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Involved in a Crash? Vehicle Insurance Q&A

Posted by Goldberg Noone Abraham | May 26, 2014 | 0 Comments

I was involved in an automobile crash caused by someone else. Who can I turn to for help in recovering damages to my vehicle and for my injuries?

The sole purpose of the Bureau of Motorist Compliance is to ensure that people are responsible for their actions involving motor vehicles. We do this by making sure everyone has insurance to pay for the damages they cause, or they may cause, when they own a motor vehicle or register a motor vehicle. We will help you recover your damages and be compensated for your injuries. The following information goes into greater detail on how we help people in these situations.

The Bureau of Motorist Compliance will take action to help you. Here is what we need from you.

  1. Crash Report from a law enforcement agency that investigated the crash. The report must indicate a moving violation charge.
  1. Obtain this at the earliest and send it to us. Please note that even if you don't, we will process the crash within the next 2-3 months automatically.
  1. Proceed to obtain a final judgment from a Florida court against the at-fault party. Once a final judgment has been rendered and thirty days has expired from the final judgment date, obtain a certified copy from the court and send the certified judgment and the crash report to us.

Here is what will happen.

A. If the party had Personal Injury Protection and Property Damage insurance but no Bodily Injury coverage and you sustained both damages and injuries.

You can obtain the insurance details for property damage coverage from us by providing a written request along with a copy of the crash report and file for the damages with their insurance company. The judgment will be enforced for injuries. While normally the law provides us authority to suspend a license of an uninsured party only for 3 years, in the case we have a judgment, we have the authority to suspend licenses, tags and registrations for a period of 20 years or until the judgment is satisfied.

B. If the party had no insurance at all.

The judgment will be immediately enforced and the at-fault party's license, tags, and registrations will be suspended for 20 years or until the judgment is satisfied.

The reports and judgment must be sent to:

Bureau of Motorist Compliance2900 Apalachee Parkway, Room B260F, MS-87Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0585

What type of automobile insurance coverage is required for a person causing a crash?

The Florida Financial Responsibility Law requires that 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.

What should I do if I am involved in an automobile crash?

Always insist that the crash be reported to law enforcement so that a law enforcement officer can complete the appropriate forms. We advise you not to negotiate a payment agreement with the other parties to settle damages. Doing it on your own without a crash report from a law enforcement officer could result in your not being fully compensated for damages and can expose you to personal liability since no official report of the crash exists and circumstances become your word against theirs. Our department will be unable to assist you if there is no crash report filled out by a law enforcement officer. Other suggestions include:

  • Make sure the investigating officer records complete insurance information on the crash report.
  • Report the crash to your insurance company immediately or within the time specified by your policy.
  • If you determine that the other party is insured or uninsured, you should report the information to your insurance company so that they can pursue compensation since they have more information resources at their disposal.
  • Never personally confront an at-fault party with demands as you may be dealing with a violent person. Allow your insurance company to handle that.

What if I am unable to contact my insurance agent to represent me and determine the at-fault party is insured or uninsured?

You should obtain a copy of the final crash report and forward it to:

Bureau of Motorist ComplianceNeil Kirkman Building, Room B260F, MS-87Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0585.

Request that the bureau process the crash. If the insurance company listed on the crash report has denied coverage, obtain a written letter of denial and attach to the report when mailing to the Bureau of Financial Responsibility.

If you have been involved in a crash and desire the insurance coverage for the other party, you may obtain the information by mailing your request to:

Bureau of Motorist Compliance2900 Apalachee Parkway, Room B260F, MS-87Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0585.

You must include a copy of the complete crash report, front and back, or the driver exchange form. These forms will provide the department with the necessary information needed to expedite your request. You may fax the crash report to the bureau at 850-617-5216 .

Please allow ten working days for research and reply.

What will be required of the at-fault owner/operator when the crash report is processed?

In crashes involving property damages and bodily injuries, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will mail an inquiry to the owner/operator requesting they provide proof of bodily injury and property damage liability coverage at the time of the crash.

If they did not have this coverage, they must purchase this coverage and have it certified to the department on Form SR-22 for three years, andobtain releases from the victims that they were compensated fully for their bodily injuries and/or property damages.

The above requirements must be met before the suspension date in the inquiry notice to prevent the suspension of the owner's tags and registrations, and the operator's driver license for three years, unless compliance is met earlier.  In addition, a $15 reinstatement fee is required if compliance is met after suspension.

If I am approached by the at-fault party regarding releases, what should I do?

Settlements for damages are at your discretion. However, if you have been compensated by your insurance company for any damages or injuries sustained in the crash, never sign a release or any document without consulting your insurance company.

When the company compensates you for your damages, they are vested with subrogation rights against the at-fault party. If you sign a release document you could be liable for monies paid to you by your insurance company.

What information is required of me at the scene of a crash, if I am at fault?

Be sure the officer records your insurance information completely and accurately. Accuracy of this information including the full name of the insurance company, will allow the department to send the information directly to your company for verification and not contact you for the information. Incomplete or inaccurate information could result in an unnecessary suspension of your driver license, tags and registrations.

If I cause a crash involving personal injury and vehicle damage and I am not insured, what should I do?

To eliminate the possibility of suspension, you should purchase a full liability insurance policy (includes bodily injury liability) as soon as possible and advise the company that you were involved in an uninsured crash and may need a Form SR-22 (certification of liability insurance) in the future.

Negotiate with each person or their insurance company to satisfy the losses they incurred. If you are unable to pay the damages in full, you can negotiate a payment agreement to allow monthly payments. Always have a document completed to legitimize the agreement to be used as proof of payments required by the department. Release forms can be obtained from your nearest driver license office.

If their insurance company has compensated the person for damages, you should contact the insurance company for satisfaction of damages since the insurance company has assumed the loss.

If I have obtained the Form SR-22 and the releases for damages and/or injuries, what should I do with them?

When you receive an inquiry from the department requesting proof of coverage for the crash date, you may mail them to:

Bureau of Motorist Compliance2900 Apalachee Parkway , Room B260F, MS-87Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0585

or take them to your nearest driver license office to avoid a suspension of your driving privilege.

As the person causing a crash, am I subject to lawsuits initiated by the victims or their insurance companies?

Yes. If notified of a lawsuit do not ignore the summons. You should appear in court to protect yourself from unwarranted or excessive damage amounts. Even if you are unable to pay the damages/injuries in full, you will have an opportunity to petition the court to allow you to make periodic payments according to your income. If you have obtained releases for having settled their damages and/or personal injuries, you will not be subject to a lawsuit.

If I own a vehicle and the operator caused a crash involving only property damages, will it come under the Florida Financial Responsibility Law?

No. A crash involving no bodily injuries are subject to the Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law. The law requires that an owner whose vehicle is involved in a crash and the operator was charged with a moving traffic violation, must have in effect a policy with limits of $10,000 personal injury protection per person/per crash and $10,000 property damage liability per crash (compulsory coverage).

Complete insurance information should be given to the investigating officer and you should be sure that the information is properly and accurately recorded on the crash report. Proper recording of the information will eliminate the need for the department to contact you personally in the future for more accurate information and eliminate the possibility of unnecessary suspensions of your driver license, tags and registrations.

If I own a vehicle involved in a crash caused by the operator of my vehicle, no one was injured and I was not insured, what should I do?

Immediately purchase a personal injury protection and property damage liability (compulsory coverage) insurance policy.

Negotiate with each person that sustained property damages to obtain releases for their damages. If the person is insured, you should negotiate with the person's insurance company as the company assumes the rights of compensation since they have reimbursed the insured for their loss. You can obtain a release form from your nearest driver license office.

If you are unable to pay the amount of damages in full, you may pursue a monthly payment agreement.

With the insurance coverage and releases or monthly repayment agreements, you will be able to provide them upon notice from the department to avoid unnecessary suspensions of your driver license, tags, and registrations.

If neither the owner nor operator of the at-fault vehicle carried full coverage on date of a crash involving personal injuries, what will happen?

The crash report will be processed by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and notices mailed to the driver license address of the owner and operator involved on how to comply before the date of suspension in the notice. These requirements are:

1. Purchase bodily injury and property damage liability coverage and have it certified to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles by your insurance company on Form SR-22 for three years from the suspension date mentioned,

2. Obtain releases from the other parties for their property damages and/or bodily injuries or post a security deposit with the department in the amounts listed on the crash report, and

3. Pay a $15 reinstatement fee, if applicable

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