Automobile Insurance in Florida – What You Need to Know to be Fully Protected
Each day I come across individuals who have been involved in automobile, motorcycle, trucking, or pedestrian accidents and believed they had "full coverage" to protect themselves and their loved ones under their insurance policy, only to learn their insurance company and their agents had not fully explained to them all of the coverage available to them and the requirements of Florida law. An accident can occur to anyone at any time, usually when least expected. It can place the victim and their family in significant financial strain. Nevertheless, according to Florida law, if you own a motor vehicle with four or more wheels, you are only required to carry $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and a minimum of $10,000 of property damage (PD) liability insurance. Although not required by law, many drivers buy other types of insurance coverage in addition to the mandatory PIP and PD liability insurance. Common optional coverage includes: bodily injury liability, collision, comprehensive, uninsured motorist, medical payment, towing,and rental reimbursement. Therefore, in order to adequately protect yourself and your loved ones, it is extremely important to know the requirements of Florida law, as well as have a thorough understanding of all the optional insurance coverages available:
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) – The Florida Motor Vehicle No-Fault System, also known as PIP insurance, covers you regardless of whether you cause an accident (are "at-fault") up to the limit of $10,000. PIP insurance requires that your medical bills be directed to your own automobile insurance carrier. Your insurance company will pay 75% of the usual and customary charges for emergency services and care provided by any hospital, 80% of all reasonable, necessary and lawful medical, chiropractic, diagnostic, and transportation services related to injuries suffered from your car accident, and 60% of your lost wages up to a total of $10,000 minus any applicable deductible.
Property Damage (PD) – Since most accidents also involve damage to property, Florida mandates that all automobile insurance policies also carry Property Damage Liability coverage that pays for damage you cause to another person's property (fence, telephone pole, car, etc.) while driving. You may be subjected to a deductible of up to $500 for this coverage under your insurance policy.
Bodily Injury Liability – This coverage pays for serious and permanent injury or death to others when you are legally liable for an accident involving your vehicle. Your insurance company will pay for injuries up to the limits of the policy and will also pay for the legal defense if you are sued.
Collision – This coverage pays for replacement or repair of your vehicle when it collides with another vehicle, flips over or crashes into an object regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
Comprehensive – This coverage pays for losses for incidents other than collisions, such as fire, theft, hail, storm damage or vandalism. You may be subject to a deductible under this coverage for any damage other than the damage to your windshield.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM) – According to a recent Insurance Research Council report, in 2007 Florida ranked among the five states with the highest percentage of uninsured drivers. 23% of Floridians are driving without any insurance coverage on their vehicles. UM Insurance only pays if you, your passengers or family members are hit by someone who is "at-fault" and does not have insurance, or has insufficient liability insurance to cover the total damages sustained by you.
Medical Payment (Med-Pay) – Since PIP insurance does not cover all of the medical expenses, insurance companies offer medical payments insurance that covers medical expenses beyond those covered by PIP which result from accidental injury. Medical payments insurance differs from bodily injury liability coverage in that it covers the medical expenses of you, members of your family, and your passengers, regardless of who is "at- fault." This applies whether you're in your car, someone else's car, or are struck by a car while walking.
Towing & Rental Reimbursement – These coverages can be added to your automobile insurance policy and would provide you with additional peace of mind in the event that you can no longer drive your vehicle after the accident.
I am often confronted with the sad realization that many Floridian are driving vehicles without proper or any insurance coverage. Many of my clients express to me that they have "full coverage" automobile insurance on their vehicles. However, upon careful review of their insurance policies, many only purchased basic insurance coverage as prescribed by Florida law. These individuals were not informed as to all of the benefits that they were entitled to purchase or that by adding some of the additional insurance coverages, as outlined above, to a policy may only result in a slight increase in their monthly premiums. Therefore, since the requirements of Florida law are clearly insufficient, it is increasingly important that individuals take matters into their own hands and purchase adequate automobile insurance to protect themselves and not rely on others to have done so.