Florida No-Fault and Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Do Not Play Russian Roulette

In theory, Florida’s No-Fault Automobile Insurance Law was intended to lower the cost of auto insurance by taking small claims out of the court by requiring each insurance company to compensate its own policyholders for the cost of minor injuries regardless of who was at fault in the auto accident. However, in Florida this personal injury protection coverage, which is better known by its acronym PIP, has very insignificant limits of $10,000. This amount is intended to pay not only medical bills, but also wage loss and other “out-of-pocket” expenses, such as mileage to and from healthcare providers. Clearly, if the injuries suffered requires more than a few visits to a healthcare provider and/or involves a prolonged inability to work, then any amounts not paid by PIP must be recovered from the at-fault driver or the owner of the vehicle driven by the at-fault driver if the injured party is to be made whole.

Economic damages, which may be loosely defined as those actual costs not paid by PIP, may be presented to and recovered from the at-fault parties’ insurance companies. Unfortunately, however, Florida law does not require an individual to carry bodily injury indemnification coverage. This means that if the at-fault party does not have bodily insurance coverage, the injured party is left with no practical recourse. Certainly, the mere fact that a person does not have insurance does not mean that they would not be personally liable to pay damages, but generally speaking, if they cannot afford the basic insurance required by Florida law, in all probability, they probably do not have significant assets in which to satisfy a judgment.

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The answer to this situation is Uninsured Motorist Coverage. If bodily injury indemnification coverage can be thought of as insurance coverage designed to protect strangers from acts of negligence committed by an insured driver, then uninsured motorist benefits can be thought of as insurance coverage designed to protect your family. That is, it is designed to protect your family from folks who do not have any insurance coverage at all or who have the minimal coverage required under Florida law.

Based on recent reports, Florida ranks in the top five states for the number of uninsured motorists. According to the Insurance Research Council, in 2007 13.8 percent of all motorists in the U.S. were uninsured, but in Florida it was 23 percent. Further, the Insurance Research Council found a correlation between unemployment and the rate of uninsured motorists.

Therefore, it stands to reason as well as common sense that as the unemployment rate rises so do the number of uninsured motorists. Essentially, driving on Florida roads is much like Russian roulette. Given the statistical odds of being in a motor vehicle collision coupled with the odds that the other vehicle does not have any coverage at all or has only the minimal coverage required under Florida law, the likelihood that an accident is caused by a person without the ability to pay damages or without the ability to satisfy a judgment in court is staggering. Accordingly, uninsured motorist coverage may be the only avenue to be fully compensated for your injuries.

Based on recent reports, Florida ranks in the top five states for the number of uninsured motorists.

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For that reason, it is perhaps the most important coverage that you may have. If you have any questions regarding your coverage, we would highly recommend that you contact your insurance carrier or agent immediately to find out for certain whether you and your family are covered by uninsured motorist coverage. If you would like a brief overview of Florida No Fault Insurance Coverage, we would also recommend that you read our January 6, 2010 blog “Understanding Basic Florida Automobile Insurance Coverage.”

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NOTICE: The article above is not intended to serve as legal advice, and you should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. You should consult with a duly licensed attorney regarding your Florida legal matter, as every situation is unique. Please know that merely reading this article, subscribing to this blog, or otherwise contacting Bogin, Munns & Munns does not establish an attorney-client relationship with our firm. Should you seek legal representation from Bogin, Munns & Munns, any such representation must first be agreed to by the firm and confirmed in a written agreement.

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