Consequences of Lapsed Auto Insurance
Florida, like many other states, requires drivers to carry insurance, an0d those who drive without it face stiff penalties. For all practical purposes, letting one’s car insurance lapse is like having no insurance at all. Each policy has an expiration date and when a policyholder doesn’t pay the premium after renewal notices from the carrier, the insurance expires. This creates a gap in coverage until the policyholder makes a payment and reinstates the policy. In this post, we review Florida’s insurance requirements and penalties for uninsured drivers and offer some suggestions for how to handle a car accident that involves an uninsured motorist, regardless of which party caused the accident.
Florida Auto Insurance Requirements
Florida residents who own a motor vehicle must show proof of insurance when they register their vehicle. The mandatory minimum requirements are as follows:
- $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) – Also referred to as Florida No Fault Insurance, PIP covers you, your child, members of your household, and passengers without PIP insurance who don’t own a vehicle. PIP coverage also extends to bicyclists and pedestrians who are injured in a car accident.
- $10,000 in Property Damage Liability (PDL) – PDL coverage pays for property damage that you or members of your family cause in an auto accident.
Penalties for Uninsured Motorists
If a motorist lets his or her required auto insurance lapse, Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) may suspend your driver’s license and take away your license plates and registration for up to three years. You can forego suspension by providing proof of current Florida insurance. Reinstatement fees vary from $150 to more than $500 depending on the circumstances. If a Florida court provides a judgment for damages against an at-fault driver, FLHSMV has the authority to suspend a driver’s license and registration for up to 20 years. Repeat offenses of driving without insurance might result in jail time.
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Liability in Florida Auto Accidents
Florida is a no-fault insurance state, which means that when a car accident occurs, each party first files a claim under their own, required PIP policy to recover the cost of damages. When both drivers carry the required insurance, fault only comes into play when accidents result in severe or catastrophic injuries or wrongful death. When accidents have catastrophic consequences, the victim may be able to sue the at-fault party for additional damages that are not covered by insurance. Fault also plays a role when an auto accident involves one or more drivers without the insurance required by Florida law. The path that you take to recover damages from an auto accident differs based on whether or not you or the other driver let your insurance lapse. Additional coverages that motorists might carry could also come into play, such as:
Bodily Injury Liability Coverage (BIL)
Bodily Injury Liability policies cover damages for severe injury or death when a motorist causes a traffic accident with their automobile. Insurance companies will pay for injuries up to the limits of the policy. BIL coverage is not mandatory in Florida unless you have been convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM)
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist policies compensate policyholders for accident-related losses and injuries of another motorist has no bodily injury coverage or low limits on their BIL policy.
I’ve Been in a Florida Auto Accident, Now What?
With Florida’s no-fault insurance laws, different types of additional coverage, and a driver that has a lapsed auto insurance, deciding the right course of action after a traffic crash might cause some confusion. Your health and safety should be your top priority. If you weren’t transported to the hospital via ambulance, you should get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible. At the scene of the accident, gather as much information as possible including the name, license plate, address, and insurance information of the other driver, if he or she has coverage; and, make sure that you file a police report. You should also use your cell phone to take pictures of damage and injuries. Keep in mind that safety is paramount. If it seems unsafe to confront the other driver, then don’t. Instead, you can get information about that driver from law enforcement or the police report. It’s especially not wise to make monetary demands on an at-fault driver at the scene of the accident. Let your insurance company and attorney handle those issues. As soon as you have been cleared by a doctor and have reported the accident to local law enforcement, contact a reputable personal injury attorney to guide you through the insurance claims process and advise you on if and when to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. The following guidelines will give you an idea of how to begin until you consult with an attorney.
Steps After an Auto Accident When Your Insurance Lapsed
If you have let your auto insurance lapse, you are driving without insurance. Not only is this illegal in Florida, but it might be costly for you if you hit another vehicle with your automobile.
When You Caused the Car Accident
If you have no insurance and cause an auto accident, you will have to pay out-of-pocket for any damage to your car and you will be liable for any injuries that you sustained in the crash. The other driver will file a claim under their PIP policy that pays for 80 percent of medical treatment and 60 percent of lost wages from missing work as a result of injury or hospitalization. As the at-fault driver, you will also be responsible for property damage to the other driver’s car, and you may be liable for the other driver’s injury-related expense also once they the other driver has exhausted his or her PIP policy limits. If the other driver has uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, that driver may resort to that coverage to pay for property damage and personal injuries. But, that doesn’t let you off the hook. You may face a subrogation claim from the other driver’s insurance carrier. Keep in mind that if the accident resulted in severe injuries or wrongful death, Florida law entitles the other driver to bring a civil lawsuit against you for damages. Without insurance, you risk losing some or all of your assets in this situation. Additionally, if a Florida court renders a judgment against you, your license, tags, and registration will be suspended for 20 years or until you have satisfied the judgment (which can be enforced immediately).
When the Other Driver Caused the Car Accident
Because Florida is a no-fault state, if another driver causes an accident when your insurance has lapsed, you will have to pay for the costs of your own medical treatment and suffer lost wages if you have to miss work because of your injury. The other driver’s insurance only covers your property damage. Even though you weren’t at fault, expect law enforcement to issue you a citation for driving without insurance. In the event that the other driver caused an accident that resulted in permanent or catastrophic injuries, a qualified personal injury attorney may be able to help you file a civil lawsuit against the driver who caused the accident. If the court rules in your favor, you may be able to recover damages for the costs of medical treatment, lost wages, future medical expenses, future lost wages, pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other damages that apply to your situation. Florida law requires that you take legal action within four years of the date of injury, so don’t delay. Contact an attorney as soon as possible.
Steps After an Auto Accident When the Other Driver’s Insurance Lapsed
Although you might never let your auto insurance lapse, there are drivers who do. In fact, the Insurance Research Council estimates that between 15 and 26 percent of motor vehicle owners in Florida were uninsured from 2013 to 2015. Lapses might occur because a driver was out of state for some time or because the policyholder was struggling financially. Regardless of why another driver might not carry insurance, if an accident that leads to damage to your property and injury occurs, you might struggle to recover damages. When you find out that the other driver is uninsured, you need to report the driver to Florida’s Bureau of Motorist Compliance in Tallahassee. You should request that the Bureau process the crash.
When You Caused the Car Accident
If you cause a car accident and the other driver doesn’t have insurance, a few different things may happen depending on your insurance coverage. If you carry bodily injury liability (BIL) coverage, the other driver may file a claim against your insurance company asking your carrier to pay damages up to your policy limit. In the case of a severe injury or wrongful death, Florida law entitles the other driver to file a personal injury suit to collect damages beyond what your BIL policy covers. If you don’t have BIL coverage, you are at risk of paying all the damages to the other driver if the court rules against you. In regards to any damages or injuries that you suffered, you need to file a claim as soon as possible after the accident under your PIP policy to recover any out-of-pocket medical expenses or lost wages.
When the Other Driver Caused the Car Accident
If another driver hits you, your first course of action is to file a claim under your PIP policy to recoup as much loss as you can. If you have purchased underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage, you can also recover losses up to your limit on this policy. When losses related to your injury exceed your insurance policy limits, you may bring a personal injury suit against the other driver. Keep in mind, that unless the driver who hits you has assets, it’s unlikely that you will be able to collect damages immediately if the court rules in your favor. You may need a qualified attorney to ensure that you get the compensation that you deserve.
Comparative Negligence in Florida Auto Accident Cases
The previous scenarios have been presented as if all accidents are black and white—that is, an accident is all one person’s fault and insurance companies always pay out claims. In reality, auto accident cases may have multiple shades of gray. Insurance companies don’t stay in business by paying out every claim that comes their way, especially when the claim is filed by the driver who isn’t their client. They may deny claims on technicalities and other dubious reasons. Other drivers and their carriers, if they have insurance, often try to shift blame to the victim to avoid liability. Florida’s comparative negligence rules further motivate this action. Comparative negligence is the idea of shared liability. Under Florida law, if a court rules in favor of the plaintiff in a personal injury case, it must reduce damages to the extent of the plaintiff’s fault in causing the accident. For example, suppose an uninsured motorist hits your car while driving under the influence. Although the drunk driver’s liability is clear, the court may nevertheless find you, say, 20 percent at fault for causing the accident because you were speeding at the time of the crash. If you sued the driver for $1,000,000, the court would, therefore, reduce your damages by 20 percent to $800,000.
Hire a Seasoned Car Accident Attorney in Clearwater
Car accidents in Florida that involve uninsured motorists result in complex insurance claims and lawsuits. If you were injured in a car accident and you or the other driver let your car insurance lapse, it’s in your best interest to let a skilled car accident attorney handle your claim. Matthew Dolman and the Dolman Law team know how to deal with insurance companies and can advocate for you so you have the best odds of a positive outcome of your case. To learn more, contact the experienced car accident lawyers at Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA in Clearwater at (727) 451-6900 to schedule a free consultation with a member of our team.