We see this scenario far too often at our law firm: a potential client calls after a serious car crash caused by the driver of another vehicle. The client needs long-term medical care and cannot work, but the benefits under their auto insurance were already used up by the emergency room and MRI scans. Then we learn that the other driver is uninsured and has little to no personal assets to go after in a lawsuit.
1 in 5 Florida Drivers Has No Auto Insurance
According to according to a new study by the Insurance Research Council., 20% (1 in 5) drivers in Florida either have no auto insurance at all, or they do not have the right type of auto insurance to cover passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists or other motorists they injure because of their negligent driving.
The State of Florida only requires drivers to have at least $10,000 in “Personal Injury Protection” or “PIP” for their own medical bills, and $10,000 in “Property Damage Liability” car insurance. The large number of uninsured motorists is also why Florida’s insurance rates are so high.
PIP Only Covers Your Own Medical Bills Up to $10,000
“Personal Injury Protection” insurance covers 80% of an injured person’s medical bills, regardless of who caused the accident. That means that if someone runs into your car and you are injured, you must use the “Personal Injury Protection” under your own policy first, before trying to recover money from the other driver’s insurance company. The problem is that your medical treatment and lost wages often cost much more than $10,000. Just one trip to the ER by ambulance is enough to use up most of those benefits, and there is no coverage for future medical costs, future lost earnings, or pain and suffering.
Bodily Injury Insurance Is Not Required in Florida
If the person who hit you does not have any “Bodily Injury” auto insurance, which would cover your additional past and future medical bills, future lost earnings, pain and suffering, it is very unlikely you will be able to recover anything from them personally. A personal judgment can take up to 20 years to recover, and that driver may file for bankruptcy in the meantime.
In April 2021, the Florida Senate approved a bill that would have required all Florida drivers to have Bodily Injury coverage of at least $25,000 to protect anyone they might injure on the road. Unfortunately, the governor vetoed that bill.
The Importance of UM
Your uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) insurance is extremely important when there is no bodily injury (BI) coverage available from the other driver, or when their policy limits are too low to compensate you for all your past and future medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. UM coverage allows injured drivers, passengers or pedestrians to recover for their personal injuries from their own insurance carrier to the same extent as they would have been entitled to from the at-fault driver’s insurance, if the person responsible for the crash had bodily injury coverage. In other words, UM provides benefits to innocent motorists who are injured due to the negligence of uninsured drivers.
Therefore, you should not reject UM coverage on your car insurance! Drivers applying for or renewing auto insurance have to sign a waiver if they don’t want UM coverage. While you may be tempted to waive UM coverage to save a little money, you are taking a big risk and may wind up paying hundreds of times more for medical expenses and lost wages if you are hit by another driver with no insurance.
Another commonly overlooked option when selecting or declining available auto insurance coverage is stacking. Stacking refers to the injured person’s ability to add up the policy limits for each insured vehicle in the household in the event he or she is catastrophically injured. For example, a policy with $100,000/$300,000 in UM benefits means the insured driver carries $100,000 in UM coverage per person and $300,000 per accident – per vehicle. If there are two vehicles insured under the same policy in the same household, and the insured opts to stack the UM coverage, then someone who is insured under that policy has up to $200,000 in UM benefits. If multiple people insured under that policy are injured in a crash, they have up to $600,000 of combined benefits available.
About Ahava Law Group
Our firm’s main focus is on helping victims of auto accidents recover for their injuries and other damages. Ahava Law Group also represents clients in slip and fall, nursing home, defective products and medical malpractice cases throughout the Tampa Bay and Sarasota areas. Ahava Law Group is a plaintiff’s personal injury law firm with offices in St. Petersburg, Brandon, Clearwater and Tampa, along with an office in the Boston, Massachusetts area. Attorneys Jovita Ahava and Ed Ahava have over 40 years of combined experience in injury law, litigation, and civil trials. Attorney Jovita Ahava also speaks Polish and is active in the local Polish community. For more information on Ahava Law Group and our personal injury services, please visit www.AhavaLawGroup.com or contact us at (888) 554-9998 or Assistant@AhavaLawGroup.com.