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Uninsured Motorist Coverage: What Is It and Why Do I Need It?

by | Oct 26, 2021

Florida is a “no-fault” insurance state—one of only a handful in the country. Under Florida’s current Personal Injury Protection (PIP) statute, drivers are legally required to carry a minimum of $10,000 Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage and $10,000 Property Damage Liability (PDL) coverage.

Unfortunately, since all you need to drive in Florida from a legal perspective is the minimum PIP and PDL coverage, many people wrongly assume that the minimum coverage is all they need from a practical perspective. This is a huge and costly mistake that often leaves seriously injured victims with massive out-of-pocket costs.

The good news is that you can avoid this awful situation by carrying Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM). While legally you don’t “need” to have it, there are some

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What’s Wrong with PIP/PDL Insurance?

Under Florida’s “No Fault Insurance” system, when a car crash occurs, each driver’s own insurance company pays for the repairs and recovery costs—regardless of who is responsible for the accident. Then any additional damages can be sought from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

There are a number of potential problems in this scenario.

  1. Uninsured Drivers: Florida has one of the highest uninsured driver rates in the country at 20%. In other words, if you’re in a car accident, there’s a 1 in 5 chance that the other driver does not have car insurance.
  2. Insufficient Coverage: If you suffer serious or permanent injuries in a car accident, your PIP coverage will almost certainly be insufficient to cover all of your damages, which will leave you with out-of-pocket costs.

Let’s look at these two issues more closely.

The Obvious Problem with Uninsured Drivers

While driving without auto insurance is technically illegal, that doesn’t stop drivers from doing it. Again, around 20% of Florida’s drivers are totally uninsured. Dealing with an uninsured driver is extremely frustrating for accident victims and often leaves them with significant out-of-pocket expenses for medical bills and car repairs.

Many people will say at this point, “I’ll just sue the other driver and get compensation that way.” This route isn’t as foolproof as you may think.

Yes, you technically have the right to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent driver to seek damages. But if a driver does not have insurance, they likely don’t have many personal assets either. So, even if you win a lawsuit, you will likely never see any of the damages you are awarded.

The moral of the story is: If you are seriously injured in an accident with an uninsured driver and you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, it will be very difficult to recover compensation for your financial and emotional injuries.

While we see a handful of these situations every year, more commonly we deal with victims who have been injured by drivers who are underinsured.

Insufficient Coverage and Underinsured Drivers

If roughly 20% of drivers are totally uninsured, you can only imagine how many of the remaining 80% are underinsured, meaning that the car insurance policy would be insufficient to cover the damages caused in an accident.

Often, underinsured drivers are unaware that their policies are insufficient, they’re just trying to save money. Again, this arises because of the faulty assumption that the minimum PIP/PDL coverage is both legally and practically sufficient.

Unfortunately, while hospital and medical costs have soared to record levels, the PIP/PDL coverage minimums haven’t changed in decades. Drivers are often surprised just how easy it is to exhaust these policies. For example, according to Healthcare.gov, a broken leg can cost up to $7,500 (without surgery), and an average 3-day hospital stay runs around $30,000!

These accident-related costs can add up fast, especially if the crash involves:

  • Multiple vehicles or injuries to multiple persons,
  • Serious or permanent injuries such as traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), spinal cord injuries, or loss of a limb,
  • Wrongful death,
  • Permanent injuries to a child who will have lifetime medical costs or inability to earn a living.

In other words, underinsured motorist coverage is designed to help make you whole by covering your medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages that the at-fault driver’s policy couldn’t cover.

How Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Work?

Even though Florida is a no-fault state, after you exhaust your PIP coverage, you may need additional funds to pay for medical expenses, lost wages, and more. UM/UIM coverage can do just that.

As the name suggests, Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance covers you for losses in the event that you are injured in a car accident and the other driver does not have insurance, or the other driver does not have an adequate amount of insurance to cover your damages.

UM and UIM coverage can help cover:

  • Medical and hospital bills,
  • Treatment for emotional and psychological injuries,
  • Loss of income and lost wage-earning capacity,
  • Pain and suffering, and
  • Funeral and burial costs

Pro Tip: Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is also vital after a hit and run accident or if an unlicensed driver caused the accident. In these cases, your UM/UIM policy would provide compensation your injuries since there is no other policy in play.

If you don’t have UM or UIM, no matter how badly you are injured, you will not be able to recover anything from the insurance carrier beyond the initial PIP coverage. That means, no compensation for pain and suffering, no compensation for loss of quality of life, and no compensation for a permanent inability to work.

Protect Against Uninsured Motorist Accident

The single biggest mistake drivers make regarding their auto insurance is not having uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. With Florida’s high rates of uninsured drivers and the relatively low PIP/PDL coverage minimums, the likelihood that you will be in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver is quite high.

If this happens to you and you do not have UM/UIM coverage, you could be on the hook for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Fortunately, UM/UIM coverage is fairly inexpensive, and every insurance carrier is required to offer it.

Below are links to information from the five largest car insurance carries about their uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. You can find out if your policy includes UM/UIM coverage and how to add it:

  1. State Farm Uninsured and Underinsured Motorship Coverage
  2. Allstate Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
  3. Progressive Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
  4. Geico Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
  5. USAA Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

We Can Help You Recover

Since you can count on the insurance company to put its interests above yours, you should always consult with an experienced car accident lawyer after an accident. Professional lawyers know the relevant statutes and understand how to deal with the insurance companies.

Don’t risk your health and wellbeing. If you’ve been in a car wreck, give us a call right now or submit a consultation request online from your phone or computer.

Call 561.372.3800

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