Car accidents are stressful, no matter the circumstances. From medical bills, car repairs, car rental, lost wages, and litigation, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. And if either driver doesn’t have auto insurance, the stress becomes more intense.
Florida Statute 324.021 establishes that every motor vehicle registered in the state must have proof of financial responsibility to pay for damages they may cause, for a minimum of $10,000. This doesn’t mean, however, that everyone on our roadways follows that law. Florida still has one of the highest rates of uninsured motorists. So, what would happen if you (a) are an uninsured driver and had a car accident, or (b) were hit by an uninsured driver?
What Does it Mean to Be at Fault?
Florida is a no-fault state. This means everyone involved will be required to have their insurance pay a portion. However, if a party involved is able to prove that the other one is more at fault they can file a claim to get the at-fault party’s insurance provider to pay for their damage. This can be hard to do without proof so make sure you get proof at the scene of the accident.
So what instance may you be at fault? If you:
- T-boned another car
- Rear-end someone else
- Were driving under the influence
- Got distracted by texting
- Fail to turn on headlights when it is dark
While these are some of the main reasons one may be considered at fault each situation is different and therefore you should consult with a lawyer immediately after an accident.
If You Were at Fault:
If you caused a car accident without insurance, be aware that you could face the following consequences:
- Lawsuit: The other driver involved in the accident can sue you for medical bills, damage to their car, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, future medical expenses, and, depending on the circumstances of the accident, for pain and suffering and/or wrongful death.
- Driver’s license and car registration suspension: Once the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles receives notification that you do not have car insurance, both your driver’s license and registration may be suspended for up to three years.
- Civil penalties: If your driver’s license and registration are suspended for failure to carry auto insurance, you’ll pay a reinstatement fee of $150 for the first violation. If you are involved in a subsequent accident and still have no insurance, the reinstatement fee goes up to $500.
If you were at fault infractions can remain on your license for anywhere from three to ten years.
If the Other Party Was at Fault:
If the other party was at fault and didn’t have car insurance, you have several options:
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP): Every car insurance policy in Florida is required to provide PIP coverage, regardless of who was at fault for the accident. This means that, as long as you report the damages within 14 days from the date of the accident, your own insurance company will cover up to $10,000 in damages (up to 80% of medical bills and up to 60% of lost wages). You wouldn’t have to worry about your premium going up, since Florida Statutes establish that insurance companies cannot increase rates unless the insurer can make a good faith determination that the person driving your car was substantially at fault for the accident.
- Uninsured/Underinsured coverage: While PIP is required, uninsured/underinsured coverage is optional. If you opt to have it, it will cover injuries sustained by you, family members, passengers in your car, or anyone driving your car with your permission. In addition, it would cover future medical expenses as well as lost wages resulting from the accident. However, this type of coverage will not cover property damage to your motor vehicle.
- File a lawsuit against the other driver: If your damages exceed the $10,000 provided by PIP, or if you want to recover the portions not included in Personal Injury Protection, you can sue the at-fault driver. However, even if you win with a judgment against the other driver, it can be an uphill battle to collect. While there are ways to enforce a judgment (such as placing liens or garnishing wages), if the person doesn’t have the means to pay, you could be stuck with the bill.
If you were in a car accident without insurance and are not at fault, contact an experienced attorney to see which option is right for you.
Tip: Keep in mind that if you were not at fault, diminished value claims may be an option for you.
Can I Get Insurance Coverage After My Car Accident?
If you get in an accident and do not have insurance you should purchase coverage as soon as you can. Once you buy your policy you then need to inform the insurance company that you were in an uninsured accident.
Then you will be issued an SR-22 or FR-44 which is a Certificate of Financial Responsibility. This proves that you have liability auto coverage and you are a high-risk driver. If you have any questions about this you should contact a lawyer to get advice on how to communicate with an insurance company so that you can make sure you are covered.
What if the Car I’m Driving is Insured?
If you are not insured but the car you are driving is, you may be covered. For example, if you got permission to drive someone else’s car and they insured it you may be covered under the owner’s insurance policy. Most auto insurance policies cover anyone in the primary household of the owner of the car.
If You Got Into a Car Accident Without Insurance and Were Not at Fault Let Us Help You
Every car accident is different. There are many factors that determine your level of liability, and that liability could be diminished, depending on the circumstances. In addition, we’ll look for ways to have all of your expenses covered.
At Carey, Leisure & Neal, we have over three decades of combined experience successfully representing clients involved in car accidents. All of our Florida car accident attorneys are accessible and Board Certified in civil trial law. Contact us online or call us at 727-799-3900 to schedule a free consultation.
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not create an attorney/client relationship.