Nobody leaves home expecting to be involved in a car accident. However, when a car accident does occur, absolutely no one anticipates needing to foot the entire bill. Yet, without uninsured motorist insurance, that can be the reality. This is just one of the many reasons why uninsured motorist coverage in Florida is such a hot topic.
Most recent data from Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles indicates there were upwards of 400,000 total crashes reported in 2019 alone, resulting in more than 152,000 injuries and 3,000 fatalities. Auto accidents occur nearly once every minute in the state, placing Florida among the top 10 localities in the nation for car crashes — and making proper auto insurance invaluable.
You might think you'll never be involved in a car accident or that you're the safest driver in the world. However, you can never predict the actions of others, nor can you control external factors such as inclement weather. If you're ever involved in one of Florida's thousands of car accidents, you want to ensure you have the proper level of insurance to cover your injuries.
This is where uninsured motorist coverage in Florida comes in. Learn more about uninsured motorist coverage, what happens if you reject it from your policy, and how a qualified personal injury lawyer can help.
What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
As the name might suggest, uninsured motorist (UM) coverage protects a policyholder who has been in a car crash with an at-fault driver who does not have bodily injury coverage. Bodily Injury coverage or "BI coverage" is the auto insurance that covers injuries an at-fault driver causes to others as a result of an accident. If the at-fault driver does not have BI coverage, the type of accident is referred to as an uninsured motorist accident. When these types of accidents occur, the victims are left financially responsible for their own injury treatment. UM coverage also includes underinsured motorist coverage, which protects a policyholder who has been in a car crash with an at-fault driver that has low bodily injury coverage available on their policy.
Uninsured motorist coverage is specifically designed to financially protect a policyholder from drivers who have no coverage. For property damage in Florida involving an at fault driver that has no insurance, a policyholder has the option of purchasing collision coverage, which is a coverage that pays to repair or replace your vehicle after an accident regardless of fault. UM bodily injury coverage is meant to protect a policyholder from post-accident medical expenses.
After an accident with an uninsured driver, UM bodily injury coverage will pay for expenses such as:
- Medical treatment
- Pain and suffering
- Long-term medical or nursing care
- Medical devices, such as wheelchairs
- Lost wages and disability
- Loss of the future enjoyment of life
Plus, policyholders with uninsured motorist coverage in Florida may also receive coverage for other authorized drivers, such as a spouse, as well as for any passengers who were in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
What Happens if You Reject Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Before you register a vehicle in the state of Florida, you must show proof of auto insurance — specifically Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability (PDL) coverage. However, there are several additional coverages that policyholders can choose to add to their insurance plan. One of these additional coverages is uninsured motorist insurance. While some states require UM coverage, it is optional in Florida.
With this being said, Florida law does mandate that all insurance companies selling auto insurance policies in the state still offer uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. When establishing their insurance policy, a policyholder may choose to reject this coverage. There is no penalty for rejecting uninsured motorist coverage. Yet, despite the lack of a penalty, that doesn't mean a driver won't pay a price for rejecting UM coverage.
Like all insurance coverages, UM insurance cannot be added to a policy after an accident has taken place. Similarly, a policyholder cannot recover under coverages that were never added to their policy in the first place. So, in the event of an uninsured motorist accident, a policyholder will need to use another type of coverage or pay out of pocket to fund their expenses if they reject UM coverage.
Why Do You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Florida?
UM coverage is optional, but highly recommended in the state of Florida. But why do you need uninsured motorist coverage in Florida specifically? The answer is a bit more shocking than you may expect. Recent research by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that one in every eight drivers in the United States who is involved in a car crash is either underinsured or not insured at all. Even worse, Florida is one of the states in the nation with the highest uninsured driving population.
More than 20% of Floridian drivers have absolutely no automobile insurance — meaning one in five drivers on the road has no liability insurance at all. Considering that auto accidents are happening almost once a minute in the state, the chances are high that an at-fault driver will have no insurance policy to cover the resulting injuries and property damage. Nearly a quarter of all accident victims may need to pay out of pocket or use their own insurance to pay for expenses.
However, drivers are required to carry just $10,000 of property damage liability and $10,000 of personal injury protection benefits in Florida. These minimum auto insurance requirements are significantly lower than the minimum requirements in other states, such as New York, where $25,000 for bodily injury is mandatory automobile liability insurance coverage. Without additional coverage — such as UM insurance — the current policy requirements for Florida barely pay for an ambulance ride and Emergency Room visit these days, let alone lost wages or long-term care.
How A Personal Injury Attorney Can Help
Your auto insurance policy will only be as beneficial as the types and amounts of coverage that you choose. But if you're a first-time driver, or have never been involved in a car accident before, it can be confusing to decide which coverages you should select or reject. This is where a personal injury attorney can help.
A personal injury attorney has seen just about every type of Florida car accident and is familiar with the nuances of auto insurance policies. Moreover, an attorney has witnessed what uninsured motorist coverage in Florida can do for victims of a UM accident. Medical bills and lost wages are just the tips of the iceberg for post-accident expenses UM coverage accounts for.
Uninsured motorist coverage in Florida can also pay for things like:
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Long-term medical care, such as in-home treatment
- Lost wages
- Other out of pocket expenses
Most of the above list is not covered or is limited by standard medical insurance, meaning long-term care becomes the responsibility of the victim. While you can't predict an accident, you do want to safeguard yourself from situations such as these. A personal injury attorney, such as Justin Weinstein of Weinstein Legal, can provide a free insurance evaluation to examine your current policy and decide if uninsured motorist coverage in Florida is right for you.
Protect Yourself Against Uninsured Florida Drivers Today
Every time you get behind the wheel, you take steps to protect yourself from reckless drivers and unexpected accidents. From wearing your seatbelt to routinely checking your mirrors, there are several ways to guard yourself against a car crash. Uninsured motorist coverage in Florida is simply another way to protect yourself against the negative outcomes of an accident — emotionally, physically, and financially.
Though uninsured motorist coverage in Florida is not mandatory, the addition of UM insurance helps safeguard drivers against steep medical bills and the stress of funding all of the above after an accident. Contact a personal injury attorney to examine your current auto insurance policy and protect yourself against uninsured Florida drivers today.