Can I Ever Sue In A Florida Auto Accident Case?
If you have been in an automobile accident in Florida, you may be aware that Florida is a ‘no-fault’ state when it comes to auto insurance. This means that all drivers are required to carry personal injury protection (PIP) insurance before driving on state roads, and in the event of an accident, you would file a claim with your insurer, rather than a lawsuit. However, there are instances, rare though they may be, where you are able to file a lawsuit in a Florida auto accident. Having an experienced attorney on your side can be a great help.
Positives & Negatives Of No-Fault
Along with a handful of other states, Florida chooses to use a no-fault auto insurance system, with the wish to cut down on the number of accident lawsuits clogging up docket space. In theory, a no-fault system operates by requiring every driver to carry a certain amount of insurance coverage (in Florida, the mandatory coverage amounts are $10,000 in personal injury protection insurance, and $10,000 in property damage liability [PDL] coverage), and in the event of a crash, the injured driver will file a claim with their insurer, regardless of fault.
The system streamlines auto accident cases, in theory, but in practice, multiple problems appear. Statistics from the Insurance Information Institute (III) show that Florida has had one of the highest percentages of uninsured drivers for several years running, meaning that once an injured driver exhausts their own insurance policy, they have no real recourse for getting any further bills paid. Their health insurance may help, but many do not carry health insurance, either. As a result, there are some rare exceptions in Florida’s no-fault law that do allow someone seriously injured to file suit.
If your injuries are sufficiently severe that your insurance coverage is maxed out, you are entitled to seek some form of restitution from the at-fault driver (or their insurer). Florida law holds that if your injuries are severe enough to constitute a “significant and permanent” disability, such as the loss of a major bodily function or a limb, any tort immunity granted by law is lifted. The law specifically grants the injured person the right to sue not only for actual damages (that is, for the tangible amounts of money you have lost through an accident), but also for pain and suffering and other intangible damages.
It is also true that if the person who caused your accident was uninsured, you may try to file a claim in court against them. However, uninsured motorists are very often uninsured because they lack the funds to keep up their coverage, which means that they might very well be judgment proof (essentially, too poor to cover any jury award against them). Whether or not this kind of suit is a good idea will depend largely on your specific case, and speaking to an experienced attorney may help you decide how best to proceed.
Call A Tampa Auto Accident Lawyer
Auto accidents can be catastrophic, and if you have been injured due to a negligent driver, it may feel overwhelming trying to negotiate with insurers to get your bills paid. A Tampa car accident attorney at the Rinaldo Law Group can help you determine how to move forward with your case, and offer a compassionate shoulder at a time that can be extremely difficult to navigate. Call us today for a free consultation.