So let's say (heaven forbid!) that you have been injured in an auto accident in Fort Lauderdale or elsewhere in Florida. It's a tough situation, but you feel secure because you carry "full coverage" in terms of auto insurance, right? Our South Florida Accident Lawyers hear this all the time from clients, but do you know what coverage your policy actually provides?
1. When you buy auto insurance in Florida...
Under Florida law, if you own a motor vehicle with four or more wheels, you must carry $10,000.00 of personal injury protection. You may have a deductible of up to $1000.00 for PIP coverage and $500 for property damage liability.
Interestingly, however, Florida does not require its drivers to carry much more than these two types of coverage. Other VERY IMPORTANT types of auto insurance benefits are NOT REQUIRED in Florida. For example, bodily injury coverage and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is not required to be carried by Florida residents. However, not paying for these important types of insurance coverage can have devastating practical impact on an accident victim.
2. PIP Insurance
PIP INSURANCE IS REQUIRED IN FLORIDA. PIP is an acronym for Personal Injury Protection or "no-fault" insurance. PIP Insurance is designed to cover you regardless of whether or not you are the "at-fault" driver up to $10,000.00 minus the deductible amount. PIP exists to reduce the necessity of suing for reimbursement of medical and related bills from auto accidents. PIP pays 80% pf reasonable medical expenses related to the auto accident and up to 60% of lost wages as a result of the accident. PIP also pays $5000.00 in benefits in the event of death.
In Florida, PIP covers you, relatives who live in your home, certain passengers who do not own a vehicle, and others who drive your car with your permission. Pedestrians and bicyclists who are Florida residents are also covered. PIP provides coverage for acts of violence against the policyholder, for example injuries sustained as a result of carjacking or road rage. For accidents that occur outside of Florida, but in the US or Canada, PIP covers you and relatives who live in your home. In this limited instance, you must be driving your own vehicle. People other than your relatives are not covered.
3. Property Damage Liability Insurance
Property Damage Liability Insurance is REQUIRED IN FLORIDA. It pays for damage that you or members of your family, cause to another person's property while driving. Property, in this instance, includes, for example, a telephone pole, fence or building, as well as another vehicle. This coverage applies even if you are driving someone else's car. It may even potentially cover any person who uses your car with permission, depending upon the terms of your policy.
4. Bodily Injury Coverage (BI)
Bodliy Injury Liability Coverage (BI) is NOT REQUIRED IN FLORIDA. Curiously, Florida DOES NOT require its residents to carry BI coverage. Did you know this? If not, you are not alone. Bodily Injury Liability Coverage (BI) pays for serious and permanent injury or death to OTHERS when your car is involved in an accident and you or the driver of your car is found to be at-fault.
While BI liability coverage is not generally required in Florida, there is an exception. If you have been convicted of a DUI, BI liability coverage is required for a period of three years after your license has been reinstated. If you were convicted on or before Oct. 1, 2007, you must get a minimum of $10,000 worth of coverage per person and $20,000 worth of coverage per incident. If you were convicted after Oct. 1, 2007, you must have $100,000 worth of coverage per person and $300,000 worth of coverage per accident. You also must have a minimum of $50,000 in property damage coverage.
BI coverage pays for serious and permanent injury or death to others when your vehicle is involved in an accident and the driver of your car is found to be at fault to some degree. This policy pays for injuries caused by you and relatives who reside with you, even if they are driving another person's car. BI liability coverage also covers people who drive your car with your permission. This coverage applies only after PIP benefits are exhausted. With this type of coverage, the insurance company also will pay for your legal defense in the event you are sued.
5. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM)
UM/UIM coverage is NOT REQUIRED IN FLORIDA. This means that if you are seriously injured by an uninsured/underinsured driver and have not had the foresight and good sense to purchase UM/UIM benefits, you could be completely out of luck. UM/UIM coverage is even more important considering the thousands of unlicensed and thus, uninsured motorists on Florida roadways.
Stop and think about this. If you do not carry UM/UIM insurance protection on your policy, if you are injured by a driver with no insurance or insufficient insurance, you will receive no compensation for your injury. UM/UIM coverage is essential; why it is not mandatory under Florida law is a mystery to our lawyers. In our humble opinion, UM/UIM protection is of the utmost importance. Why is this coverage so important?
UM/UIM pays you if you, your passengers, or family members are hit by someone who is "at-fault" and either does not carry any bodily injury coverage or does not carry sufficient bodily injury coverage. This applies whether you are in your car, riding in someone else's car or are struck by a car as a pedestrian. UM/UIM also applies in hit-and-run situations or in a "phantom" vehicle accident. UM/UIM coverage pays for medical expenses, lost wages (beyond PIP coverage), bodily injury, sickness, disease or death resulting from an auto accident.
This is just a short primer on some important fundamentals of auto insurance coverage. There are others types of coverage beyond the scope of this article like Medical Payments coverage and Collision Insurance, among others. Are you certain that you are aware of what benefits your auto policy carries and what benefits it does not? If you are uncertain, call a qualified legal professional to help you sort through your questions and give you clarity. Doing so today will make you glad you did in the event you suffer serious injuries in an auto accident.
In our humble opinion, all Florida drivers should seriously consider, at a minimum, carrying BI and UM/UIM benefits in order to protect themselves and their families in the event they are injured and have their lives turned upside down by an uninsured motorist.
We would be glad to answer any questions you may have regarding your car accident or your insurance coverage. Just give us a call us today at any one of our South Florida locations for a free confidential consultation in Broward County at 954.888.8998 ex. 2, or in Palm Beach County at 561.515.7273. If you need to speak to one of our Miami-Dade Car Accident Attorneys, you can call anytime at 305.224.8089 or simply call us toll-free at 844-380-HURT. WE ARE ALWAYS IN YOUR CORNER.