January 21, 2022 | Firm News
One of the first questions everyone contemplating a lawsuit asks is, “how much could my settlement be worth” This initial question is sometimes followed with a concern of what occurs if the settlement is greater than the at-fault driver’s insurance policy limit. Fortunately, settlements do not exceed policy limits that often. In most cases, the cost of your injuries and damages will fall within the coverage limits. However, car accidents are unpredictable and there are situations when a victim’s injuries and expenses will exceed an insurance policy’s limits. Our Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney from South Florida Law PLLC examines the impact insurance policy limits have on settlements.
if you have a registered vehicle in Florida, you are required to carry auto insurance to safeguard yourself and others in case of an accident. Typically, a motorist will pay a monthly premium for insurance coverage that will pay up to a certain amount if they are in an accident.
Under Florida insurance laws, vehicle owners must maintain a minimum amount of coverage for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage/Liability (PDL) insurance. PIP insurance is designed to cover up to 80 percent of medical expenses that arise from a car accident, no matter who was responsible for the crash. PDL insurance covers the property damage inflicted on another person’s property that was caused by someone driving the insured car.
Florida law requires every vehicle to carry a minimum of $10,000 for PIP insurance and $10,000 for PDL insurance. There are no restrictions on the amount of additional insurance coverage a vehicle owner could carry and many people opt to increase their liability protection.
Most insurance policies are broken down into two different coverage types: personal injury insurance and property damage insurance. As stated above, Florida law requires that vehicle owners maintain a minimum amount of insurance coverage. While others opt for additional coverage, the policy limit is predetermined. Therefore, if you have $10,000 of PIP coverage and are injured in an accident, your medical expenses will be covered up to $10,000.
if another driver injured you, your PIP insurance coverage could be supplemented by filing a claim against their insurance provider or filing a personal injury lawsuit in a Florida court. No matter what path you take, the amount of any settlement will be constrained by the applicable insurance policy limits. If an insurance company offers a settlement figure, it will almost always be within the policy limits. However, if you decide to file a lawsuit and are awarded a judgment, the amount of compensation paid will still be limited by the available coverage. For example, if you are awarded a $100,000 judgment after a personal injury lawsuit and the insurance policy limit is $50,000, you will only receive $50,000.
In most cases, an accident settlement will not exceed insurance policy limits. However, there are situations where an accident victim’s medical expenses will be greater than the insurance limits. This is especially the case when an injury requires surgery, an extended hospital stay, and intensive physical therapy. Another problem occurs when a person is out of work for months or is physically unable to return to work. Lost income is recoverable in a personal injury lawsuit and can add up to a significant amount if the injury is severe. While a plaintiff is entitled to sue for more than the coverage limits, collecting an award that exceeds the limits could be impossible.
When the insurance coverage is not enough to cover the total damages, an injured accident victim is left with just a few options.
A defendant could have an umbrella insurance policy. An umbrella policy typically triggers after other insurance policies have been exhausted. However, individual drivers are unlikely to have umbrella coverage. Only large businesses or corporations tend to carry these types of insurance policies. Therefore, if you were struck by a truck, you might be able to reach a trucking company’s umbrella policy to cover your damages.
if someone was working at the time of the accident, for example, an IT technician driving to a client’s office, you could have an additional claim against their employer through a vicarious liability claim. Under these circumstances, you could potentially sue the driver and his employer.
Suing multiple defendants is another way to reach multiple insurance policies. If you have been involved in a crash, our experienced Hallandale Beach car accident attorney will thoroughly review your case’s facts to determine if there is more than one potentially liable party. Additional defendants could include other drivers, the municipality that maintained the road, or the vehicle’s manufacturer. The circumstances of your accident will determine if there are multiple defendants.
You also have the option to sue an at-fault driver personally. However, unless they have significant assets or resources, collecting will be difficult. Our Ft. Lauderdale car accident lawyers will review this and other options in those rare cases where the settlement award exceeds the insurance policy limits.
The Hollywood, FL car accident attorneys and staff at Florida South Law, PLLC, are committed to fighting for the rights of injured car accident victims. That means working with insurance companies and understanding policy limits in order to maximize compensation through settlement negotiations or litigations. Our Hallandale Beach personal injury lawyers will evaluate your claim and work to get you the money you deserve. Call our office at (954) 932-7877 to arrange a free appointment.