How to Collect Money Damages in a Personal Injury Lawsuit

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By Marcus Fernandez

A Tampa car accident may involve more than filing a claim for no-fault benefits. If you are seriously injured, your insurance may not reimburse you for all of the money damages you incurred. It may be necessary to hire a personal injury lawyer to file a lawsuit in order to collect money damages against the at-fault driver.

If the other driver has only the minimum automobile insurance coverage that Florida requires, your lawyer may need to go after the assets of all parties whose fault caused you to be injured. The following information about insurance coverage in Florida and options for collecting damages may provide answers should you ever be in a situation where you ask: “My injuries exceed the at-fault party’s insurance – What can I do?”

Florida insurance laws may put assets at risk

All states require that drivers have automobile insurance to register a vehicle. Florida motorists must show proof of the following coverage to register their cars:

  • Personal injury protection coverage of at least $10,000.
  • Property damage coverage of at least $20,000.

Personal injury protection, also known as PIP, pays for your medical treatment and lost wages. Florida is a no-fault state, so PIP coverage pays benefits without regard to who was at fault in causing the collision.

Pedestrian and passengers file their claims for PIP benefits with the insurance company that issued the policy covering their vehicles. If they do not own a car, they submit their claim through the PIP coverage on the vehicle that hit them or the one in which they were riding.

Carrying PIP coverage may not be enough to pay for the cost of medical care and lost earnings if seriously injured in a car crash. The $10,000 available coverage only applies if you seek treatment within 14 days from the date of the accident. If symptoms do not appear right away or you delay seeking treatment, the maximum coverage drops to $2,500 instead of $10,000.

PIP coverage does not cover everything, creating another issue with the no-fault insurance law in Florida. PIP does not pay for pain and suffering endured by someone injured in an accident. It only pays part of covered out-of-pocket expenses. PIP benefits pay only 80% of medically necessary services, including:

  • Medical treatment and surgical care
  • Ambulance services
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Hospital charges
  • Nursing care
  • Dental treatment
  • Prosthetic devices

It only pays 60% of an accident victim’s lost earnings. One way to recover damages for the pain and suffering and out-of-pocket costs incurred in a car accident may be to sue the other party.

Compensation options available for car accident victims

You may have options in addition to PIP coverage to pay the compensation you need following a car accident. Some of the insurance options may include the following:

  • Medical payment insurance coverage: Known as MedPay in Florida, this insurance is an optional coverage you can purchase as part of your automobile insurance policy. It reimburses you for medical expenses left unpaid by PIP coverage.
  • Workers’ compensation insurance: A car accident that occurs while you engage in a work-related activity may allow you to have your medical expenses and lost wages paid by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. Activities including traveling to a customer’s office for a sales call or delivering goods could qualify.
  • Health insurance: Coverage may be available through your health insurance provider for the cost of medical care that PIP does not cover.

A lawsuit against the at-fault driver in an accident may be an option for you to pursue. However, Florida law prevents you from getting non-economic damages unless you can prove at least one of the following:

  • Death
  • Significant and permanent disfigurement or scarring
  • Permanent injury
  • Significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function

If you sue the other driver, the bodily injury liability coverage in the at-fault party’s auto insurance policy pays claims made by other drivers, pedestrians or passengers injured in a car accident. It may not, however, be enough to pay all of the damages you suffered.

The amount of bodily injury liability coverage drivers add to their auto insurance policies to satisfy Florida’s financial responsibility requirements is $10,000 per person and $20,000 if more than one person is killed or injured. Damages over the coverage limits put the assets of a driver at risk of being seized. The assets could be sold to satisfy a judgment awarded to an injured party.

Other sources for recovering money damages when seriously injured

So, what are your options when the bodily injury liability coverage doesn’t pay the full amount of the expenses? If the negligence of another driver caused your accident, your Tampa personal injury lawyer might explore other options. One option includes making a claim against the other motorist’s umbrella liability insurance policy.

Umbrella policies cover claims that exceed the limits of the bodily injury liability coverage a person has on their vehicle. Drivers may not realize they have an umbrella policy, so your attorney may inquire about other insurance coverage a driver may have.

Uninsured motorist coverage may be available when the other driver flees from the accident or does not have insurance. It is an optional coverage you purchase as part of your auto insurance policy. Your personal injury attorney files a claim and negotiates with your own insurance company.

Purchasing underinsured motorist coverage when you get auto insurance gives you another source to pay damages. Still, its coverage limits do not pay all of the damages you incurred.

When insurance does not pay your damages, your attorney may take the case to trial to obtain a judgment against the party responsible for causing your injuries. Assets and income of the at-fault party may be seized by a sheriff and sold to pay the judgment.

Consult a Tampa personal injury lawyer for money damages

A car accident may cause you to ask: “My injuries exceed the at-fault party’s insurance – What can I do?” A Tampa personal injury lawyer may offer options available to satisfy your claim for damages caused by another party’s negligence.