Auto Insurance 101: Are you fully protected?

William E. Johnson
March 15, 2012

 

Unfortunately, most people are not and this usually is not discovered until it is too late. In my practice, I am frequently saddened by innocent victims of car crashes who cannot recover monetary damages because the person that caused the crash did not carry Bodily Injury coverage which surprisingly is NOT required in Florida and the innocent victim did not elect to purchase UM coverage(i.e. Uninsured Motorist coverage).

Florida is one of the few states that does not require motorist to carry Bodily Injury coverage! Just last month, I was consulted by the grieving parents of a 16 year old boy who was killed by an uninsured motorist and because the parents did not elect to carry UM insurance, they had no legal recourse to pursue a case. In reality, if someone is going to be seriously injured or killed, the most likely cause will be due to an automobile collision and because more than 35% of all motorists in Florida are uninsured (i.e. don't carry Bodily Injury coverage), it is critically important to protect yourself by maintaining the proper car insurance.

Based upon my 28 years of experience in representing innocent victims of automobile collisions, I recommend that my clients maintain the following insurance coverage:

1. Personal injury protection (PIP) - $10,000 with no deductible
$10,000 policy limits, Premium approximately $75 per year

PIP coverage is the ONLY insurance coverage required in Florida! The purpose of PIP insurance is to pay 80% of medical bills and 60% of lost wages incurred as a result of an automobile collision irrespective of fault. Under Florida law, all motorists are required to carry PIP with policy limits of $10,000, but all too frequently, people improperly elect a $1,000 or $2,000 deductible. When purchasing PIP insurance, do not obtain a deductible; it is not worth it!

2. Medical expense - $5,000
Premium approximately $25 per year

Medical expense coverage is optional and it provides an additional $5,000 to cover medical bills incurred as a result of an automobile collision. Because of the high cost of medical treatment, it is highly recommended that medical expense coverage be obtained to supplement your PIP coverage, resulting in $15,000 of your medical bill and lost wages being paid at 100%.

3. Uninsured/Underinsured motorist protection (UM) - $500,000 stacked limits
 Premium approximately $450 per year

UM coverage provides insurance coverage to you and your family if you are negligently injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. Inasmuch the law does not require motorist to carry bodily injury insurance, it is imperative that you protect yourself and your family by carrying UM coverage. Without electing to carry UM coverage, you would not be protected against the uninsured driver who runs a red light and kills or seriously injures you or a family member. Until Florida requires Bodily Injury coverage, UM coverage, in my opinion, is the most important insurance to have!

In purchasing UM coverage, you have the option of purchasing stacked coverage, which means that your UM coverage is increased by the number of cars you own. As an example, if you own two cars and purchase stacked UM coverage of $500,000, you would have UM coverage in the amount of $1 million. If you opted for non-stacked coverage, your UM coverage would only be $500,000. Stacked UM coverage costs a little more, but it is worth it. The bottom line, you cannot have enough UM coverage.

4. Bodily injury (BI) - $500,000
Premium approximately $625 per year

BI coverage protects you if you negligently cause an accident and injure someone else. Obviously, the more assets you have, the more BI coverage you need. However, since the insurance industry requires that your UM limits not exceed your BI limits, your BI limits are generally determined by the amount of UM coverage you have elected. For example, if you want to carry the recommended UM limits of $500,000, you are required to carry a minimum of $500,000 in BI coverage.

5. Personal umbrella policy - $1,000,000
Premium approximately $450

An umbrella policy provides additional coverage over and above your underlying UM coverage, BI coverage, and personal liability under your homeowners policy. For example, if you have a personal umbrella policy of $1,000,000 together with the recommended stacked UM coverage of $500,000 and BI limits of $500,000, your total coverage would be:

a) UM coverage - $2,000,000.

b) BI coverage - $1,500,000.

Inasmuch as a $1,000,000 umbrella policy can be purchased for a yearly premium of approximately $450, I recommend this type of coverage to all of my clients if it is within your budget.

 

I hope this information is helpful in selecting your automobile coverage.

Again, thank you for your confidence and trust in our firm. If you have any questions or would like to discuss any of your legal needs, please feel free to give me a call.

Best regards,

William E. Johnson

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