If there’s one thing that’s almost universal in our experience
as lawyers, it’s this: clients don’t understand how their
auto insurance really works. Even highly educated, financially prudent
people are typically bewildered by the interaction between various parts
of their Florida auto insurance coverage. This isn’t surprising,
because it really is difficult to understand all the moving parts in this system.
To help you better understand Florida auto insurance and the important
role it plays following
car accidents, we’ve detailed some the basics below.
No-Fault Coverage & Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Part of the problem is that Florida is still a “no fault” state.
While most people think the at-fault driver’s insurance should pay
for their medical bills and lost wages, that’s not initially how
it works. Under no-fault coverage, or “personal injury protection”
(PIP), medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses get paid for by the
injured person’s own coverage. Under Florida law, no-fault insurance
pays medical bills even before a person’s health insurance.
This flies in the face of common sense for most people. They understandably
find it frustrating that their own coverage foots the bill when someone
else hurts them through bad driving behavior. Partly for that reason,
many reformers have called for
repeal of Florida’s no-fault law and its replacement with a fault-based insurance scheme. So far, the insurance
industry and other interest groups have thwarted those efforts. Thus,
at least for the moment, no fault is the system we’ve got.
Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM / UIM)
Every Florida auto policy for Florida vehicles has no-fault coverage. It
is by no means, though, the only important coverage for Florida drivers.
For years, we have
urged our clients and the public to buy an additional coverage called “uninsured motorist”
coverage. This coverage, as the name implies, protects you if an uninsured
driver, underinsured driver, or hit-and-run driver causes an accident
and hurts you.
In a perfect world, everyone driving would carry enough coverage (known
as “bodily injury liability”) to compensate people for any
mistakes they make. Unfortunately, that’s not reality. Many drivers
- most estimates are in the neighborhood of 25 percent - don’t carry
coverage for crashes where they cause injury to others. And even those
who do may not have enough insurance to fully cover the damages and
catastrophic injuries caused by a serious accident.
Thus, the only way to protect yourself from negligent drivers is to buy
uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage, referred to by people in the
industry as “UM,” kicks in when the at-fault driver has no
coverage, or inadequate coverage to cover your damages. Every driver with
a Florida auto insurance policy has a chance to buy UM coverage, and you
get it automatically unless you specifically decline it and sign a waiver.
UM also protects you when you’re not driving. UM coverage is available
to people struck by cars while they are
riding bicycles. As long as the accident is caused by another car, the coverage still
applies. UM coverage would protect you, for example, if you were struck
by an errant car while sitting at a bus stop. It protects against hit-and-run
Unfortunately, some insurance agents don’t explain the importance
of this coverage. They assume people would prefer to decline it and save
some premium dollars. Agents sometimes mistakenly believe no one should
have “stacking” UM coverage if they don’t have multiple
cars in their household (actually, there are several other goods reasons
for it, and a full explanation about it would require a separate article).
There is a lot of misinformation out there about UM coverage and why it’s
The important thing is that you should not listen if an agent or anyone
else says you don’t need UM coverage. Buy this coverage if you can
possibly afford it instead.
Educate Yourself About Your Auto Insurance Coverage
Before an Accident
These observations just scratch the surface of Florida auto insurance coverage.
Digging deep into it can be frustrating and mind-numbing for the uninitiated.
Fortunately, just knowing what personal injury protection and uninsured
motorist coverage are can help you make informed decisions and protect
yourself on the road.
At Roman & Gaynor, we routinely work with clients to help them understand
their coverage and their right to compensation following all types of
preventable accidents. If you have questions about a possible case,
contact us for a free consultation. You can also find more information about Florida
auto insurance on some of our other blog posts: