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For most people, being involved in a car accident is one of the most traumatic and stressful experiences in life. The stress of an accident can become amplified if the other driver doesn’t have enough insurance. When another driver doesn’t carry sufficient insurance, it’s commonly called driving uninsured or driving under-insured.
Dealing with uninsured and underinsured drivers after a collision can present some unique challenges for recovering compensation for your injuries. This consideration makes it essential to understand the specifics of these kinds of accidents to ensure you are protected if you’re ever in the situation. Here’s what you need to know about car accidents involving uninsured and underinsured drivers in Florida.
Florida uses a system of no-fault insurance. In most cases, you look to your own insurance first to pay for your damages. You recover from your insurance first even if you’re not the one to blame for the crash.
It’s only when you have very serious or permanent injuries that you look outside the no-fault insurance system to ask the person responsible for the accident to cover your losses. It’s when you have a severe or permanent injury because of a crash, and the other side doesn’t have sufficient insurance that you’ll need to brainstorm and make a plan B to get a fair recovery in your case.
In most cases, a driver that doesn’t carry mandatory insurance isn’t going to have very much money. Most people who don’t have insurance don’t have it because of the cost or because their vehicle isn’t worth very much. Either reason is a sign that the person doesn’t have much money. If they don’t have assets, you’re not going to be able to collect from them no matter how strong your claim is.
You can file the lawsuit against the uninsured driver, win it, and get a court judgment in your hands. However, without the other side having assets, you’re not going to be able to collect. You can even ask the court to hold the other party in contempt for not paying you, but even that can’t pull money out of thin air. A crash with an uninsured or underinsured driver creates the practical problem of collecting what you deserve as well as the legal task of bringing and proving the claim.
You may have the option to collect from your own insurance. When you purchase your no-fault policy, the insurance company must offer you additional coverage for uninsured and underinsured motorists. This is insurance that pays you if you’re in a crash with someone who lacks sufficient coverage. Although it’s not mandatory in Florida, you can carry this type of insurance in addition to your required no-fault coverage.
When you think the at-fault driver in your case may be uninsured or underinsured, you can look at your own insurance policy to see if you have coverage for this exact situation. If you do, your insurance policy pays for your damages. Your own insurance company covers your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other damages just like you would claim from the other driver’s insurance if they had it.
If you suspect that the other driver is uninsured, you usually have a very limited period to notify your insurance company of the situation. The time limit may be as short as 30 days.
Even if you’re not sure of all of your damages yet, you can let the insurance company know that you suspect an uninsured or underinsured driver. This notification preserves your right to bring your claim with your insurance company.
Your own collision insurance is another place to look for recovery. Collision insurance repairs damage to your vehicle. It won’t pay for your medical damages, but it’s an excellent place to look for coverage for your car.
In some cases, you can recover against both the other side’s insurance policy and your insurance. For example, say you’re in an accident. The other party has $25,000 in insurance coverage, and your damages are $50,000.
You can recover $25,000 from the other side, but you’re still $25,000 short. If your own insurance covers uninsured and underinsured motorists, you can recover from your insurance for the remaining $25,000 or up to your policy limit whichever is less. However, you can’t get a double recovery.
Related: How to Make a Claim in a Car Accident That Wasn’t Your Fault
There’s a good chance that your uninsured motorist insurance policy includes a provision for what’s called binding arbitration. Arbitration is a process where someone outside of the court system reviews the case and decides who’s right. They examine the evidence of your accident, and they decide how much you should recover.
When your uninsured motorist policy calls for binding arbitration, it means that you must take the case in front of an arbitrator who decides your fate. Not only is arbitration mandatory when your insurance policy calls for it, but when it’s binding, it’s also the final say. You can’t take the case to a courtroom if you don’t like the result of binding arbitration.
Despite legal challenges that argue binding arbitration clauses are against public policy, Florida courts say that binding arbitration is okay as long as both parties agree to it. Even though binding arbitration is enforceable, one of the parties must demand it.
You can bring a claim in court. The court will only kick the case over to binding arbitration if the other side notifies the court of the binding arbitration clause in the insurance policy and their intent to exercise it.
When you have an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, there’s a lot involved in making sure that you bring your case against the right person or entity. Although the task seems daunting, it is possible to recover compensation for your injuries in this situation. A seasoned attorney can help you establish what you need to do in your case, and can ensure you don’t miss urgent notice requirements that can jeopardize your case.
After a collision with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, it’s essential to contact a qualified Tampa car accident attorney to discuss your options. With over three decades of experience, Jack Bernstein has the knowledge and resources to ensure your rights are protected. Together with his team of experts, they can help determine the best strategy for getting the compensation you need to recover from your injuries.
Call Jack Bernstein, Injury Attorneys at (813) 333-6666 to schedule your free consultation today. There is no fee unless we win your case.