As a Miami car accident lawyer, our office investigates dozens of Florida car crashes a month on behalf of injured car crash victims. As the economy worsens, more and more accidents involve uninsured or under-insured parties.
Florida law requires that every [private car or truck owner or operator comply with the minimum insurance requirements. Florida Statute 324.021 defines the insurance requirements and the requirements of proof of financial responsibility. Many Florida car crash victims are confused between the two terms.
Florida requires only two kinds of insurance to own or operate a car or truck: Personal Injury Protection (PIP) of $10,000 and Property Damage Liability (PDL) of $10,000. PIP is designed to provide payment to the owner or operator for medical bills or lost wages regardless of who is at fault for the accident. Accordingly PIP is commonly referred to as “Florida’s No-Fault Insurance.” PDL is for payment of property damage to the not-at-fault party’s car, truck or personal property.
To me, as a Miami car accident lawyer, it seems a strange and confusing scheme. Florida demands that we insure our own medical coverage for up to $10,000 (presumably to protect doctors and hospitals) and the other person’s car or personal property damage. There is no mandatory Bodily Injury (BI) or Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) in Florida. Therefore, in Florida, there is no obligation to buy insurance that would pay the injured party damages for pain, suffering, disfigurement, disability or loss of the quality of life.
Ironically, buried deep in the Financial Responsibility Chapter of the Florida Statutes is Section 324.021 (7)(a) which requires Florida drivers or owners to “respond” in the amount of $10,000 if they cause bodily injury or death to an other person in any one crash. Section (b) extends the requirement to $20,000 if there are two or more persons who are injured or die in the crash. Florida car owners and drivers are to comply with this requirement by providing “Proof of Financial Responsibility.” The problem is that the overwhelming majority of Florida drivers are not insured nor have they complied with the required proof. Please note: the proof is only required after an accident has occurred.
There are numerous and complex exceptions to the rules as well as severe consequences for failure to comply including a waiver of tort immunity. Different requirements apply to commercial and lease vehicles. Our South Florida Personal Injury law firm recommends that any owner of a car in the state of Florida consult not just with their insurance agent or broker but a competent and experienced auto accident or traffic wreck lawyer who can guide and direct you into acquiring the appropriate insurance coverage for you and your family. It is always better to obtain the insurance BEFORE you are involved in a car accident.
In Florida car or truck crashes involving property damages and bodily injuries, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles will mail an inquiry to the owner/operator requesting they provide proof of bodily injury and property damage liability coverage at the time of the crash.
If they did not have this coverage, they must purchase it and certify to the Department on a special form (Form SR-22) for three years, and obtain releases from the victims that they were compensated fully for their bodily injuries and/or property damages.
The above requirements must be met before the suspension date in the inquiry notice to prevent the suspension of the owner’s tags and registrations, and the operator’s driver license for three years, unless compliance is met earlier.
In addition, a $15 reinstatement fee is required if compliance is met after suspension.