Can I Sue If The Other Driver Didn’t Have Insurance?

This is a frequent Avvo.com question. What typically happens is someone without bodily injury insurance hits someone who doesn't have uninsured motorist coverage. The person who was hit visits several attorneys, and they all tell her that they can't represent her because there's no way for the attorney to get a recovery. Maybe you're in that position right now. If you are, well, I'm sorry. I cannot help you either.

Law firms are businesses, too, just like any other business. Personal injury attorneys like me make our money off insurance companies, through either bodily injury or uninsured motorist coverage. If neither exists, then we won't touch your case. It's a bad investment.

So, can you sue the other party anyway?

You can sue, but our courts award judgements, not money, and it's up to you to collect on those judgements. Most people who carry only basic insurance are "judgement-proof." In other words, they have nothing, so you get nothing. Litigation isn't free, either. You'll need to pay the filing fee, the process server fees, expert witness fees, and a myriad of other costs. In the end, you might have a worthless judgement that you will never have any hope of collecting on unless the defendant wins the lottery. I wouldn't hold my breath hoping for that to occur.

Here's my advice: Take that money and buy insurance, and buy as much stacked uninsured motorist coverage as you can afford. You'll be glad you did it the next time some other uninsured driver hurts you.

Why You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Imagine not being at-fault in a crash but having medical bills that can bankrupt you because the other driver did not have bodily injury liability coverage.

I've seen it happen far too many times in my nearly 15 years as a claims adjuster and attorney.

Approximately 25% of Florida drivers do not have any insurance coverage. Even those drivers who have insurance coverage often don't have bodily injury liability ("BI") coverage. That's because Florida doesn't require BI coverage to drive in this state. You could be stuck with enormous hospital bills and only your $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection ("PIP") to soften the financial blow, and $10K doesn't last long.

Some people do have BI coverage, but usually, it's at very low amounts of $10K per person and $20K per crash. That's not much help either in many cases. I reviewed a client's hospital bill last night, and it was over $58,000 for his emergency room visit. My client didn't have any broken bones and did not require surgery.

Sadly, I wasn't shocked.

The client was somewhat fortunate that the other driver had $10K of BI coverage, but his $10K of PIP and the $10K of BI coverage really won't help much unless the hospital agrees to reduce or waive his bill. The chances of the hospital waiving his bill are very slim. I've been able to do it in the past, but there's no guarantee it will happen this time. As I tell my clients, those people don't work for me and I cannot force them to do anything. All I can do is ask nicely.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Buy as much uninsured motorist ("UM") coverage as you can afford. It's inexpensive protection.

Insurance companies don't want to sell it to you. That's because Florida is a risky place to drive and your chances of being injured in even a minor collision are very high.

Don't let an insurance agent talk you into not buying UM coverage. Buy as much as you can afford. You should also buy "stacked" UM coverage rather than non-stacked UM coverage even if you only own one vehicle. There are several advantages to stacked UM coverage that I'll discuss in another post.

Buy stacked UM coverage. Don't count on the other guy to protect you.

Be safe out there.

--Chris
DillinghamLaw.org