Written on Jun 9, 2022 8:13:18 AM
What Happens if an Uninsured Driver Hits Your Car in Florida?
“My car was hit by an uninsured driver!”
We’ve gotten that phone call a number of times. If you’ve been hit by an uninsured driver in Florida, here’s the lowdown.
Florida law requires every driver to have auto insurance. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles website states:
"Any person at fault in a crash resulting in bodily injury and property damage to others must have in effect at the time of the crash full liability insurance coverage. This coverage includes minimum limits of bodily injury liability of $10,000 per person, $20,000 per crash, $10,000 property damage liability per crash, and personal injury protection limits of $10,000 per person per crash."
Despite this requirement, there are many motorists on Florida’s roads who don’t have the minimum required insurance. In fact, a 2021 study shows that approximately 20% of drivers in Florida are uninsured.
There are many reasons for this, such as the other driver being from out of state, not being able to afford basic insurance, or neglecting to buy insurance because they don’t see the point.
Whatever the reason, if a driver without liability coverage hits your car in Florida, it can create numerous headaches—especially because Florida is a “no-fault” state where your options for claiming payment from the other driver are limited except in certain extreme cases.
Your Options When Hit by an Uninsured Driver in Florida
Here’s a brief explanation of your options for dealing with an auto accident when the other driver has no insurance:
Option 1: Collect Damages from Your Insurance Company
As a no-fault state, the default option for covering your costs from an auto accident is to receive payment from your own insurance company. This often works just fine if your costs are minimal—i.e. your bills for fixing your car and treating any injuries are less than your insurance coverage.
Option 2: Seek Damages from the At-Fault Driver
Normally, this isn’t an option for Florida motorists. However, there are exceptions to every rule, even the “no-fault” rule. One example is the rule regarding personal injury protection (PIP).
As stated in the Florida Senate archive, these exceptions include “significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function; permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, other than scarring or disfigurement; significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement; or death.”
You can also sue for economic damage not covered by the PIP, such as “the 20% of medical bills not covered by PIP and amounts that exceed the $10,000 limit.” Finally, “an owner of a motor vehicle who fails to obtain the required insurance at the time of an accident shall have no immunity from tort liability and is personally liable for the payment of PIP benefits.”
If the other driver would be subjected to excessive financial hardship because of these damages, they may be able to negotiate a payment plan where they pay a set monthly fee to cover the medical costs. This could cause a delay in your own ability to cover your immediate medical costs.
Pro Tip: If you are approached by the at-fault party for releases or the signing of any other document, NEVER do so without consulting your insurance company or your lawyer first.
Being Prepared for Uninsured Motorists
Because of the sheer number of uninsured motorists on Florida’s roads, it is very important to take some steps to increase your protection against accidents with uninsured motorists. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
One prevention method used by many drivers is to pick up additional coverage such as:
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage. This insurance coverage is specifically designed to “kick in” when you’re involved in an accident with a motorist who has no insurance coverage of their own. This insurance cannot exceed your standard insurance amount—so if you have the minimum $10,000 PIP and $10,000 property damage liability, you could only add that much for your Uninsured Motorist Policy.
- Underinsured Motorist Coverage. Similar to uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist policies help cover the cost difference between your total damages and the other driver’s coverage.
- Collision Coverage. Collision coverage can help you pay for damage to your vehicle when you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver or with a hit-and-run driver. However, these policies ONLY cover the cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle—not any personal injuries or loss of ability to work.
While you don’t have to purchase uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage in Florida, your insurance company is required to offer you such coverage and receive a denial from you in writing. Having this extra protection can help you cope and stay financially secure after an accident with an uninsured driver.
Consequences of Driving Without Insurance in Florida
It’s important to note that the uninsured motorist in an accident may face some extra hardships as well. Aside from potentially being unable to cover the cost of their own medical treatment, vehicle repairs, and lost wages, they can be subject to additional fines and penalties.
Penalties include (but may not be limited to):
- Suspension of driver’s license, tags, and registrations for up to 20 years (or all conditions of the judgment are satisfied)
- Confiscation of vehicle’s license plate
- Reinstatement fees for suspended licenses
- Further criminal charges for driving on a suspended license
Involved in an Accident with an Uninsured Motorist?
Did an uninsured driver hit your car? You’ll want to speak with your insurance company and an experienced attorney. The personal injury attorneys at Lowman Law Firm can help you navigate the complex challenges of the legal system to ensure your rights are protected. We serve all of Florida, with offices in Citrus County, Hernando County, Hillsborough County, and Pasco County. Not able to come to us? We’ll come to you! We offer free home and hospital consultations. And, there’s never a fee until you win your case.