How do I recover for my injuries if the at-fault vehicle owner and driver were not insured?
At-fault owners and drivers can be liable for injury to others and sued if they have recoverable personal assets, but normally injured persons look to their own automobile insurance for uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage. UM/UIM coverage is an important elective coverage to add to a policy because Florida has a high number of uninsured owners and drivers. Without UM/UIM coverage, an injured person can be without recourse for their injuries, but an experienced lawyer will investigate all potential at-fault persons or entities.
I have “full coverage.” What does that mean?
In Florida, the minimum legally required vehicle coverage is $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and $10,000 Property Damage liability (PD). PIP provides coverage under your own policy if you are injured in an accident. PD coverage provides coverage for damage that you may cause to another person’s property. Since this is the minimum required in Florida for a motor vehicle, people often mischaracterize it as “full coverage.” However, PIP and PD coverage does not protect you from bodily injury you may cause to another person or injury to yourself beyond the $10,000 PIP limit. PIP is often inadequate to protect and compensate people when there is an accident with injury.
Can I be sued for an amount above my insurance coverage?
Yes. Lawsuits for personal injury resulting from any type of trauma are filed against the individual or entity legally responsible for causing the injury or creating or allowing circumstances that lead to injury. The money damages for the injury depend on the circumstances in each individual case and are not capped by amounts of insurance coverage. Insurance only pays up to the amount of the coverage and any damages in excess of the coverage can be pursued against the personal financial assets of an individual or entity responsible for the injury and damages. It is very important to buy a high amount of bodily injury coverage and, if possible, buy umbrella/excess liability coverage to protect a person beyond a bodily injury coverage cap.
If I was in the course and scope of my employment and involved in an auto accident, can I simultaneously have personal injury and worker’s compensation claims?
Yes. Florida law allows simultaneous claims. If a worker’s compensation carrier pays benefits resulting from an on-the-job injury, the insurer may seek reimbursement for the amounts it paid from the person or entity at fault for causing the injury. However, a worker’s compensation claim usually does not prevent an injured person from also seeking compensation from the individual or entity that is responsible for causing the injury.
I thought Florida was a “no-fault” state, so how can someone sue?
Florida’s “no-fault” law allows for a person to recover certain benefits under their own automobile insurance policy, even if they were at fault for causing the damage. Typically, this includes $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits paid toward medical expenses or lost wages, and coverage for property damage.
If I have health insurance, can I still make an injury claim?
Yes. If someone else is responsible for your injury, you can make a claim against them to receive compensation for your injury. Often, private or employer health insurance will pay for medical expenses. Most health insurers have contractual “subrogation” clauses with their policyholders. The clauses allow insurers to seek reimbursement of their lien against a recovery from the at-fault owner or driver for the amount the health insurer paid to an injured person’s medical providers. In addition to medical expenses, your injury claim and recovery may include damages for lost wages, loss of future ability to earn money, and pain and suffering, among other emotional damages.
How do I hire an attorney if I cannot afford to pay one?
Florida law allows injured persons in personal injury claims to customarily hire lawyers on a contingency basis. If you have a contingency fee agreement, the attorney will be paid a percentage of your recovery and provisions would be made in the fee agreement for the handling of litigation-related costs. Contingency fee agreements must be in writing and are subject to regulations from The Florida Bar.