Like many things in life, when it comes to operating a motor vehicle, you are your own first line of defense. Practicing safe driving habits and carrying automobile insurance are important steps. However, as much as you try to protect yourself, you can never fully prepare for an accident with a driver who is uninsured or underinsured.
Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A. is a premier Florida law firm experienced in handling automobile accident and personal injury cases. Our attorneys are skilled in obtaining just recovery for injuries caused by other drivers. We are here to assist with any claims against another motorist, whether it involves automobile insurance or not.
Uninsured or Underinsured Drivers
An uninsured driver is a driver who does not have an automobile insurance policy that will cover damages from an accident. An underinsured driver is a driver who may have insurance, but the policy limits are not high enough to cover your damages.
Ways to Recover
There are generally two ways to recover for damages against an uninsured or underinsured driver. The first is to file a lawsuit against the driver personally either for the full amount of your damages or the amount the at-fault driver’s insurance policy did not cover. The second way to recover is to file a claim under your own uninsured motorist insurance policy.
Suing the Uninsured or Underinsured Driver
When another driver’s actions cause you harm, either by damaging your vehicle or resulting in medical expenses, you can file a lawsuit under the legal theory of negligence.
Most automobile accidents result in injuries caused by negligence. Negligence is a legal term meaning the failure to take proper care or precautions when acting. Proving another driver acted negligently requires showing the driver owed the injured party a duty to act reasonably under the circumstances, the driver breached that duty, and the driver’s breach of duty directly caused damages to the injured party.
Types of Damages
If a responsible party owed you a duty, clearly breached that duty, and the breach was the cause of your injury, you may be entitled to damages. The types of damages you can recover for include:
- Medical bills (past and future)
- Damage to person (physical impairment or disfigurement)
- Damage to property
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Mental anguish (if it causes a substantial disruption to daily routine)
- Attorney fees and costs
Realities of Recovery
While you may be entitled to damages from an uninsured or underinsured driver, it can be difficult to recover. In many cases, drivers who lack insurance do not have assets or income that will cover the full cost of your damages, which can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
While it is possible to garnish a person’s wages, many times the monthly garnishment amount is low, as in less than $100. With this in mind, unless the at-fault driver has hidden assets that can be sold, it is often not worth the time or effort to file a lawsuit.
Filing an Uninsured Motorist Claim Under Your Insurance Policy
Florida law requires that every insurance policy that includes liability coverage must also include uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. The coverage amounts are generally the same as the amount of liability coverage included in your own automobile insurance policy. Therefore, if your policy provides for $100,000 in liability coverage, you can only receive $100,000 for your damages caused by an uninsured motorist, regardless of the actual amount of the damages.
Advantages of Filing an Uninsured Motorist Claim
If the party who injured you lacks insurance, it can often be in your best interest to file a claim against your insurance company. First, filing an insurance claim is a more effective way to recover. Insurance companies are required to maintain funds in the event payouts must be made to customers. Therefore, if you reach a settlement or receive an award of damages, your claim will be paid by the insurance company, not the at-fault driver. In most cases, the insurance company then has the right to recover from the at-fault driver, lifting that burden from you.
Second, insurance claims are often paid out quickly, which can save you the time and cost of expensive litigation against the driver. If you cannot reach a settlement with the insurance company, claims often go to arbitration. Arbitration is an out-of-court proceeding where a neutral party listens to each side of the claim and determines a result. Arbitration results are generally binding with limited rights of appeal. Therefore, insurance claims are often resolved more quickly than lawsuits.
Importance of Reviewing Insurance Settlement Offers
It is important to review any offers an insurance company makes to settle your claims carefully. Generally, once you accept a settlement offer, you give up your right to pursue additional damages. When considering a settlement offer from an insurance company, it is important to consider the extent of your damages and any potentially unknown damages to make sure you are made whole. The guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney can help you evaluate your damages and any insurance settlements to make sure you receive a fair payment.
Contact Attorneys Experienced in Handling Personal Injury Cases
Car accidents are frustrating events that are unfortunately all too common. The situation is made even worse if you are badly injured and the at-fault driver lacks sufficient insurance to cover your damages. The attorneys at Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A., have handled countless automobile and personal injury cases across Florida. Our attorneys have the skills and experience to evaluate your damages, assess any claims, and determine whether it is better to proceed against the at-fault driver or under an uninsured motorist policy. Either way, when you hire Staples, Ellis + Associates, P.A., you gain the guidance of a trusted advisor by your side.
The Uninsured or Underinsured Accident Attorneys at Staples, Ellis & Associates serves clients in Pensacola County, Escambia County, Santa Rosa County, Okaloosa County, Walton County, and throughout Northwest Florida.