Are you SHOCKED to know that a person who was at fault for an automobile crash may not have insurance to pay for your damages (those including past and future medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering)? Did you know that this is perfectly legal? Many victims are surprised to learn that another driver was responsible for their damages but yet they cannot recover any money from that person for their losses. Although we hope the law changes in the future, until then, we have to live with the consequences and protect ourselves. Your best protection is to learn about insurance, what damages each type of insurance coverage protects and purchase the necessary insurance to protect you against others who do not carry enough insurance.
Call our office now to speak with an attorney FREE of charge to go over your current insurance policy and find out what insurance coverages might be missing to protect yourself and which insurance companies are more likely to protect you in a time of need.
INSURANCE THAT IS REQUIRED:
Property Damage (“PD”): This mandatory insurance will pay for another person’s property damage (including damages to vehicles, trees, gates, walls, signs and other property) if you are found to be at-fault for an auto crash. This insurance will not pay for your own damages to your vehicle and other property if you are at fault, but instead only pays for other people’s property in the event that you are at-fault.
Personal Injury Protection (“PIP” or “No-fault Insurance”): No matter who was at fault for an auto crash, each driver’s own PIP insurance policy pays for each’s own medical bills and lost wages, up to the first $10,000, and sometimes subject to a deductible. Florida is a “no-fault” State in terms of its auto negligence law, which means that no matter who is at-fault for an auto crash, each driver’s own PIP policy is primary (or the first to pay, even before any applicable health insurance pays) in paying for each’s medical expenses and lost wages up to the $10,000 limits. Because of how costly medical care is in today’s world, the $10,000 limits in PIP coverage is almost never enough to cover a person’s full amount of medical bills and lost wages.
THAT’S IT – there is no other mandatory auto insurance in Florida!! AND BEWARE!!! Although you were told that you have “FULL COVERAGE”, remember that insurance agents can legally say that you have “FULL COVERAGE” as long as you buy the minimum mandatory insurance coverages (PD and PIP). However, you likely do not have the other types of insurance coverage available to you, including the type that protects you from drivers having only the minimum mandatory insurance coverages.
OTHER AVAILABLE INSURANCE NOT REQUIRED BY LAW:
Bodily Injury (“BI”): This insurance coverage is purchased mainly to protect you, when you are at fault for an accident and someone makes a claim against you for their personal damages (including past and future medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering). We recommend purchasing BI with limits no less than $100,000 per person with a total of $300,000 per crash (also referred to as $100,000/$300,000). Some substandard insurance companies sell mostly policies with limits of only $10,000/$20,000, and when an accident occurs, they don’t protect their insured by paying for the other person’s damages in full and instead makes them vulnerable to “excess liability.” Excess liability is the amount of money, over and above the amount of available insurance (both Bodily Injury and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage). Thus, it is best to purchase an insurance policy with a reputable company and sufficient policy limits.
To put this in perspective, for example, lets assume you have a $10,000/$20,000 BI policy with ABC Insurance Co. You are involved in an auto accident, for which you are at fault, and the other driver has $50,000 in medical treatment. The first $10,000 is paid by the other driver’s PIP policy, and now the other makes a claim against you for the remaining $40,000. If ABC Insurance Co. only offers $5,000 and forces the other driver to file a lawsuit against you and a jury awards him $100,000 (in past & future medical bills, past & future lost wages and pain and suffering), ABC Insurance Co. will now pay the $10,000 and you are exposed to $80,000 in excess liability. However, a reputable insurance company will realize the other driver’s damages early on and tender the $10,000 limits, in exchange a signed Release (of future liability) by the other driver, and minimize your exposure. Also, having sufficient Bodily Injury insurance limits also minimizes your personal exposure in these circumstances.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage (“UM”): This is the “PROTECT YOURSELF” insurance coverage. Most drivers do not purchase any “BI” insurance because they want their insurance agent to give them “the cheapest policy available.” Consequently, this makes you, me and every driver vulnerable to being involved in a crash with another at-fault driver yet being unable to recover any money for damages above PIP. However, UM insurance is essentially insurance that “steps into the shoes” of an at-fault driver who has no, or very little, BI coverage (as if though the other driver had bought BI coverage). This coverage can be expensive, but is absolutely necessary in order to protect yourself against damages caused by other uninsured or underinsured drivers. You cannot protect yourself more than you protect others, and so you cannot have UM coverage without purchasing BI coverage.
Umbrella Coverage (“Excess”): Umbrella, or Excess Coverage, pays for damages above the available limits in BI and/or UM. Once adequate BI and UM limits are purchased (generally a minimum of $250,000/$500,000 is required), a policy with limits of $1,000,000 or more can be purchased for as little as $50 a month.
Below are common scenarios we see in practice:
You are in a crash where you and the at fault driver have only the required PIP/PD insurance – your car gets fixed and you get up to $10,000 in lost wages and medical benefits from your own PIP insurance. That’s it! No matter the extent of the harm caused, that is all you will recover.
You are in a crash where you are the at-fault driver and the other party is seriously injured. You have no BI coverage or only a $10,000/$20,000 BI policy. The other driver can sue you, collect from your bank accounts and garnish your wages for any recovery over your policy of insurance. We generally do not accept those cases on the Plaintiff’s side and do not seek collection from people who are underinsured, unless we find the person has significant assets. However, some lawyers do take these cases. Also, there is always the threat of bankruptcy. These cases just never work out well.
You are in a crash where the at-fault driver has $100,000 in BI insurance, and you have $100,000 in UM insurance, you can recover up to $200,000 for your personal damages.
You are in a crash where the at-fault driver has no BI insurance, but you have $250,000 in UM insurance and a $1,000,000 umbrella policy with UM, you can recover up to $1.25mil for your personal damages.