Purchasing Car Insurance in any state can be confusing – Florida Car Insurance is no different. Remarkably, as of the date of this article, Florida requires a very minimal amount of insurance for somebody to legally drive a passenger vehicle.  A vehicle owner must only have PIP and PD coverage. PIP is intended to pay for your (in some situations your passenger or a pedestrian) medical bills resulting from an Automobile Accident.  PD coverage is intended to pay for Property Damage to another vehicle or other property resulting from an accident caused by your vehicle. Vehicle owners are not required to maintain insurance that would pay for the pain and suffering of another even if you cause the accident. The bottom line is, as a vehicle owner in Florida, you must be very careful that you purchase the proper insurance to protect your assets and your future if you or a loved one suffer or cause a Catastrophic Personal Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury or Wrongful Death because many of the people operating on the road have little or no insurance that is available to pay you for damages you suffer as a result of somebody else’s negligence.

For the most part, Automobile Insurance in Florida is governed by Florida Statute Chapter 627.  Understanding the terms and types of coverage available and required is important in making your decision as to what type of insurance you should purchase.  The general rule is to purchase as much automobile insurance coverage as you can afford so it is there to protect you when you need it.  Below is a list of different types of Car Insurance coverage available in Florida, what each type of coverage provides and whether it is a recommended coverage:

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) – PIP is required under Florida Law.  The standard PIP coverage limit is $10,000.00.  PIP pays all reasonable and necessary medical expenses and lost wages that result from an automobile accident regardless of who caused the accident.  This is why it is often called “No-Fault” insurance.  If you make a claim against the insurance company for the vehicle/driver that caused your injuries, PIP does not get paid back from the settlement.  Most policies have PIP pay 80% of the medical bill and the patient has a 20% co-pay.  Many insurance companies attempt to have insured’s waive lost wages – however, it is not clear whether this is actually permitted.  If it is not waived it usually covers 60% of lost wages.  Additionally, the policy can be purchased with various deductible options ranging from no deductible to $1,000.00.  Depending on the details of the accident, the deductible may or may not apply.  The only real choices to make on PIP coverage is (1) Amount of the deductible and to whom it applies (2) Whether you want to waive lost wage recovery – if this is permitted – for a discount on your premiums.

Medical Payment Coverage (Med Pay) – Medical Payment Coverage is not required under Florida Law.  Medical Payment coverage is coverage in addition to PIP that can be used to pay for medical expenses resulting from the automobile accident.  Medical Payment coverage can be used to cover your PIP deductible and Co-Pays.  If you make a claim against the insurance company for the vehicle/driver that caused your injuries, the insurance company that provides Medical Payment coverage may try and and get paid back from the settlement.  However, it is not clear whether they are legally permitted to do so and there are very specific laws that they must follow if they are permitted.  This is one of the many reasons why you need a lawyer to represent you following a car accident.

Property Damage Coverage – (PD) – Property Damage Coverage is required under Florida Law.  Property Damage coverage is intended to pay for damage to other vehicles or other property in an accident caused by you or a permissive user of your vehicle.  The minimum amount is $10,000.00 and this is where many people are under-insured.  In 2012, Forbes reported the average cost of a new car to be $30,303.00.  This means if it is your fault and you crash into an average priced new car (and it is a total loss), your insurance would pay $10,000.00 leaving you with $20,303.00 in out of pocket expenses to replace the car you destroyed.  You may get a credit for salvage value of the vehicle you destroy but the main thing to understand is that the minimum PD coverage is simply not enough to protect yourself if you cause a car accident – even if you do not injure anybody.

Bodily Injury Coverage – (BI) – Bodily Injury Liability coverage is not required under Florida Law.  If purchased, it pays for Medical Expenses and Lost Wages not covered by PIP plus any Pain and Suffering/Emotional Distress damage to which somebody may be entitled as compensation if the car accident caused by you or a permissive user of your vehicle caused a permanent injury.  Most policies do not cover Punitive Damages intended to punish a driver/vehicle owner for conduct that is intentional or grossly negligence.  Even though it is not a required insurance coverage in Florida, if you do not have this coverage and you cause an accident that injures somebody you could have your drivers license suspended until you pay the damages you caused.  This will also make it difficult to properly insure a vehicle you purchase.  The bottom line, not having this coverage exposes you to significant risk of having your license suspended and your bank account emptied.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage – (UM/UIM) – Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage is not required under Florida law.  It is arguably the most important type of automobile insurance in Florida.  This coverage steps in and pretends to be the insurance carrier for another person that causes an automobile accident that injures you if the person that causes the accident does not have bodily injury insurance or does not have enough bodily injury insurance.  There are literally millions of people driving around without bodily injury insurance.  This UM/UIM coverage is the only coverage that you can buy that will pay you  for pain and suffering if you are injured by an uninsured motorist.  The catch is that you are limited in the amount of UM/UIM coverage you can purchase by the amount of BI coverage that you purchase.  The reasoning is that you have to have coverage that would pay for other people’s pain and suffering at least up to the same amount as you are protecting yourself.  If you do not have UM/UIM coverage you are risking that you will receive nothing if seriously injured due to another driver’s negligence.  It is not a risk you should take.

Comprehensive/Collision Coverage – (Comp/Coll) – Comprehensive/Collision coverage is not required under Florida Law.  However, it is very important.  This coverage pays for damage caused to your vehicle during its operation (Collision) or by some other incident (ie. Flood or Fire) regardless of who was at fault for the damage.  If you do not have this type of coverage you are at risk of having your vehicle damaged or destroyed and having to pay the entire amount out of your pocket.  Body shops often place a lien on a vehicle for repair work when the owner cannot pay the bill.  After proper notice, the vehicle is sometimes sold at auction to pay for the lien.  This type of coverage can be purchased with no deductible or up to $1,000.00 deductible.  Purchase of this coverage is the only way to ensure that insurance will pay for your vehicle damage or replace a destroyed vehicle following a motor vehicle accident.

These are the main types of coverage.  There are also coverages for emergency road side service, rental and travel expenses, etc.

Call attorney Jeffrey S. Altman at 305.373.3730 for a FREE AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE POLICY REVIEW.  Mr. Altman is not an insurance agent and is solely interested in making sure people have adequate coverage should a car accident occur.  Jeffrey S. Altman is a Miami Personal Injury Lawyer that has been representing victims/family members of Catastrophic Personal Injury, Traumatic Brain Injury and Wrongful Death since 1998.  Our Office is located in Miami just minutes from Miami Shores, North Miami, North Miami Beach, Aventura and South Beach.  Mr. Altman is a member of The Million Dollar Advocates Forum.  Less than 1% of attorneys are members.  It is limited to lawyers that have been Lead Counsel in cases that resulted in Verdicts or Settlements of $1,000,000.00 or more.