What Happens If YOU are Sued After Causing a Collision?
March 10, 2022 | Sagi Shaked | Car Accidents
Florida is a “no-fault” auto insurance state. Most of the time, a car accident victim must look to their own insurance policy to cover their medical bills and lost wages. However, no-fault insurance does not cover non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. It also does not apply to property damage claims. You can sue the at-fault driver for property damage.
There are exceptions to Florida’s no-fault system. If you caused an accident, a victim might be able to file a third-party personal injury claim against your liability insurance policy (if you have one). If your insurance company refuses to settle the claim, you might find yourself being sued for an accident. Florida’s no-fault insurance system is expensive, unpopular, and likely to change soon.
Florida’s Mandatory Auto Insurance Requirements
If you have a four-wheeled vehicle registered in Florida, you must carry $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance. PIP will cover 80% of medical expenses and 60% of lost wages for you, your children, members of your household, and passengers in your vehicle. You must also carry $10,000 worth of property damage liability insurance to cover damage to another driver’s vehicle.
Significantly, Florida does not require you to carry bodily injury liability insurance. If you choose not to carry auto liability insurance and the other driver qualifies for an exception to Florida’s no-fault system, the injured party could sue you personally.
Exceptions to Florida’s No-Fault System
If the victim of an auto accident suffers a “serious injury,” Florida law allows them to:
- Sue the at-fault driver; or
- File a third-party claim against their auto liability insurance policy.
Florida law defines an injury as “serious” if it involves:
- Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function;
- Permanent injury;
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or
Liability Insurance Companies and the Duty to Defend
If an injury victim files a third-party claim against your auto liability insurance policy for a serious injury, your insurance company has a duty to defend you. This means that they must take control of the defense and even litigate in court if necessary. In most cases, the opposing parties resolve the claim through a negotiated settlement.
The insurance company can try to wiggle out of this duty by claiming that their policy doesn’t cover the claim. This strategy rarely works, but don’t be surprised if your insurance company tries it.
If you carry liability insurance and you lose a claim to an accident victim, your liability insurance company must indemnify you up to the limit of your policy. Any amount that the insurance company doesn’t indemnify is your personal responsibility (unless the injured victim is partly at fault).
Suppose, for example, that the victim’s personal injury damages are $116,000 and your liability insurance policy limit is $50,000. Your personal liability will be $66,000 ($116,000-$50,000).
How to Deal With Your Liability Insurance Company
If you discover that someone is suing you or has filed a third-party claim against your auto accident liability insurance company, take the following steps:
- Contact your insurance company. Consult with your lawyer concerning how much you should tell them about the accident.
- Find out the details of the auto accident claim against you. That means the amount of the claim, how much your insurance company thinks the claim is worth, and whether they have made any settlement offers.
- Write your insurance company a notarized letter telling them that you expect them to pay the policy limits if they agree to a settlement or a court holds you liable.
Your best bet is to let your lawyer deal with the insurance company as much as possible.
Take It Seriously
An auto accident personal injury claim that is serious enough to evade Florida’s no-fault restrictions is serious enough to command your attention. There are plenty of experienced car accident attorneys in Miami, FL that can help you. Seek the services of a lawyer as soon as possible, so that you don’t end up with a large amount of personal liability that could ruin you financially.