We deal with auto accidents and insurance carriers every day in our personal injury practice. There is one basic fact that we know: Car crashes can be quite expensive.
They get even more expensive when you consider the possibility of someone being injured in that accident. The cost of medical care, even for minor injuries can escalate quickly.
Few people have enough money in their personal accounts to cover the unexpected cost of an accident. That is why insurance is essential to our system and culture. However, even insurance is not an infinite source of money.
Florida requires that licensed drivers must carry at least $10,000.00 in Personal Injury Protection and $10,000.00 in Property Damage Liability. For most people hearing (or reading) this amount, it sounds like a lot of money. However, in the context of a serious accident, this rarely covers the entirety of the damages suffered. For those without other coverage, it can leave them stuck with a bill for medical expenses.
For this reason, insurance carriers also provide underinsured or uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage comes into play when there is not enough coverage from the at-fault party’s insurance. Uninsured coverage provides coverage where the other party has no coverage at all. Unfortunately, uninsured motorists are a frequent occurrence in this state.
In 2010 and 2011, up to 25% licensed Florida drivers did not have insurance. While this number appears to have curtailed in 2012, there are still a large number of motorists who do not have protection. On average, Floridians pay $1,476 a year for automobile insurance. Therefore, it’s little surprise that 21% of drivers who do not have insurance claim that they can’t afford it.
To put it in it’s most elemental form, UIM and PIP lines of coverage makes your insurance carrier responsible for paying the damages that otherwise would have been the responsibility of the at-fault driver, ensuring your injuries are covered to receive medical care. The limit of the amount you can be compensated for is determined by the policy limits of your UM coverage.
If you want to better understand your coverage, pull out your policy. UM coverage should be in some form of large font that tells you that this is “VALUABLE COVERAGE” that “PROTECTS YOU AND YOUR FAMILY.” Title XXXVII 627.727 of Florida Statutes contains rules requiring this sort of conspicuous disclosure. Looking through this section in your policy, you can see the amount of protection you receive in the event of an uninsured/underinsured motorist.
Finally, UM coverage is unique in that it will cover pain and suffering where other types of insurance will not. Accident victims may rely on their own health coverage to help cover some of the costs. However, personal health insurance will not pay out for pain and suffering.