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I don’t think “full coverage” means what you think it means

BFB_CarAcc

by Jaeson W. Homola

 “I have full coverage.”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard a client or prospective client utter those words, I would be a millionaire.  (Well, maybe not a millionaire, but I would at least have a couple hundred dollars.)  In my experience as a personal injury attorney, I’ve learned that many drivers on Florida’s roadways have no idea what type of insurance coverages they have.  And sadly, most people I talk to assume if they have purchased “full coverage” they have insurance that will cover any expenses they incur in an automobile collision– regardless of fault.  This could not be farther from the truth.

So, what exactly does “full coverage” mean?  In Florida, typically purchasing “full coverage” auto insurance means nothing more than purchasing the minimum coverage required by Florida’s No-Fault Statute (Fla. Stat. § 627.736).  And, if that is the case, the so-called “full coverage” insurance policy has several gaping holes, which could leave an unsuspecting consumer holding the bag for damages thought to be covered.  In Florida, the only insurance a motorist is required to have is:

  • Personal Injury Protection Coverage (also known as “no fault benefits” or “PIP”)
  • Property Damage Liability Coverage

The glaring deficiency of the minimum required insurance coverages in Florida is the lack of “bodily injury liability” coverage.  Florida is one of only two states in the nation that does not have some form of mandatory injury liability coverage (New Hampshire is the other).  If you cause an automobile collision resulting in injuries to another person your insurance may not cover your liability for those injuries.  This can be financially devastating, and can result in civil judgments that can force you into bankruptcy or cost you dearly for the rest of your life.

The lack of mandatory bodily injury coverage also has ramifications for the injured party.  Think of it this way –somebody who doesn’t have bodily injury coverage most likely doesn’t have the type of assets that will make it easy to collect money from a court judgment.  Practically speaking, this means you could be stuck in a legal battle with the person for years, and then spend years trying to collect a judgment.  Luckily, insurance companies in Florida offer what is known as Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage.  This coverage will actually “step into the shoes” of the at-fault party and pay bodily injury benefits to you on that person’s behalf.  Having this coverage can mean the difference between getting a monetary recovery and getting nothing at all.  This coverage can also help offset medical bills and lost wages not covered by the mandatory PIP benefits, which will only cover a portion of those damages.

“Full Coverage” also does not include collision or comprehensive coverages.  Collision coverage will pay for damages to your vehicle that resulted from a wreck with another vehicle, or any other damage resulting from operation of the vehicle, regardless of fault.  Comprehensive coverage will cover damage to your vehicle that occurs while the vehicle is not in use.  Comprehensive coverage would cover, for example, hail damage, vandalism, fire damage, etc.

The next time you renew your auto insurance policy do not assume you are completely covered when you are told you have “full coverage.”  If you have questions, shop around and get a second opinion. If need be, get a free consultation with an attorney and discuss it with him/her.  If you have any questions about your auto insurance policy, please contact a personal injury attorney at Barrett Fasig and Brooks today.

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