Uninsured motorist coverage provides compensation to an insured for bodily injury or wrongful death damages inflicted by the negligence of an uninsured motorist. Brown v. Progressive Mutual Insurance Co., 249 So.2d 429 (Fla. 1971). Underinsured motorist coverage provides the same protection when there is a deficiency in the tort-feasor’s liability coverage. Dewberry v. Auto-Owners Insurance Co., 363 So.2d 1077 (Fla. 1978). The purpose of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is to allow an insured the same coverage that would have been available had the negligent tort-feasor obtained liability coverage equal to that of the insured. Id.
Unfortunately, some automobile owners opt-out of purchasing uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage because they either 1) do not understand what it is and why they should have it or 2) are convinced not to purchase it because it will save them money on their monthly or yearly premiums. That being said, I would recommend that you speak with your agent or broker before your next renewal period to either add or increase the amount of your UM/UIM coverage. Why you may ask? The statistics below are stifling.
The Miami Herald published an article on March 5, 2017 regarding the death of a good Samaritan and a 22-day-old baby. Both died recently as a result of a hit-and-run crashes in Miami-Dade County. These two cases exemplify something far too common in South Florida. It seems like every day I turn on the local news I hear a story about someone who has died or been injury after being hit by a driver who has fled the scene.
The numbers reported in the Herald from Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) will blow your mind. There were 78,661 hit-and-run crashes in the state in 2013. In 2016, that number jumped by more than 125% to 99,004. Of those 99,004 reported hit-and-run accidents, 19,087 occurred in Miami-Dade County. This was more than any other county. Not that far behind in second and third place were Broward County (11,993) and Palm Beach County (7,694).
Most policies include vehicles operated by hit-and-run drivers and “phantom” vehicles in the definition of “uninsured motor vehicle,” regardless of whether the vehicle can be identified or physical contact occurred. Brown v. Progressive Mutual Insurance Co., 249 So.2d 429 (Fla. 1971); Denoia v. Hartford Fire Insurance Co., 843 So.2d 285 (Fla. 3d DCA 2003).
Just as troubling is the number of uninsured drivers operating vehicles on the roads in the State of Florida. In 2015, the Orlando Sentinel reported on a study done by WalletHub which showed that 23.8 percent of Floridian ignore the rules and don’t have insurance. Only Oklahoma has a higher rate of uninsured drivers. One problem is that Florida law only requires $10,000 for personal injury protection and $10,000 for property damage. This allows some carriers to prey on low income and minority drivers to sell them the bare minimum insurance.
Despite these statistics, if you or a loved one are injured in a hit and run accident or are hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver you may still have a claim. As such, you should immediately contact a lawyer to assist you in determining whether you have insurance coverage to compensate you for your injuries and to assist in setting up and prosecuting your claim. You cannot and should not assume that your insurance company and its adjusters will do the right thing.
The lawyers at the Eltringham Law Group have years of experience representing injured victims in claims against insurance companies and are committed to diligently and aggressively representing their clients so that they are compensated the full value of the claim. We would be honored to represent you, your family or friends in your claim against the insurance companies if you are injured as a result of the negligence of a hit and run or uninsured/underinsured driver.
About the Author: Mr. Jerla is the managing partner and head of the firm’s litigation department. He has been AV Rated by Martindale Hubble since 2012 and was named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine in 2016.