lauderdale Lawyer Richard Ansara at The Ansara Law Firm, by calling (954) 761-4011 for a free consultation.