Imagine you’re traveling home from work one day. As you cross an intersection, a car flies through a red light and hits you. Your car is totaled, and you’re hurt. What could be worse? Well, after you file your insurance claim, you could find out the other driver was underinsured.
There’s a reason car insurance is mandatory in Florida. It’s intended to cover the costs of repairing property and getting medical care after accidents. However, if the motorist who hit has the bare minimum insurance coverage, these policies may not cover much of your costs. Here’s what you need to know about the risks these underinsured motorists pose and what you can do if you’ve been harmed.
What Does It Mean to Be an Underinsured Driver?
Under Florida law, any registered vehicle with four or more wheels must be covered by an appropriate insurance policy. As long as the car is registered, it must have at least $10,000 in both Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability (PDL) coverage.
PIP policies cover 80% of medical expenses from covered injuries, regardless of the cause of a crash. Meanwhile, PDL covers damage to other people’s property if you cause an accident. The problem is that $10,000 is almost nothing when a car accident leads to severe injuries and significant damage to a car. If the driver who hit you has minimal insurance coverage, your bills can easily exceed the compensation their policy provides. When that happens, the driver is considered underinsured.
The Risks of Underinsured Motorists
Underinsured motorists pose many risks to fellow drivers, pedestrians, and other road users. Consider the following scenarios:
Your car is hit by the underinsured motorist while parked and empty.
This is often the best-case scenario for accidents when there is not enough insurance coverage from the liable party. While your car may be totaled, you were elsewhere and didn’t suffer injuries.
However, if you have a car worth more than $10,000, you or your personal automobile insurance policy will be responsible for covering the damages and repairs exceeding that amount. You will need to file a claim with your car insurer to cover the rest of the damage. If you don’t have excellent insurance yourself, your annual premiums will likely increase. You may even have to pay thousands out of pocket to repair or replace your car.
You’re hit and injured by the motorist while driving.
If you’re also on the road when the accident occurs, you could suffer catastrophic injuries. In addition to the struggle of getting your car repaired, you could face significant medical bills.
If you’re in your own vehicle at the time, you’re protected by your car insurance policy. Hopefully, that policy covers significantly more than just $10,000 in costs. If so, you’ll have to file claims with your insurer to cover some of the expenses. Your health insurance policy should cover at least part of the remaining balance. Even so, you could still face thousands in bills, especially if there are any liability disputes.
An underinsured driver hits you while you’re walking.
If you’re concerned about underinsured drivers, the worst-case scenario is getting hit by one as a pedestrian. If you’re not in an insured vehicle and do not have car insurance yourself, your only financial protection comes from your health insurance policy and the other driver’s PIP coverage. For problems that require emergency room visits, MRIs or CT scans, surgery, or long-term medical care, you could easily face tens of thousands of dollars in medical debt that the driver’s policy will not cover.
What You Can Do After Being Injured by an Underinsured Motorist
The best thing you can do to avoid life-changing bills after being hurt by an underinsured driver is to ensure you have your own insurance coverage. Most automotive insurers provide both uninsured and underinsured motorist protection. These are not the same – coverage for uninsured motorists will not apply if the driver has a policy that isn’t high enough to cover your bills. It’s worthwhile to pay a small amount more each year to protect you against other drivers’ lack of coverage, just in case.
In addition, you should confirm whether your policy will cover you if you’re in an accident as a pedestrian. If your policy has BIP coverage, it may protect you and anyone else on the policy, even if you aren’t in your vehicle when an accident occurs.
But what about if you’ve already been injured? You cannot get retroactive insurance coverage. Here’s what you can do instead:
- Get medical treatment if necessary. Never put off medical treatment after a car accident because you’re worried about insurance coverage. Get the care you need right away to ensure that there is no argument about whether the accident caused your injuries.
- Notify all relevant insurers. As soon as possible, notify the other driver’s insurer and your own automotive and health policy providers about the accident.
- Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. Regardless of the other driver’s insurance status, you should consult a skilled lawyer after serious car accidents. Knowledgeable legal counsel is critical to filing successful insurance claims, particularly if you were injured by an underinsured driver
- Document your costs and injuries. Keep records of all medical bills, lost wages, and repair costs. This documentation is critical for proving the validity of your claims.
- Take legal action. Insurers do not want to have to pay your medical and repair costs unless it’s absolutely necessary. You may need to file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver to confirm their liability for the accident or to directly pursue them for damages that the insurance companies will not pay. Your attorney will guide you through the process to help you get the compensation you need.
Proven Personal Injury Attorneys in Miami-Dade County
Don’t let someone else’s lack of foresight leave you with mountains of debt after an accident. If you’ve been injured by an underinsured driver in Florida, the experienced personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Gomez & Gomez can help. Schedule your consultation today to learn how we can assist you with your claim.