Written by Sarah Vega, attorney at Rubenstein Law
You were sold a “Full Coverage” insurance policy, what does that really mean?
At Rubenstein Law, our office is frequently retained to help clients be compensated for their very serious injuries as a result of an auto accident. However, there are occasions where ultimately we are unable to help an injured client recover for their injuries given that the at-fault party does not have sufficient insurance coverage,1 that is that they do not carry Bodily Injury Liability coverage. In order for you to recover from the at-fault driver’s insurance company, they must carry Bodily Injury Liability coverage, commonly referred to as BI insurance. BI insurance is the part of an at-fault’s policy that pays the costs associated with injuries they caused to another in an auto accident.
Unfortunately, a lot of drivers in Florida do not have BI insurance. This is always upsetting for our clients to hear, and it can be difficult for us to deliver the “bad news.” Most of our clients that find themselves on the receiving end of this information are angry because they do not understand how the at-fault driver can be insured and have “full coverage,” but not have sufficient insurance coverage for their injuries. Our clients want those that are at fault to pay for the injuries they caused, and when they cannot they want them to be punished for their inability to do so. Yet, in Florida there is to carry BI insurance, and likewise there is no associated punishment for not carrying BI insurance.
I have found that many individuals are misled by the insurance industry as to what “full coverage” really means, and are misinformed of what the minimum state requirements are for automobile insurance in Florida. After encountering this situation with several of my own clients, I have learned that many individuals are sold an automobile insurance policy with Florida’s minimum requirements and are told that they have “full coverage.” Yet, many of my clients don't have a full understanding of what is covered by their policies, and even less understanding as to what the coverages they have actually mean. Let me explain.
Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements in FL2 State law requires the following coverages:
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) $10,000
- Property Damage Liability (minimum) $10,000
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance
Regardless of whether you are at fault, PIP insurance covers you, relatives who live in your home, certain passengers who do not own a vehicle, and other authorized drivers up to $10,000, minus your deductible amount. Pedestrians and bicyclists are also covered if they are Florida residents and do not have their own PIP coverage source. PIP coverage benefits are paid directly to the medical providers who treat your for your injuries at an adjusted rate, which can still leave the injured party with thousands of dollars in bills. Also, this coverage can compensate you for a portion of your lost wages, mileage, etc.
However, this coverage does not compensate an injured person for their past and future pain and suffering or for their future expected medical expenses.
Property Damage Liability Insurance
Property Damage Liability insurance pays for the damage that you, or members of your family, cause to another person’s property while driving, including their vehicle or any other property damage sustained in an automobile accident. This coverage does not compensate you for your own property damages, only those you cause.
Basically, what all of this means is it is illegal in Florida for anyone to drive a vehicle that has no BI insurance. Both of the above minimally required insurance coverages provide compensation directly to an injured person for their injuries cause by an automobile accident. This is alarming for most people to hear. Especially those who were recently injured by a vehicle that did not have insurance coverage for their injuries.
Full Coverage ≠ You Are Fully Covered
You can avoid finding yourself in a similar situation (as the injured or at fault party) by educating yourself and making informed decisions when purchasing your auto insurance. There are insurance coverages available to protect and compensate injured parties:
Bodily Injury Liability Coverage (BI) Your first line of defense is to protect yourself from the injuries you may cause while driving. As discussed above, this type of liability coverage is called Bodily Injury Liability coverage. For a higher premium, most insurance carriers offer BI coverage options to pay for the injuries you might cause as a driver and protects your assets in the event you are sued personally. In contrast to what many people think, including this coverage, can cost as little as $5-10/month.3
You can also protect yourself by purchasing Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage that would pay for your injuries if caused by an individual without BI insurance, or with insufficient BI insurance. Further, there are optional insurance coverages that provide additional coverage for specific situations, such as: collision, comprehensive, medical payment, towing, rental reimbursement, and accidental death and dismemberment.
The bottom line as a Florida driver is be informed, know what insurance coverage options are available and protect you and your family. We understand the options can be confusing, but don’t be a victim. If you have questions, we can help. Call Rubenstein Law if you find yourself involved in an accident. We have been protecting the rights of the injured since 1988, and want to help you in your time of legal need. We are here for you 24/7. Call today at 1-800-FL-LEGAL for a free case review.
1 Failure of the at-fault party to have insurance coverage for one’s injuries is not the only reason we may be unable to obtain compensation for our clients, but one of the more frequent. 2See F.S. 324.021 3See chart generated by CarInsurance.com as an example of an annual premium with the added BI coverage options.