Motor Vehicle Accidents

During the 2012 Florida Legislative Session, insurance company lobbyists pushed for the passage of HB 119, which greatly overhauled the Personal Injury Protection portion of your automobile insurance policy.  As part of their sales pitch, proponents of this bill stated that the passage of this Bill would GREATLY REDUCE the cost of automobile insurance in the State of Florida and cut down on “fraud”.

As we learned years ago, “cutting down on fraud” is just another way of saying “severely reducing a policyholder’s chance of ever getting paid on his claim.”  But what about the claimed reduction in the cost of auto insurance premiums?  Surely insurance companies have lowered their automobile insurance rates in exchange for HB 119’s severe limitation of the rights of policy holders…..right?

Well, the Office of Insurance Regulation announced this week that the cost of Personal Injury Protection coverage is expected to drop an average of 13.2 percent in Florida.  Great you say!!!  But then the fine print – since this “no fault”/ Personal Injury Protection coverage accounts for such a small percentage of your overall automobile coverage, the overall decrease in your overall policy would be about 1.2 percent!!  Not a very good reduction in exchange for the severe limitations this new law places on the rights of policy holders.

Once again, it appears Florida’s elected officials have fallen for the insurance companies’ old yarn of “Allow us to restrict coverage today, and we promise to reduce premiums…..tomorrow….maybe.”

Pursuant to Florida law, everyone who operates a motor vehicle in Florida is required to carry automobile insurance coverage.  As part of the process of obtaining or renewing your driver’s license, you are usually required to show “proof of insurance” or to otherwise prove that you have adequate insurance coverage.  What most people don’t understand is exactly how important it is to carry this insurance.

In Florida, there are numerous types of automobile insurance coverages available.  In short, Property Damage Coverage provides coverage for damage you cause to another person’s automobile.  Comprehensive Coverage provides coverage for any damage to your own vehicle.  Personal Injury Protection coverge provides coverage (usually up to a limit of $10,000) for the payment of your own medical bills and/or lost wages in case of any accident.  Bodily Injury Coverage provides coverage for any injuries you may cause to others through the operation of your vehicle.  Uninsured/Under-Insured motorist coverage provides coverage for your injuries if the person who caused the accident does not have enough (or any) insurance coverage to compensate you for your injuries.  Loss of Use/Rental Coverage provides coverage for either a rental car or compensation for the loss of the ability to use your vehicle while it is getting repaired.

Although there are many coverages available, the only coverages that are Mandatory under Florida law are Personal Injury Protection and Property Damage coverages.  With this minimialistic coverage, the only things that would be covered in an accident would be your own medical bills (up to $10,000) and the cost to repair the not-at-fault driver’s vehicle.  What would NOT be covered is any sort of personal injury damages or the repair of the at-fault vehicle. 

Unfortunately, history shows that in Florida many/most drivers are opting to have only minimial insurance coverage.  If someone chooses to only carry the minimal coverage mandated by law, he is putting others at risk for any damage he may cause through the operation of his motor vehicle.  Furthermore, a recent article revealed that 25% of drivers carry ABSOLUTELY NO insurance!  Apparently the game is to obtain coverage for the sole purpose of obtaining/renewing your driver’s license, and then immediately cancel the coverage thereafter. 

Clearly, it is imperative that you obtain sufficient automobile insurance coverage to protect you and your family.  Without Uninsured/Under-Insured Motorist Coverage, you would be without any recourse if you were injured by an uninsured driver.  Conversely, if you do not carry Bodily Injury Coverage,  you could be financially devastated by having to pay for injuries you may cause someone else.