In Florida, one in every four drivers does not have auto insurance, making the rate of uninsured drivers one of the highest in the nation.
Florida is a “no-fault” state concerning crash protection insurance, but damages for accidents are often above the amount of required personal injury (PIP) benefits which are intended to cover medical bills and some non-medical-related expenses (such as lost wages because of time from work).
In Florida, an injured driver or passenger may go beyond the no-fault system as they seek to recover damages from the driver at fault for the crash if:
- The injuries are deemed permanent;
- There is permanent disfigurement or scarring;
- There is significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function.
Because of the high amount of uninsured drivers in Florida, it is important to understand the both Uninsured Motorist Benefits or UM, as well as Underinsured Motorist Benefits or UIM (for cases where the driver at fault, while he or she has insurance, does not have enough coverage for the total damages incurred by the victim).
Driving without insurance is illegal in Florida, but even those who have insurance usually don’t have enough coverage to pay for injuries caused in a crash resulting from their fault. This is why UM and UIM benefits are vital.
Explaining Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Benefits
The State of Florida does not require UM/UIM benefits, but the law does require insurers to offer them. These benefits are usually a standard inclusion in most insurance policies, but the insured still must pay to add this protection to their policy. If insureds in Florida decline UM/UIM benefits, they must sign a waiver indicating this decision.
(See F.S. 627.727, the statute governing uninsured and underinsured vehicle coverage in Florida, for further reference.)
Florida law does require drivers to have at least $10,000 in PIP benefits for the purpose of covering their personal injuries in a crash; however, this minimum coverage will rarely cover the cost of a visit to the emergency room, much less surgeries, continued care, and consistent medication that follows an accident. On top of this, injured victims also miss work due to their recovery, which harms their finances. For these reasons, the injured victims need significantly more than $10,000 to cover the costs they incurred from an accident.
If the opposing driver in the accident doesn’t have coverage, or doesn’t have enough coverage, for the damages, UM/UIM benefits will apply.
These uninsured/underinsured benefits generally cover:
- Medical expenses (not fully paid by PIP benefits)
- Lost wages for time out of work
- Future medical expenses
- Future wage losses because of altered ability from the accident
This benefit also “travels” with the one it covers, another significant benefit. This means that if you have coverage, but you’re a passenger in a car, or a pedestrian or a bicyclist, your coverage should still apply to the accident, even if you are not driving.
The importance of having UM/UIM coverage is sadly not explained as it should be by many insurance companies. The coverage is actually generally affordable, and in the long run, it could save your financial stability if you have been injured by an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
Stacked UM/UIM Coverage
“Stacking” UM/UIM benefits is one way of maximizing your coverage because it increases your coverage limits based on the number of vehicles insured by the policy.
Here’s an example: for three vehicles you have $25,000 in uninsured motorist benefits, and while driving one of those vehicles, you are injured in an accident involving an uninsured driver’s negligence. You could have the option of combining all three vehicles’ coverage limits under the policy, meaning you’d then have up to $75,000 in coverage, three times what you would have with the single $25,000.
Even if you have two different insurance companies, you can still stack across policies as long as all the policies are in your name.
Most states do not allow stacking, but fortunately Florida is one of 17 that does, and only one of 7 that allows it in both across policies and with a single policy.
Collecting UM/UIM Benefits
It is important to understand that simply carrying UM/UIM benefits does not make recovering these benefits an easy process. Car insurance companies are notorious for not wanting to give just compensation, looking for any possible loophole they can exploit in order to limit coverage. Our GMV Law Group personal injury attorneys have noticed some general arguments these companies make as the attempt to deny UM/UIM coverage:
- The other party is adequately insured
- Your coverage lapsed
- There is coverage on the policy for the claim represented
- You do not quality as a named insured on the policy
- The amount of damages claimed exceeds policy limits and the insurer won’t cover the excess
This may seem daunting and disheartening at first, but the good news is that experienced South Florida car accident attorneys at GMV Law Group know these tricks well, and we know how to fight them and push for you to receive maximum compensation. We advise you to never accept the first offer made by an insurance company, especially without talking with an experienced personal injury attorney first. Let us handle the difficult insurers while you focus on healing, which is taxing and difficult enough. Let us help make the process easier by doing what we have over 25 years of combine experience doing: working for our clients to receive just recovery.
Contact our Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys at GMV Law Group today to schedule a free consultation. Send us an online message, or give us a call at 954-530-6206.
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