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Do You Have Full Automobile Coverage for Personal Injury Claims?

What is Full Coverage?

I will often have clients tell me that they have “full coverage” on their automobile, only later to learn that they have anything but. Often their insurance agent will confuse “full coverage” with the “minimum coverage” required by Florida law. The only type of automobile coverage Florida law requires, however, is both “No-Fault” coverage and “Property Damage Liability Coverage.” When it comes time to make a claim, clients learn for the first time, that these coverages were wholly insufficient to fully reimburse them for their loss.

What does Full Coverage include?

Specifically, an automobile must be insured with $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (No-Fault) coverage, as the primary source for an insured’s medical bills. This coverage, in most cases, will provide a combined $10,000 in medical and lost earning benefits, regardless of fault in the accident. This coverage is often exhausted with an ambulance ride and visit to an emergency room. In many cases, it barely makes a dent in the total medical bills. It provides no benefits for an injured party’s non-economic loss, which often is far greater than the monetary one.

What happens if that coverage is exhausted by an ambulance ride and ER visit and additional medical treatment is needed? Worse yet, what if the at-fault party in the accident has no Bodily Injury Liability coverage available and the claimant doesn’t have health insurance? Incredibly, Florida law requires vehicle owners to carry liability coverage for the damages they do to a car or other property, but not always for the injuries they cause.

Imagine sitting at a red light and getting rear-ended with resulting serious and life-long injuries. Your “no fault” coverage is exhausted. You did not have health insurance. The at-fault driver and vehicle owner carried no Bodily Injury Liability coverage, nor did they have sufficient assets to reimburse you for your loss. What can you do? Hopefully, you protected yourself by carrying Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM).

What is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

UM/UIM is insurance coverage that protects you from negligent drivers who do not carry Bodily Injury Liability Coverage or do not have enough to fully compensate you for your loss. Negligent drivers will often carry no such coverage or just a minimum of $10,000, which many times is insufficient to fully compensate you for your claim.

UM/UIM is required by Florida law, in an amount equal to your Bodily Injury Liability Coverage, unless rejected in writing. You are encouraged to purchase this necessary insurance. You are not “fully covered” without it.

Similarly, you are not “fully covered” if you do not carry “Collision” and “Rental Coverage.” This coverage is not required by Florida law, yet it will protect you from absorbing your property damage costs, resulting from a negligent driver who fails to carry any insurance or insufficient Property Damage Liability. What if you owe $20,000 on your vehicle and a drunk driver totals it? Worse yet, the drunk driver had no insurance or only had a minimal $10,000 policy for Property Damage Liability. Under either scenario, absent “collision,” it is unlikely you will ever recoup your total loss. Similarly, there will be no coverage, absent “rental,” to provide you with a substitute vehicle during that time your car is being repaired and/or adjusted.

How do I get full coverage?

Don’t let insurance companies sell you sub-standard policies by telling you it is “full coverage,” when it clearly is not. Protect yourself. Don’t rely on an insurance company to do it for you. Their bottom line is not identical to yours.