You probably know that Florida is a “no fault” state for motor vehicle insurance. But what does that really mean for Floridians and the insurance we should carry?
“No fault” refers to the basic personal insurance protection (PIP) Florida law requires in every automobile (but not motorcycle) policy. It is a $10,000 “pot” that pays 80% of medical bills and/or 60% of lost wages from your own policy–regardless of who is at fault for the accident. (You can choose to exclude wage loss coverage.) In short, if you are injured in automobile accident, your insurer must pay these benefits and you can’t be penalized for it. Florida doesn’t require drivers to carry any more than basic PIP and $10,000 worth of property coverage. That’s it. So far too many Florida drivers carry only PIP (which pays their own medical bills) and property damage coverage (which pays for damage to your car).
But, what happens if you are seriously injured? The basic $10,000 in PIP benefits can be spent quickly on medical expenses. Then what? Can you protect yourself from these underinsured drivers?The answer is yes, but you must know about the coverages available to you as well the benefits to which you may be entitled. You are entitled to recover all of your out-of-pocket expenses for things like medical, nursing and rehabilitative costs, past loss wages, and future loss of income. Additionally, if you suffer death, loss of limb, significant scarring or permanent injury, you or your estate
is entitled to be compensated for pain, suffering, and loss of companionship resulting from your injuries. Obviously, if the at-fault driver is underinsured or not insured at all, it could be all but impossible to recover these benefits. That’s why the most important insurance coverage might be uninsured motorist coverage (UM). This is a separate coverage makes sure your own insurance company “fills in the gaps” when you are involved with an uninsured or underinsured driver. This coverage is so critical that Florida law requires all insurance companies offering bodily injury liability insurance to include UM coverage as well. But, you can elect to not buy this coverage. No one should ever accept this risk. Always elect to spend the very few extra dollars because it could literally change your or your family’s lives or income. Too often people reject this
coverage without even knowing it because they simply sign the Rejection Form along with the scores of other documents needed when buying insurance. Don’t fall into this trap! Specifically tell your agent you want UM and don’t sign any document waiving this coverage.
Also, it’s important to make sure your UM coverage is “stacking.” This makes sure, for example, if you elected limits of $100,000 UM benefits, and you have three vehicles insured under that policy, the amount of benefits available to you triples to $300,000. It also expands the coverage to other vehicles in certain cases. Again, in order to waive the valuable stacking coverage, you must sign an explicit waiver. Don’t do it! Tell your agent you insist on stacking UM!
If you have questions as to what benefits your current insurance policy provides,
ask your attorney to review it for you. Many of us will do so for free, and the small amount of time you invest in this can lead to huge benefits in the future.