As Jacksonville Car Accident Attorneys, we hear the term “Full Coverage” used a lot. While the term may sound like you are purchasing great coverage, in reality, you are probably buying the bare minimum. We often call this kind of coverage “tag insurance,” the basic coverage that the State of Florida requires you to have in order to drive on our roadways.
The State of Florida requires drivers to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits and Property Damage coverage. This is called Florida’s Financial Responsibility Law.
Florida is a no-fault state. That means regardless of who is at fault in the collision, if you have injuries, your medical bills will first be submitted to your auto insurance. Your auto insurance will pay 80% of your medical bills and 60% of your lost wages. The balance of your medical bills and wages can be paid out of optional coverage the at-fault driver may carry (Bodily Injury – BI) or optional coverage you might have purchased (Uninsured Motorist Coverage – UM). Your PIP is primary insurance and your health insurance, if you have any, is secondary. More on PIP is here.
Property Damage coverage pays for damages to the other driver’s car if you are found at fault in an accident. The minimum required amount is $10,000. You can increase the amount of this coverage. If you damage a vehicle that is worth more than $10,000, or you cause damage to more than one vehicle, or you damage such as a fence, sign, or building, the repair/replacement costs can easily exceed the minimum limits.
If you have what many carriers call “full coverage,” your coverage ends here. However, as Lawyers in Jacksonville dealing with Car Insurance Claims, we want you to know there are other optional coverages you should consider to protect you and your family.
Unlike Florida’s required Property Damage Coverage, Collision Coverage is an optional coverage you can purchase from your automobile insurance carrier to repair damage to your vehicle. If your vehicle is declared a total loss, Collision will pay you the value of the vehicle at the time of the loss. This coverage applies to situations where you back into a fence or mailbox, if you strike a curb or pothole, or if your car is damaged in an accident.
Collision almost always has a deductible; an amount you will be responsible to pay before your insurance covers the damage. Depending on the amount of the damage relative to the deductible, it may not be worth making a collision claim and having that accident show up on your claims history. For example, if you have a $1,000 collision deductible, but the damage to your bumper from hitting a tree will cost $1,200, it may not be worth making a claim. The age of your vehicle may affect your decision to purchase collision coverage. If you have an older vehicle, the premiums to pay for collision coverage over time may exceed the benefit you receive from making a claim. Older vehicles are more likely to be declared a total loss by the insurance company and you must weigh what you might be paid for the car versus the premium payments over time.
Purchasing Collision Coverage limits your downside to the amount of the deductible you choose. Car repair costs can easily escalate once bumpers are removed and more damage is identified. Without collision coverage, you are left paying for all these damages. You can maximize savings on your Collision Coverage by electing a higher deductible. The larger deductible you have, the lower your premiums will be.
Even in an accident that was not your fault, having Collision Coverage still makes sense. The other driver may only have the minimum Property Damage coverage limit of $10,000. If you have a newer vehicle, this amount of money may not be enough to cover the damage to your car. We often see multiple cars involved in accidents. In that situation, the at-fault driver’s Property Damage minimum limit of $10,000 has to be shared with all the vehicles involved. Without collision coverage, you may be in a situation where you will not be reimbursed the entire amount of your damages because the $10,000 will be pro-rated among all the vehicles damaged in the collision. With collision coverage, you skip dealing with the at-fault driver’s carrier and have your repairs handled through your insurance company. The downside is you will be out your deductible; however, your insurance company will attempt to recover your deductible from the at-fault carrier.
Bodily Injury coverage (BI) is another optional coverage in Florida. If you are found at fault in an accident, BI pays for the other person’s injuries not covered by their own PIP benefits. You can elect different amounts of BI. The greater the amount you choose, the less likely you will be personally exposed to damages you cause to someone else in an accident. By purchasing BI, your insurance company will provide you with a professional claims representative who will deal with any personal injury claims brought against you. If the claims representative cannot resolve the claim out of court, your insurance company will provide and pay for a defense attorney to defend a personal injury lawsuit filed against you. Purchasing BI also allows you to purchase another very important optional coverage called Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage (UM). You can not buy UM without first purchasing BI in Florida.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) may be the single most important coverage to have if you have been involved in a car accident in Jacksonville. This coverage applies if the person who caused the collision does not have enough, or any, Bodily Injury coverage. If you are involved in an accident and suffered injuries as a result of another driver’s negligence, you have to hope they carry the optional Bodily Injury coverage to receive fair compensation for your injury claim. Even if the other driver does carry Bodily Injury coverage, they may not carry limits high enough to pay your medical expenses and adequately compensate you for all your damages. With UM, you have the confidence to know if the other person who caused the accident does not have the appropriate coverage, you will be covered up to the Uninsured Motorist limits you have chosen.
There are two types of Uninsured Motorist coverage; stacked and non-stacked. Stacked means you can add the amount of coverage by the number of vehicles on your policy. Stacked coverage also avoids coverage exclusions found in the less expensive of the two options; non-stacked coverage. As you can tell by the name, non-stacked UM does not allow you to stack the UM coverage you have on multiple cars. Non-stacked Uninsured Motorist coverage limits you to the amount of UM on the vehicle you were driving at the time. There are other exclusions that limit the factual circumstances when non-stacked UM applies.
If you have been involved in a car accident in Jacksonville and you have questions about your car insurance coverage, we invite you to contact an attorney at Rosenberg & Calvin, P.A. to discuss your rights and benefits.