Kibbey Wagner, PLLC | December 6, 2022 | Car Accidents
According to the Insurance Information Institute, in 2019, Florida had the sixth-highest rate of uninsured motorists, at over 20%. Accidents with uninsured drivers are complicated under ordinary circumstances.
However, large car accident claims are especially difficult to handle in Port St. Lucie because Florida is one of only a few states that does not require motorists to carry bodily injury liability insurance.
How Florida’s No-Fault Auto Insurance System Works
Florida is one of a minority of U.S. states that operates under a “no-fault” auto insurance system. Every Florida driver must purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. If you suffer an injury due to a car accident, you look to your PIP insurance first to satisfy your claim. It doesn’t matter who caused the accident.
The problem is that the minimum legally required PIP insurance is only $10,000. If your claim is more than that, you will need to find a loophole that allows you to exit the no-fault system and sue the at-fault driver for damages. Florida provides such a loophole if you suffered a “serious” injury.
“Serious” Injuries Under Florida Law
Under Florida law, a “serious” injury” is an injury that causes:
- Significant permanent loss of one of your body functions;
- Permanent injury;
- Significant and permanent disfigurement; or
The problem with a serious injury is that Florida law does not require motorists to carry bodily injury liability insurance. You might end up pursuing a claim that the defendant cannot pay.
The Four Elements of a Negligence Claim
Most car accident claims are based on negligence.
To win a negligence claim, you must prove:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care;
- The at-fault party violated their duty of care;
- You suffered an injury; and
- The at-fault party’s failure to meet their duty of care was the proximate cause of your injury.
Once you prove a physical injury, you also qualify for psychological damages such as pain and suffering.
Uninsured Motorist Insurance
Many Florida drivers carry uninsured motorist (UM) insurance. Do you? If you don’t, and if you were in an accident caused by an uninsured driver, you probably wish that you had purchased a UM policy.
UM insurance is optional in Florida, but it will cover you (up to policy limits) under these circumstances, even if the driver flees the scene of the accident.
Suing the At-Fault Driver Directly
You may be able to file a personal injury claim directly against the at-fault driver. However, if they’re uninsured, they’re likely also unable to afford to pay compensation in a personal injury case.
It could complicate matters if the driver is from out of state. Although you can summon the driver to appear before a Florida court, it could be difficult to secure their actual appearance. It’s best to retain legal services if you find yourself in this position.
Identifying Alternative Defendants
If you cannot obtain sufficient compensation from the defendant, you might consider filing a claim against a second defendant, such as:
- A product manufacturer, if a defective product contributed to the accident (malfunctioning airbags, for example)
- Another driver who may have contributed to the accident
- The government (if a malfunctioning traffic light contributed to the accident, for example)
You can only sue these defendants to the extent that the accident was their fault (e.g., 15% of your damages).
Contact a Port St. Lucie Car Accident Lawyer If You Were Hit By an Uninsured Driver
If you have sustained significant injuries in a Florida car accident, the assistance of a skilled personal injury lawyer is critical. A personal injury lawyer might be able to negotiate a generous settlement for you without ever having to step into a courtroom.
Ultimately, you have little to lose because almost any Port St. Lucie personal injury lawyer will charge you legal fees only if they win. Even then, their fees will equal a pre-agreed percentage of your recovery.