We would like to take a moment to tell you about a problem we encounter on a daily basis that could have a major impact on your life. The problem is the all too common occurrence of people being victimized by uninsured and under-insured drivers who use our roads. This problem is real and serious. It could spell disaster for those who aren’t prepared for a car accident caused by a financially irresponsible driver.
To understand this problem, we have to start by understanding the backdrop of Florida auto insurance law. In Florida, the only car insurance coverages required by law are (1) Property Damage Coverage, and (2) Personal Injury Protection Benefits (“PIP”).
- Your Property Damage insurance will pay someone else for damage to their property when you cause an accident. This includes paying for a totaled car, or the costs of repairing a car after a wreck. It does not provide coverage for injuries to any person’s body.
- PIP insurance pays certain economic benefits, such as a portion of your own medical bills or wage loss, regardless of who is a fault for an accident. In Florida, PIP is limited to a total of $10,000.
One should also bear in mind that PIP does not pay 100-percent of medical bills up to its $10,000 limit. PIP only pays 80-percent of reasonable medical charges. That means an injured person, under the best of circumstances, will still have to pay the 20-percent difference either from their own pocket or other insurance sources.
Florida residents can’t even be sure that their entire $10,000 of PIP benefits will be available. Auto insurance companies sometimes cut off those benefits using various legal maneuvers. Often, the only recourse one has when that happens is to file a lawsuit against the insurance company to try and win back the terminated benefits. This can be a long and difficult process without a guaranteed outcome.
For these reasons, it isn’t realistic to assume PIP will cover all of your medical bills. This is especially true in the current environment, where emergency transport and an emergency room visit can use up the entire $10,000 benefit. A seriously injured person will often have medical bills or lost wages which are much greater. We often see clients with medical bills well into the six figures.
Even more importantly, there are several kinds of losses one can suffer in a car crash which PIP doesn’t cover at all. In Florida, victims of negligent drivers are entitled by law to recover several categories of damages caused by an accident, such as:
- Future medical bills.
- Future lost wages (known as loss of earning capacity).
- Damages for suffering, pain, loss of quality of life, loss of the ability to enjoy ones life, disfigurement, disability, mental anguish, and the like.
Again, none of these three categories are covered by PIP or other mandatory forms of Florida auto insurance. For that reason, there is no guarantee that you could ever recover these items of damages from a financially irresponsible driver who makes a mistake and injures you.
In an ideal world, all Florida drivers would carry insurance to cover these damages when they negligently cause harm to others. We believe this coverage, known as “bodily injury liability” coverage (BI), should be mandatory. However, under current law it is not. As a result, many drivers don’t want to pay for it and don’t have it. The uninsured driver rate in our local area (Pinellas and Pasco County) is estimated to be about 23-percent, or roughly one in four drivers.
Even among drivers who do carry BI coverage, the limits of that coverage are often low. Auto insurance companies offer BI coverage with limits as low as $10,000. That means the available limits may not begin to compensate an injured person for all their damages.
Some people believe they can recover any additional damages from an at-fault driver personally. That is just not realistic. Most Florida drivers do not have enough available cash or assets to pay for a large damage award. Also, Florida law protects certain property and assets from being taken by creditors. That means there is little real hope of actually recovering a large damage award from a deadbeat motorist.
Finally, many people have a false sense of security if they carry health insurance. They believe health insurance will cover any damages which PIP does not. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Health insurance does not cover lost wages, future medical bills, or non-economic damages at all. And even the coverage it provides for medical bills is not complete. Deductibles, co-pays, and coverage denials can still result in one being stuck with large unpaid bills.
Fortunately, there is a solution. The answer lies in obtaining as much uninsured motorist insurance as you can afford. We urge you to follow this simple advice:
- Contact your car insurance company or agent to determine whether you have BI insurance.
- If you have BI insurance, make sure you did not reject UM insurance (you automatically get UM if you obtain BI).
- Make sure your UM is “stacking”. Make sure you did not reject stacked UM (stacking provides significant additional coverage in several situations, even if you only have one car).
- Get several quotes on your insurance (the difference between companies can be significant).
Sadly, we have seen firsthand how insurance agents or companies frequently provide customers with poor explanations and legally inaccurate explanations of how the different coverages work. People regularly reject BI and UM coverage and select “unstacked UM” based on bad advice. Don’t be one of them. And don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
We realize that all insurance policies are expensive and increasingly so. Still, the consequences of being uninsured or underinsured can be devastating. Purchase the highest UM limits you can afford. Otherwise, great losses can go completely uncompensated in the tragic event of a wrongful death or catastrophic injury. It is difficult enough to collect what you deserve from an insurance company after a collision. Having little or no coverage can mean you don’t even get to try.
If you would like more information, or have any questions about uninsured motorist insurance coverage, please feel free to call our offices. We believe this problem would not exist as it does today if Florida drivers were more informed when buying insurance.
We have no affiliation with any auto insurance company and do not make money on the sale of UM insurance. We just think we owe it to our friends and neighbors to let them know about this issue.
Contact the Car Accident Law Firm Of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers To Get The Help You Deserve
If you need help with your injury case or you want to learn more information, please call the Car Accident law firm of Roman Austin Personal Injury Lawyers at (727) 787-2500 or visit the nearest location to schedule a free case evaluation today.
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