AUTO INSURANCE COVERAGE: LAWS, RECOMMENDATIONS, FACTORS AND TIPS FOR FLORIDA DRIVERS.

Gainesville Accident Attorney, Jeffrey Meldon’s Florida Insurance: Laws, Recommendations, Factors and Tips
Having adequate insurance coverage is probably the most important thing you can do to protect yourself in the event of an accident.
As a Florida car accident attorney for 37 years, day in and day out people are shocked when I have to tell them that they are going to have to pay tens of thousands of dollars or more of their own money in out of pocket expenses even though they did not cause the accident and the at fault party complied with the Florida insurance laws. People are upset when they find out that they are going to have to pay for someone else’s mistake. It’s is heart breaking to see how in one second a person’s life can be devastated because they failed to plan and purchase adequate insurance. Especially when they thought they had “full coverage”.
In this article I am going to discuss what insurance Florida law requires to legally get behind the wheel of a vehicle and what insurance you really need to protect yourself fully. I cannot stress the importance of this enough.

Remember: The only time to take advantage of this information is before you are in an accident. In 2006 there were 214,000 accidents in the state of Florida. More than one half of the people causing these accidents had little if any insurance to pay for the serious injuries they inflicted. Florida has some of the worst laws in the country when it comes to protecting the innocent person injured in a crash. Beware: Neither the state of Florida nor the other driver will protect you – only you can plan ahead and protect yourself and your family.

Here are the minimum requirements for car insurance in Florida:

  1. You must have $10,000 worth of property damage coverage to pay for the other person’s car repairs if you were at fault (this does NOT pay for your own auto damage if you were at fault).
  2. You must have $10,000 worth of personal injury protection (PIP) to pay for some of your medical bills and lost wages (Florida is a no-fault state and your own insurance company must pay 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your lost wages up to $10,000).

That is it! Nothing more is required in Florida to get behind the wheel and drive down the road. If that isn’t scary enough, over 50% of people on the road only have this minimal required insurance and many have none at all and are driving illegally (actually 23% are on the road without any insurance at all and the number is on the rise, according to the latest statistics) ! So if you think you will be taken care of if you are in an accident, chances are you will not be unless you had planned ahead and taken care of yourself and your family by buying adequate insurance.

Beware: Even if you are completely innocent in an accident, you can get stuck with thousands or even hundreds of thousands worth of medical bills, loss of income, and a permanent injury that can devastate the rest of your life.
Here are my recommendations on what insurance you need to adequately protect yourself:
1. Purchase Collision Insurance on your auto policy. If you do not have collision insurance you will have to pay out of pocket to repair or replace your vehicle if:

  • The damage to your car is more than $10,000
  • The at fault driver is driving illegally with no insurance
  • You caused the accident!!!

2. Purchase GAP Insurance to protect yourself if your car is worth less than the amount of your bank loan, which is called being upside down on a loan, (this often happens the minute you drive a car off the car lot if you got a loan for close to the full purchase price). If you don’t have GAP insurance you will have to pay the difference out of your own pocket if:

  • Your car is totaled and you owe more to the bank than the car is worth

3. Purchase Extended Personal Injury Protection ($50,000 to $100,000 recommended minimum) to protect yourself if:

  • Your medical bills and lost wages are more than $10,000. Remember: $10,000 in PIP coverage can be spent before you ever get out of the ER.
  • You have serious injuries. It may take a while for your case to settle or be tried and this will help you get through the rough times.

4. Purchase Medical Payment Coverage ($5,000 recommended minimum) to protect yourself for this reason:

  • To cover the percentage that PIP does not pay (PIP only covers 80% of medical bills you are responsible for the remaining 20% of medical bills) and more.

5. Purchase Bodily Injury Liability (BI) ($100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident recommended, or more if you have substantial assets) coverage to protect yourself if:

  • You were at fault in an accident and caused serious injury (this will protect your personal assets).
  • You need to purchase UM coverage (see #6) and in order to be eligible to get UM coverage you must first have BI.

6. You need to purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM) ($100,000/$300,000 recommended minimum and make sure to get “stacked” coverage if you have more than one car. See #6 below) to protect yourself if:

  • The at-fault party has little or no liability insurance and your case is worth more than the amount of insurance the other person has. (For example: If you have a $100,000 case and the other person only has $10,000 of liability insurance, you can collect the remainder due to you from your own insurance company if you have at least $90,000 of UM insurance.)

7. I recommend you purchase “Stacked” UM. If you have two or more vehicles on the same insurance policy you are eligible to get additional UM or “stacked coverage” at a very low cost. (For example: If you have 3 cars on the same policy each with $100,000 BI, you can purchase up to $300,000 of stacked UM coverage for a very small additional premium and greatly expand the protection to you and your family)

  • This gives you a lot more insurance coverage at a very low cost

Other insurance factors you need to know about:
*If you have health insurance it will kick in after PIP has been used up or “exhausted” to pay your medical bills and it may also pay the other 20% of medical bills not paid by PIP.
Beware of Two Things:
1. When your health insurance takes over you may be stuck with a large co pay depending on your policy.
2. After your case is settled, your health insurance company may want part of your settlement to cover what they have spent on your medical bills.
Only an experienced lawyer knows what the health insurance company is entitled to and how to negotiate with them. Personally, I could write a whole book about this one topic; this is one of the more complex areas of the law, so make sure to get experienced help!
* Just because you have planned ahead and purchased UM coverage with your own insurance company (even if you have been a loyal customer for 20 years) this does not mean the insurance company will easily part with their money. You probably will need an attorney in serious injury cases to get a fair shake from your own insurance company. However, at least with UM coverage you have an insurance company with lots of money to go after rather than some deadbeat driver with little or no insurance, so it is worth buying UM.
Final Tips:
All of these insurance recommendations may sound expensive, but you may be surprised to find out it costs a lot less than you think, especially if you have a good driving record.
Avoid the so called “low cost”, “we insure everyone” insurance companies, and get competitive pricing from the major companies.
UM insurance is the best deal going considering that 50% of drivers on the road have little or no insurance and I have personally seen many serious injury cases where there is no available insurance and the person is just out of luck.
BI insurance protects others (strangers) who are injured. While UM insurance protects you, your family and anyone else who was injured while in your vehicle. I get upset when I see an insurance policy with $100,000 worth of BI and no UM protection. In my opinion this borders on negligence by the insurance agent or company. Why would anyone protect strangers and not protect themselves and their family?
BIGGEST JEFFREY MELDON INSURANCE TIP OF ALL TIME:
Buy the proper insurance BEFORE you are in an accident and protect yourself and your family. The consequences of not being adequately insured can be devastating.

Beware: Even if you are completely innocent in an accident, you can get stuck with thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of dollars of medical bills, loss of income, and a permanent injury. All of which can be devastating. Make sure you are adequately protected!

Because of this, Gainesville and Ocala car accident attorney Jeffrey Meldon wrote the book Buying Florida Auto Insurance – A 3 Step Approach to Purchasing Adequate Auto Insurance at Competitive Pricing.

You can request your free, no obligation guide book by contacting our office at (800) 373 8000 or filling out the request form.

Jeffrey Meldon
Founder of the Meldon Law Firm