Do You Have the Right Automobile Insurance Coverage?

Living in Florida, it is extremely important to have the right automobile insurance coverage to protect you, your loved ones and your property. Florida is in the top five states nationally for uninsured drivers with a recent study showing over 23% of Florida drivers to be uninsured. The percentage of drivers in Florida who do not carry Bodily Injury or “BI” coverage may, however, be much higher as Florida law does not require drivers to carry BI coverage. The minimum coverage required by Florida law to license a vehicle is $10,000.00 in Property Damage coverage and $10,000.00 in Personal Injury Protection or PIP coverage. Some people mistakenly think this is “full coverage”, but this is just the bare bones minimum of auto coverage required. This means that being involved in a motor vehicle collision in Florida, it is highly likely that the at-fault driver will not be carrying enough insurance to cover you and your family for your injuries and damages.

Automobile Insurance Coverage

Do You Have the Types of Coverage That You Need?

Now is always a good time to check your insurance coverage on your motor vehicle as changes in coverage do not apply retroactively to prior accidents which have already occurred. You will need the coverage in place before an accident occurs for it to cover an accident. There are many different types of automobile insurance coverage available in Florida and you should be aware of what each of those insurance coverages provides when purchasing or changing your coverage:

  • Minimum Coverage in Florida – The minimum automobile insurance coverage required in Florida is $10,000 in Property Damage (to cover other vehicles and property damaged by your negligent operation of your vehicle) and $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection or PIP coverage. THIS IS NOT FULL COVERAGE but is bare bones coverage which you should only have if you simply cannot afford anything else (and even then is not recommended).
  • Collision Coverage – Collision coverage is the coverage that insures your own vehicle from damage caused by your own fault or by an uninsured or underinsured driver. If you have a loan on your vehicle, this will likely be required by your bank or credit union to make sure that the vehicle you are paying off can be fixed after an accident. Unless your vehicle is worth less than your insurance premium, and you can afford to replace your vehicle, you should be carrying collision coverage for your vehicle. You should not carry a deductible larger than you could afford to pay on short notice to have your vehicle repaired, although raising your deductible will lower your premiums.
  • Comprehensive Coverage – Comprehensive coverage insures your own vehicle for losses other than a motor vehicle collision, such as theft, vandalism, fire, or flood. If you carry comprehensive coverage, windshield damage and replacement without a deductible are included under Florida policies. Unless your vehicle is worth less than your insurance premium, and you can afford to replace your vehicle, you should be carrying comprehensive coverage for your vehicle.
  • Property Damage Coverage usually applies whether you are driving your vehicle or another vehicle and you negligently cause damage to another vehicle or property (not your own vehicle). A minimum of $10,000 is required on Florida policies, but it is recommended that you carry coverage of at least $50,000 per vehicle or $100,000 per accident. With that coverage, you would have up to $50,000 in property damage coverage per vehicle and up to $100,000 per accident (if there were 2 or more other vehicles or buildings involved). More insurance is a good idea if you can afford it – this is just a minimum recommended. Although you should make sure that you have enough insurance coverage, going with only minimal property damage coverage is a bad idea as your license and vehicle title will likely be suspended and other insurance companies will likely take a judgment against you for any additional property damage caused by you for which you did not carry sufficient coverage.
  • GAP Insurance Coverage – GAP coverage is just that; it covers the gap in between the value of your vehicle at the time of a collision and what you still owe on it. Given the significant drop in the value of many vehicles driving them off the car lot, GAP coverage is often a good idea if you are not putting much down on a loan or are “upside-down” or “underwater” on a loan (owing more than the vehicle’s value). Replacement coverage is also often available which would provide enough coverage to buy an equal or better vehicle if your vehicle is totaled, but it is not the same as GAP coverage and can still leave you upside down on a loan.
  • Personal Injury Protection or “PIP” Coverage – Although required by law, there are changes which can be made to the general PIP coverage which you can purchase. The general PIP coverage is for up to $10,000 in related lost wages and reasonable and related medical expenses when an emergency medical condition or EMC exists. This is a combined total of $10,000 and not $10,000 for each and PIP pays at 80% of medical expenses and 60% of lost wages up to that $10,000 total. Many policies now define reasonable as 200% of Medicare rates for medical expenses, but that will depend on the insurance company with whom you shop and their policy language. If no authorized medical doctor has declared an emergency medical condition or EMC from the accident, then PIP can be capped at $2,500 of medical expenses paid by the insurance company but some companies ignore this restriction.
  • 14 Day Treatment Requirement – Please note that if you fail to treat within 14 days of your accident, your insurance company will likely deny PIP payment of your medical bills related to your accident as the statute requires medical treatment within 14 days of the accident.
  • PIP Deductibles – It is still possible to get a $500 to $2,500 deductible on your PIP coverage (meaning that losses must exceed that number before PIP pays anything), but it does not save you much money and is generally a bad idea because it will leave you responsible for those bills up front and can affect your ability to obtain a doctor.
  • Waiver of PIP Wage Loss – You can waive PIP wage loss benefits as part of the coverage, which if you carry short term and long term disability insurance or do not work can reduce the cost of your insurance, but it is otherwise not recommended.
  • Medical Payments or MedPay Coverage – MedPay pays in a supplement to PIP medical payments and if you do not have health insurance it is a good idea to carry $5,000 to $10,000 in MedPay, but be sure to read the fine print on MedPay coverage as it varies from company to company. It is not statutorily required so there can be many limitations placed within the policy on MedPay coverage, including a requirement of an EMC to obtain it. The restrictions placed on MedPay coverage by a few insurance companies make it not worth the expense.
  • Bodily Injury or BI Coverage – BI coverage covers physical injury caused by you or someone driving your vehicle to other people and is actually not required in the State of Florida, except for some drivers who have been convicted of a DUI. As the at-fault driver’s insurance, and to a limited extent the owner of the vehicle’s insurance if different, pays for the damages caused to other individuals due to negligence, it is important to carry sufficient coverage to protect you and your family. Although more coverage is recommended, a minimal amount of BI that should be carried is $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident. Please note that not carrying any BI coverage is a bad idea because you are likely to face a lawsuit and judgment either from the other driver or their insurance company (if they paid MedPay or UM benefits to their insured and you were at fault for the collision). If you carry BI coverage, you should also be provided with a legal defense to any such lawsuits against you to help protect you, but you will be on your own to hire your own attorney out of pocket if you did not carry BI coverage.
  • Uninsured Motorist or UM / Under-Insured Motorist or UIM Coverage – Although often waived by insured, this is probably the most important (and comparatively cheap) insurance coverages you can purchase as it protects you and your loved ones for injuries and damages caused by uninsured and under-insured motorists. Do not ever waive UM/ UIM coverage! Although more coverage is recommended, a minimal amount of UM/ UIM coverage which should be carried is $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.
  • Stacked vs. Unstacked Uninsured/ Under-Insured Motorist Coverage – If you own more than one vehicle insured on the same policy you should request that the coverage is “stacked” which essentially multiplies your coverage available based on the number of vehicles insured.
  • Umbrella Policies – If you have substantial assets or are an individual against whom an attorney might consider taking a judgment against, it is a good idea to carry an umbrella policy as this will help cover you against a potential excess judgment above your BI limits. Umbrella policies are comparatively very cheap and can be purchased to provide excess coverage for potential judgments against you.
  • Accidental Death & Dismemberment Benefits – Is self-explanatory and should be included in your coverage if you can afford it.
  • Towing & Rental Vehicle Coverage – If you are a member of AAA and have extra vehicles at home this might not be an important coverage, but towing and rental costs can add up quickly at a time when you are already potentially out of work and incurring medical expenses. It is recommended.
  • Coverage for Vehicle Owner – Note that if you have a minor or family member driving your vehicle, or loan your vehicle to another to use, then you can be liable for any accidents and damages they cause. Although the limits of the damages you can be responsible for are capped by statute in some circumstances, you should be sure to carry no less than $10,000 in PIP, $50,000/ $100,000 in Property Damages and $100,000/ $300,000 in BI coverage on any such vehicle to better protect yourself.
  • BE SURE to disclose all family members and individuals living in your home or residence to your insurance company and to update them with that information in writing whenever it changes. Some insurance companies look for failures to disclose changes in residents at your residence as a basis to frequently deny claims.

Contact Us

Figuring out the proper motor vehicle insurance coverage for you can be complicated and time-consuming, but it will become a lot more complicated after an accident if you did not get good coverage in the first place. If you are not sure whether your coverage is sufficient, you should ask your agent or insurer for further information. But if you have already been in an accident or become entangled in a legal matter or a dispute with your insurance company, please contact us for the experienced insurance attorney that you need to ensure your rights are protected. Initial phone consultations for Florida personal injury cases and insurance claims are free and most cases can be handled on a contingency.

Uninsured Motorist Provisions, the Forgotten Coverage

Even though car insurance is required by law in every state, that does not mean that every driver is covered equally. In Florida, the minimum insurance coverage required by law does not protect victims injured in accidents.

In fact, Florida law only requires motorists to have personal injury protection and property damage liability insurance. There is no requirement for bodily injury insurance, which covers the people who are not at fault in an accident; although, the state requires that drivers sign a waiver if they do not want uninsured motorist protection.

This means that if you are struck and injured by another driver with the minimum coverage required by law, and you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, you will not have any coverage for your medical expenses except your own health insurance. It is almost as if that person is not insured at all.

uninsured motorist coverage

A Cautionary Tale

A few months ago, Chuck met with two high-level professionals—one of whom was a bank executive—who had been injured in an accident. Driving their BMW, they were sideswiped by a young man and collided with a median. The man who hit them immediately drove away, leaving each of these men with extensive back and neck injuries, which caused them to miss work to recover.

These two friends assured Chuck that they had full coverage, and they wanted his help getting what was due to them from their insurance companies. They each had tremendous coverage for everything: $1 million in property damage, $1 million in bodily injury, you name it. But after a quick investigation, Chuck discovered that neither of the men had Uninsured Motorist Coverage because they had waived it.

There was nothing he could do for them.

Uninsured Motorist Insurance—Why You Need It

We call UM insurance the “forgotten coverage” because it so few people has it. It is easy to assume that if you are in a car accident, your medical expenses will be covered by your auto insurance or that of the other driver. This is not always the case because so many Florida motorists are not insured or under-insured.

High Percentage of Uninsured Drivers

According to national data, approximately 13% of drivers were uninsured across the nation in 2012. During that same year, nearly 24% of Florida drivers did not have any car insurance. Florida is second in the country for uninsured, losing out on the first place spot by just two percent.

Because Florida drivers are twice as likely to be uninsured, it is critical to have uninsured motorist coverage. If you are in an accident by a driver who does not have any insurance at all, you will be left without coverage for damages.

Uninsured Motorist or Under-Insured Motorist

In an accident in which the at-fault driver is uninsured, the other driver can be left in the dust. Uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage solves this problem by covering medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs that the at-fault driver would normally cover.

Bad Drivers Are Rampant

A study found that Florida’s drivers are the sixth worst in the nation. Florida ranked in the bottom half in nearly all the categories in the study, proving how abysmal the drivers are.

Here is where Florida ranked:

  • 51st for careless driving (behind every state AND Washington D.C.)
  • 48th for tickets
  • 38th for failure to obey
  • 33rd for fatalities per 100 million vehicles traveled
  • 18th for drunk driving

These disheartening statistics show that driving in Florida can be a dangerous feat, so truly comprehensive coverage is critical.

When the unthinkable happens, being prepared is the most comforting thing. Uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance protects you. You cannot afford not to have it.

Looking for Coverage? Find the Insurance That You Need

Do You Have the Types of Coverage That You Need?

Different homeowners insurance policies from different insurance companies can be similar but are almost never identical. Although most will provide coverage for general damages to your home and theft of your property, different policies often exclude different types of claims so it is important to know all of the exceptions to coverage so that you can purchase additional coverage for relevant contingencies. Otherwise, you run the risk that even getting an insurance attorney will do you little good if you were underinsured.

insurance attorney

At a Loss? Below Are the Explanations of Available Coverages

The following are some explanations of the coverages available and some suggestions we have come up with as to making sure that you have the coverage you will need:

  • Coverage for your home, often referred to as Coverage A, is what covers your home from accidental damages and storms. You should be sure that the amount of coverage you carry is sufficient for your home’s appraised value especially if you have had any upgrades or improvements made recently and make sure that your deductible and hurricane deductible are not so high that you would be unable to repair your home in the event of a loss.
  • Coverage for unattached structures, such as sheds and some garages, is often referred to as Coverage B and should be added to your coverage if your property has any unattached buildings or structures. Otherwise, any damage or theft to such structures will likely be excluded from any claims you could make.
  • Coverage for your personal property, or the stuff in your house, is often referred to as Coverage C. You should be sure that you purchase enough coverage to replace everything in your home which would need to be replaced if your home was completely destroyed by fire or storm. People often underestimate the value of their belongings, and we suggest erring on the side of caution if you can afford the extra coverage. There are often special riders required for expensive jewelry, electronics and firearms, so be sure to ask what is covered and what is not if you have any expensive items in your home.
  • Loss of use coverage, which covers the cost of an apartment or other accommodations while your home is being repaired after an extensive loss, is often referred to as Coverage D. Be sure to include this coverage if you can afford it, and remember that friendships and even family relations can be strained if the repairs to your home end up taking six months to a year.
  • Personal liability coverage sometimes referred to as Coverage E, is the coverage that can provide coverage for a lawsuit for negligence or your child’s negligence at your home resulting in injuries or damages to another. Although you should always add this coverage if you can afford it, this is especially important if you own a dog or have large groups of neighborhood children frequenting your home.
  • Medical Payments or MedPay coverage sometimes referred to as Coverage F, is good to have at least in small amounts to cover medical expenses of anyone being injured at your home regardless of fault. So if your neighbor or niece trips on their own feet and breaks their arm, this coverage can help pay their emergency room bill when they have no health insurance.
  • Flood insurance is a coverage which should be added to every policy in Florida but is usually provided through the Federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program. Keep in mind that if even a small hurricane stalls over Florida, even areas not normally subject to flooding can have extensive flood damage. That actually happened in 2008 in Central Florida, and thousand suffered serious flood damage to their homes with no coverage to pay for their damages.
  • Sinkhole and ground shifting coverage is a must in some areas of the State, such as Hillsborough County where sinkholes are more common, but no part of the Florida is completely safe from shifting soil or sinkholes. Many people are surprised to find that damage to their home from ground shifting or a sinkhole is not covered under a policy, so be sure you know now whether you are covered and how much that extra coverage would cost. Get it if you can afford it.
  • Additional coverages for claims often excluded from most homeowner policies include fungi and dry rot, yeast and bacteria damages, debris removal, damage to trees and plants, forgery, long-term water seepage, civil unrest and riots, and damages for changes in laws or ordinances which result in your needing to modernize or upgrade your property.
  • Appraisal provisions – be sure to know your policies’ provisions as to required or optional appraisal of claims. Although appraisal may be right for you on certain claims, required appraisal that can be invoked by your insurance company is not desirable and may result in your having to pay for an appraiser and an umpire to resolve disputes in a number of your damages.
  • Finally, you should consider your personal risk tolerance when it comes to the extent of your coverage and your deductibles. Never hesitate to consult your insurance attorney or other insurance experts for the information you need to make the right decision.

Contact Us

Figuring out the proper homeowner’s insurance coverage can be more complicated and time-consuming than most people expect, but will become even more complicated after a claim is made if your coverage is denied. If you are not sure whether your coverage is sufficient, you should ask your agent or insurer for further information. But if you have already become entangled in a legal matter or a dispute with your insurance company, please contact us for the experienced insurance attorney that you need to ensure your rights are protected.

Initial phone consultations for Florida insurance claims are free and most cases can be handled on a contingency. If a suit is required, your lawyer’s fees will usually be paid by the insurance company if benefits are secured on your behalf.

Do You have Proper Coverage for Your Homeowners’ Insurance?

Living in Florida, it is important to know your homeowners’ insurance coverage and the extent of your coverage and deductibles. There is a myriad of different problems you can encounter as a homeowner and it is important to make sure that you are fully insuring what may be your largest asset. Simply carrying any policy of homeowners’ coverage alone does not usually protect you from all of the potential perils you can face in Florida, so now is always a good time to review the extent of your coverage and deductibles with your agent or insurance company. Keep in mind that changes in coverage may not apply to damages from an already looming hurricane, so it is best to make these changes before you need them.

insurance attorney

Why Do You Need Proper Coverage?

Carrying full and proper coverage ensures that you will have the funds you need to cover potential damages, repairs and losses, which will allow you to focus on returning your life back to normal rather than worrying about the devastating financial issues which can come from major damage or losses incurred in your home. Although more coverage usually results in higher premiums, you will need to balance the competing priorities of keeping your insurance costs affordable while still making sure that you are capable of covering your losses and repairing your home if the worst happens.

Remember that in pricing out coverage, you will need to pay close attention to the actual coverage options being provided under each policy, as the cheaper policy may simply give you too little coverage or have too many excluded claims.

Do You Have the Right Homeowners Insurance Company?

There are fewer options now in Florida for insurance companies (especially on the coasts), but you should still research the different companies you are choosing from prior to selecting a company and coverage. Remember that if you cannot locate a company who will write coverage for you, you should still qualify for coverage through Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, which is a quasi-governmental company.

Also remember that if you have a loan on your home, your bank may obtain “forced coverage” for your home if you fail to obtain coverage or let your coverage lapse and then charge you back for the premium. Those forced coverage policies are often more expensive and can carry much less coverage for you individually.

Although a catastrophic hurricane could potentially bankruptcy many companies, you should make sure that the company you go with is financially strong and we would suggest having at least an A- rating. You can also compare the number of consumer complaints made between individual companies through the Florida Division of Consumer Services. That will at least provide you with some basic information to use in comparing different companies’ policies.

Want to learn more about obtaining the proper coverage for you and your family? Then contact C.W. Smith Law today to find out more!