Many of our clients retain our law firm for car accident cases in which one or more parties do not have auto insurance on their vehicle, or less coverage than they should have. Few things are more frightening than being in a serious crash to begin with, but being hit by an uninsured driver just adds to the confusion and misery.
In Florida, there are minimum requirements involved in obtaining automobile insurance coverage. Many people, usually for financial reasons, elect to purchase the absolute minimum coverage. This includes coverage of $10,000 for Personal Injury Protection, or what is commonly call ‘PIP' coverage. The other requirement is $10,000 in Property Damage Liability, or ‘PDL' coverage. That's it.
There are no legal requirements to have any additional coverage, like collision, or bodily injury liability, which is used to pay for serious injury or death of someone that you hit. But the most critical portion of what insurance agents are supposed to offer you is UM coverage, or Uninsured Motorist. This is generally grouped together with Underinsured Motorist Coverage, or UIM. UM coverage is meant to cover you or any passengers in your vehicle in the event that a driver who has no insurance hits your car or motorcycle. UIM coverage is meant to cover costs over and above the policy limits of the person who crashed into you.
Many people decline the option to purchase UM / UIM coverage because they think it is too expensive. We also hear clients who say they would not want to make an uninsured motorist claim through their own insurance company if the at-fault driver does not have any insurance, because their rates will increase. However, there are laws in Florida that prohibit any insurance company from raising your rates if you, or a passenger who was in your vehicle, makes a UM or UIM claim against your insurance company. Now, allow us to elaborate – your insurance company can, and likely will, raise your rates if you are involved in an accident. But, they are not allowed to do so based solely on your filing a UM / UIM claim.
If you have questions about your car or motorcycle insurance coverage, we would be happy to speak with you prior to purchasing your policy. The bottom line is we cannot stress strongly enough the importance of purchasing UM / UIM coverage – it is the most important part of your overall coverage, and any premium costs will be well worth it if you are ever hit by an uninsured driver.
Checklist: What To Do If an Uninsured Driver Hits You
Of course, after the initial shock of being involved in a motor vehicle crash, it's natural that you'll be upset and confused. Hopefully, if you're not seriously injured and in need of immediate medical care, you can take some steps to make life a little easier down the road:
- Call the Police
Whether the other driver has insurance or not, or the accident does not seem critical enough and you're tempted to go on your way, calling local law enforcement will ensure there is a written report filed on the accident. This paperwork can become extremely important following a crash, especially if the report indicates the other driver was at fault.
- Get All of the Other Driver's Information
In Florida, there are an alarming number of hit-and-run accidents, where the one that has caused the crash takes off without waiting for the police. This happens for many reasons. In some cases, the driver may be wanted by local law enforcement for some other violation, they may be drunk or under the influence of drugs, driving without a valid driver's license or not have any car insurance.
Nationally, estimates put the percentage of drivers on the road without car insurance at 8%. Sadly, that number soars to about 23% here in Florida, or about 3.2 million drivers. So, if you are in the unfortunate situation of being hit by another driver, there's a very good chance they may be driving without coverage.
Here's what you should ask the other driver for:
- Full legal name as it appears on their drivers license
- Drivers license number
- Phone number and address
- Vehicle tag number
- Vehicle details; Make, model and year
As you might suspect, someone who may be driving without adequate insurance or no insurance at all will likely not be very eager to provide you with any of their personal information. It may be smart to actually try calling the number they've given you from the accident scene, just to see if it's legitimate. The more information you get at the scene, the easier it will be to not only locate the other driver, but also to support your claim later.
- Take Photos
Thanks to the popularity of smart phone technology, everyone has a cell phone with them. If you are physically able to do it safely, it is recommended you take photos at the crash scene. Get images of all the vehicles involved, preferably before they are moved. Photographic images can be extremely helpful if you get into a dispute with the other driver(s), or with an insurance company.
You may also want to consider taking pictures of the scene or environment in general, like road conditions, traffic lights and stop signs, etc. Also, if you take photos of all the vehicles involved, the tag numbers on the cars will be a visual aid if you get into the hassle of ‘he said, she said' later on.
- Talk to People at the Scene
If you are able to do so, it is suggested you get the contact information of anyone who may have witnessed what happened. There may be someone who was in another vehicle, or walking near the crash, who can supply their testimony about what they saw.
In situations where a lawsuit against the other driver is filed, your personal injury attorney will likely call on witnesses to provide a recorded statement regarding what they saw. This can often be done at a deposition, where your attorneys and those representing the other driver or their insurance company ask questions of a witness. The witness's responses are recorded on video and in a written transcript which can be utilized if a case ends up going to trial.
As you may suspect, there can be a lot of conflicting statements made by different witnesses to the same accident. Also, many people do not want to get involved, so getting their contact information at the scene can be a hit or miss proposition.
- Speak to a Qualified Personal Injury Lawyer
Even if you have not been seriously hurt and your property damage is minimal, it is recommended you reach out to an attorney who is experienced in motor vehicle accident law.
By listening to the details about what happened, the personal injury attorneys at Goldberg Noone Abraham, can determine your best strategy and course of action going forward.
Not every crash warrants the hiring of a personal injury attorney, but it doesn't cost a thing to speak to one of our lawyers to learn more about what you should do in your specific situation. It is important to not wait too long following a crash to get your questions answered – generally speaking, there is a two-year statute of limitations on taking any action against the other driver.
If you do decide to retain the services of our personal injury law firm, you will instantly have an entire team of aggressive advocates behind you, fighting for the fair and legal financial compensation you deserve. Your problems immediately become our problems, and you won't have to deal with all of the headaches and hassles that follow a motor vehicle accident. You'll also need to be cautious about what you say, or don't say, to an insurance company adjuster after an accident. Sometimes, a seemingly innocent statement can be misconstrued or misinterpreted into something that can work against you. We've written more about that here.
That's why we suggest you call our office at 239-461-5508 prior to providing any statements about the crash to your insurance company, or that of the other driver involved. Or if you prefer, you can complete this contact form, and one of our motor vehicle accident attorneys will call you immediately.