If you own a motor vehicle which is registered in the State of Florida, you are required to have certain types of coverage, namely Property Damage and Personal Injury Protection. If you have only these two types of coverage, you have what is mandated by the State. You do not have “full coverage.” Many people mistakenly assume that if they carry the required coverage, that is all they need – nothing could be farther from the truth!
I do not sell insurance, and I don’t have an interest in any insurance agencies or companies, but I do have an interest in making sure Florida residents are fully aware of the different types of coverage which are available to them, so that they can make an informed decision of what types of coverage to buy.
In addition to the two coverages required by the State, there are two additional types of coverage which are, in my opinion, extremely important to purchase. The first of these is called Bodily Injury Liability (“BI”) coverage. That coverage is designed to protect your personal assets in the event you cause or contribute to an automobile accident. For example, if you are involved in an automobile accident which is totally or partially your fault, and anyone is injured, the injured party or parties can sue you. This is the case if you are driving the automobile or if you own the automobile which is involved in the accident.
If you don’t have BI coverage (and many people in Florida do not, as will be discussed below), and the injured person or persons obtain a judgment against you for damages they sustained on account of your negligence, your personal assets can be in serious jeopardy. Further, you will either have to defend yourself in court or hire an attorney at your own expense to do so. If, on the other hand, you had purchased Bodily Injury Liability coverage, your insurance company will not only provide an attorney on your behalf, but they will also pay the injured parties’ damages up to the limits of your coverage. Even if you have been advised that you are “judgment-proof,” meaning that you don’t have any assets which could be subject to a judgment, if you don’t have Bodily Injury Liability coverage, and you want to have an attorney defend you in a lawsuit brought against you by an injured party, the attorney’s fees alone could be more than $20,000.00.
OK, have I convinced you to talk to your insurance agent about purchasing Bodily Injury Liability coverage? Good! Now let’s talk about how you can protect yourself and your family even further. Remember what I said earlier about many individuals in Florida not carrying Bodily Injury Liability coverage? Let’s take the flip side of the accident scenario and assume that you are involved in an accident which is not your fault. If the driver who caused the accident does not carry BI coverage and you are seriously injured, you may have no recourse against that driver, unless they have sufficient personal assets against which you can collect a judgment. So, how do you protect yourself in that situation?
Uninsured (or underinsured) Motorist coverage, called “UM” for short, is the answer. If you have UM coverage, your own insurance company will pay you for your damages if the at-fault driver either doesn’t have Bodily Injury Liability coverage, or doesn’t have sufficient coverage to adequately pay all of your damages. UM is very valuable coverage to have – if you are going to protect other drivers, why not protect yourself as well?
I can’t begin to tell you how many injured people have come into my office in the last 25 years after having been in an automobile accident and thinking they have “full coverage,” since they have the coverage which the State requires all automobile owners to have. It is heartbreaking to tell them that they actually have no insurance coverage which will pay them in the event they need to be off work for an extended period of time, or that will pay their medical bills for extended hospitalization or surgeries.
In addition to discussing Bodily Injury Liability and UM coverage with your insurance agent, be sure to also ask them to review your current policy to be sure you are carrying adequate Property Damage coverage. In this day and age, when many vehicles on the road are worth $50,000 or more, you need to be sure you have enough Property Damage insurance. Also, carefully look at your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage and Medical Payments coverage. In my experience, for just pennies a month, you can increase your Medical Payments coverage to the maximum allowed by law. Make sure you understand what it means if you have a deductible on your PIP and ask how much it would cost to remove that deductible.
If this article causes you to make an appointment with your insurance agent to discuss your current policy and how you can further protect your family, I have succeeded! Safe driving!