August 2019

AUGUST 2019 26 “I have full coverage.” Some of the most dreaded words a personal injury attorney hears uttered by his client, because there is no such thing as full coverage. This illustrates the limited understanding by the public of what automobile insurance is required by the state, and what kinds of insurance are available to them. Florida only requires that all drivers have property damage and Personal Injury Protection or PIP. Florida does not require bodily injury liability coverage, nor does it require uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage. Often, when someone says that they have “full coverage,” they have the minimum state requirements, which offers them little assistance after a serious crash. To understand the true impact of this, you must first understand the different types of auto insurance available to Florida drivers. Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) Florida law requires drivers to be insured with $10,000 in coverage to partially cover medical costs, lost wages, and death benefits following a car crash. PIP, from your auto insurance policy, will pay, regardless of fault, 80% of your medical costs or 60% of your lost wages, up to $10,000. The death benefit portion entitles the insured to funeral and burial expenses up to $5,000. These benefits may be subject to a deductible, or personal responsibility, which the insured must pay before the insurance carrier begins paying. Understand that PIP coverage is NOT designed to compensate you for the injuries received in the crash; it is only for payment of those economic losses (medical bills, lost wages, and death benefits) described above. These medical benefits are paid directly to the treating doctor or medical facility, and the funeral expenses typically paid directly to the funeral home. Many people think it is unfair that their insurance pays even though they were not at fault in a crash. But the law requires this, as unfortunately, Florida does not require drivers to have liability or bodily injury insurance. Having PIP available ensures that, if you are involved in a crash with someone who is uninsured, you will still be able to obtain some medical care or offset your lost income. Bodily Injury (“BI”) Bodily Injury coverage pays for the damages caused when you are liable or at fault in a crash. This insurance is designed to protect you and fairly compensate the one who suffered serious and permanent injury or death. Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM) is also not required in Florida. With UM, you insure yourself in case the other driver doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your damages. Though not required, at Cutler Rader, we advise our clients that UM is essential. A 2017 study published by the Insurance Research Council found that Florida ranks number one with the highest estimated number of uninsured drivers. We often have the heartbreak of telling badly injured people, or the survivors of the loved ones left after an auto accident death, that there’s no insurance and simply no money to collect. After your PIP is exhausted (that is, the $10,000 is paid out), UM, like bodily injury coverage, will cover your medical bills, lost wages, your pain and suffering. UM literally steps into the shoes of this uninsured or underinsured at-fault driver and pays for the injuries caused. Automobile insurance coverages are complicated. There are legal and economic ramifications for you and your family. We recommend that you consult an insurance agent that you trust and, if involved in a crash, consult with an attorney so that you know and understand your rights under Florida law. Kenneth Cutler is an attorney at Cutler Rader, PL. Visit BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT Do you really have “Full Coverage?” By Kenneth Cutler, Esq.