Frequently Asked Questions - The Importance of Having Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage in Florida
Insurance coverage varies from state to state and in the State of Florida, there is only very minimal insurance coverage you are required to purchase in order to have a valid automobile insurance policy to legally register your vehicle for road use. Those minimal coverages are personal injury protection at $10,000.00 which pays 80% of your medical bills, 60% of your lost wages, mileage and prescriptions at a maximum of $10,000.00 and property damage at $10,000.00 which pays for any vehicle or property damaged by you during an accident. This is considered full coverage in the State of Florida which is quite different from a lot of other states. If you move to the State of Florida, you are required by law to not only switch your vehicle registration and plates to Florida but also your insurance coverage must be changed to an insurance carrier who provides insurance coverage in the State of Florida. If you do not change your insurance within ten days of moving to Florida and you are involved in an auto accident, your insurance carrier could deny all benefits and cancel your insurance which is definitely not something you would want to be dealing with after an auto accident.
The State of Florida does not require bodily injury coverage on all auto insurance policies. When you are involved in an auto accident and you sustain injuries, bodily injury coverage is the portion of the at fault insurance policy you sue. Because this is not a mandatory requirement in the State of Florida, many people forego this coverage as it makes their monthly insurance payments much less. If that person causes an auto accident and they do not have bodily injury coverage on their insurance policy, they are technically considered an uninsured driver, even though they legally have the required state minimum insurance coverage. For this reason alone, it is extremely important to have as much coverage on your own insurance policy as possible. You never know when you are going to be involved in an auto accident with someone who has no bodily injury coverage or a very minimal bodily injury policy. Say you are involved in a significant auto accident and you end up being flown to the hospital for severe injuries and treated in the hospital for several days, if the person who hit you does not have bodily injury coverage or a minimal bodily injury policy, you will be out of luck suing the insurance carrier for your damages and pain and suffering. Every insurance carrier provides their insureds with the option to carry uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. This coverage is applicable when you are hit by someone with no bodily injury coverage or a minimal bodily injury policy. The more uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage you can carry the better as it is designed to protect you financially. In order to obtain uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage on your own policy, you must first opt to purchase bodily injury coverage. You are legally unable to purchase uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage without first obtaining a bodily injury policy. In addition, your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage must be equal to or higher than your bodily injury policy. You are not allowed to purchase $10,000.00 of bodily injury coverage and a $500,000.00 uninsured or underinsured motorist policy.
After an auto accident, it is extremely crucial that you first obtain the at fault insurance carrier’s bodily injury policy limits. The adjuster assigned to the claim will be able to inform you of the coverage and you have a right to request this in writing. The coverages are listed on a declarations page, which your adjuster will be able to send to you so you have all applicable coverages in writing. If you are injured in the accident and the at fault party only has a minimal bodily injury policy, you can request that your own insurance carrier open an underinsured motorist claim under your policy. Once you have completed your medical treatment and it comes time to settle your claim, you will provide the at fault insurance carrier with all of your medical bills and records and any other supporting documents and request that they pay you their entire minimal bodily injury limit. If the insurance company does pay out their entire limit, you are then legally able to provide your own insurance carrier with those supporting documents and request that they settle your remaining claim through your underinsured policy. When you submit these documents, you must first provide proof of the at fault insurance company paying you their entire policy limit, which is known as a tender of the policy. Before you cash the check from the at fault insurance carrier, you must first get permission from your own insurance carrier in writing to accept the insurance limits. Once you get the acceptance, the adjuster on your underinsured claim will process your documents and make you a settlement offer, depending on how much coverage you have with them. If you were a passenger in an auto accident, your uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage lays with the vehicle you were in at the time of the accident if that vehicle has a uninsured or underinsured policy. If so, you will settle with the insurance carrier for the vehicle first before turning to your own uninsured or underinsured motorist policy if you have your own insurance policy.
If you have hired an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you for your claim, you will not need to put yourself through all this hassle as your attorney will negotiate your claim on your behalf and will relay any settlement offers to you. Your attorney will know exactly what to do and say to get the insurance company to pay the full value of your claim. If they do not pay what you or your attorney believe to be the full compensation for your pain and suffering, your attorney will likely discuss filing suit against the insurance companies. Your attorney can file suit against both the bodily injury carrier and the underinsured or uninsured motorist carrier at the same time.