Optimum Automobile Insurance In Florida
By Harry Graham
To truly protect themselves and their families, we advise all of our clients to purchase bodily injury (BI) liability coverage and uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance coverage. We hope, of course, that our clients have purchased these critical coverages BEFORE they were injured in an auto wreck, as coverage is not retroactive and must exist on the date of the wreck.
These two coverages travel together and we always recommend our clients purchase the maximum amounts they can afford.
Remarkably, Florida is one of only two states in the country that does not require that licensed drivers carry bodily injury coverage on their vehicles. (New Hampshire being the other state, where automobile insurance is not even mandatory). BI insurance is the pot of money that an injured person can make a claim against if you are the at-fault driver in a wreck. It is relatively inexpensive and protects your assets if you seriously injure another person. Another benefit of the coverage is that if you are sued for the injuries, your insurance company will appoint an attorney to represent you at no further cost beyond your normal premiums. Hence, BI provides an important layer of protection for the insured and his or her family.
However, the most important coverage any Floridian can purchase is UM/UIM coverage. As noted above, Florida unfortunately does not require BI insurance and hence there is no guarantee that there can be any financial recovery if you are injured in an auto wreck. Our firm and the undersigned personally have sadly had to decline cases where seriously injured persons had no avenue for recovery to pay outstanding medical bills, wage loss, and ongoing pain and suffering damages because the at-fault driver had no BI coverage. The only recourse in that situation is the injury victim’s own UM/UIM coverage, which likewise is not required under Florida law. UM/UIM coverage, at its core, is where the insured’s own insurance company “steps into the shoes” of the at-fault driver and allows the insured to file a claim under his or her own insurance for the damages they have suffered. It is, without a doubt, the most important automobile insurance that a Floridian can purchase.
In our experience, however, UM/UIM is not pushed by insurance agents because, as noted by the Florida Supreme Court over 40 years ago:
The reason insurers are statutorily required to offer uninsured motorist coverage to the insured is to protect persons who are injured or damaged by other motorists who in turn are not insured and cannot make whole the injured party. The statute is designed for the protection of injured persons, not for the benefit of insurance companies or motorists who cause damage to others.
Brown v. Progressive Mut. Ins. Co., 249 So. 2d 429, 430 (Fla.1971) (emphasis added).
In sum, the whole purpose of UM/UIM coverage is to protect the insured and not benefit the insurance company in any way. It is the ultimate security blanket and gives our clients assurance that they have significant coverage they can claim if they are seriously injured in an auto wreck. There is no guarantee that at-fault drivers are responsible enough to have BI coverage, so UM/UIM provides certainty and a degree of protection for those wise enough to purchase it. As with the lack of BI coverage, we have had to turn away meritorious cases where our seriously injured clients had no UM/UIM coverage. We always counsel every client to have this critical coverage, and thankfully most of them have heeded our advice and added it going forward.
Beyond the minimal requirements of Florida law, an optimum mix of insurance coverage would include up to $5,000 of medical payments coverage (supplements the statutorily required $10,000 in personal injury protection coverage to pay medical bills and can be accessed irrespective of fault), and at least $100,000 of BI and UM/UIM coverage, each. Even higher BI and UM/UIM coverages is more preferable, and relatively inexpensive. For example, the difference in premiums between $100,000 in coverage and $500,000 is relatively small for the potential benefit secured. It is advisable to have your insurance agent run the numbers (or do so on your insurance company website) to illustrate that a lot more coverage can be purchased for a minimal higher premium. We strongly encourage all Tallahasseans and Floridians to purchase the optimum mix of automobile insurance coverages for yourself and your family’s security.