Over the years, my clients who have been in an automobile accident have come to me and have made a claim for injuries against the adverse party’s insurance carrier. Much to their chagrin, some clients find out that the other drivers had only minimal vehicular insurance, none of which would pay a client any funds for economic losses, i.e., lost wages, medical bills, etc., or non-economic damages, i.e., permanent pain and suffering as a result of the accident and the injuries.
When I have asked my clients what automobile insurance coverage they have, they usually respond that they have “full coverage.” That is a “misnomer.” Florida is a “no-fault” automobile insurance state. What this means is that if you drive on Florida’s highways, you only have to have a minimum coverage of $10,000.00 for personal injury protection benefits and $10,000.00 for property damage liability. This coverage only pays for medical expenses and lost wages for the driver of the vehicle, no matter who is at fault in the accident. In other words, your own insurance pays for your medical expenses and lost wages, and the other driver’s insurance company pays for their medical bills and lost wages. Therefore, if you are in an automobile accident and the at-fault driver only has this bare-bones coverage, his insurance carrier does not have to pay you anything for your economic or non-economic damages because the adverse driver did not have bodily injury coverage.
When the person responsible for an accident and your injuries does not have any bodily injury insurance coverage, or he does not have enough bodily insurance coverage to compensate the client for their total economic and non-economic losses, the only way to be compensated for your injury and financial losses is UMI coverage. UMI means either “uninsured motorist coverage” or “under-insured motorist coverage.
The only way to protect yourself and your family from sustaining financial loss when involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist, or an under-insured motorist, is to obtain uninsured motorist coverage on your automobile policy. There is an additional premium charged for this coverage, but it is reasonable, and you should not be without it. Keep in mind that a substantial percentage of people driving automobiles in the State of Florida have minimal bodily injury coverage or no coverage at all. Therefore, the chances of your being involved in an accident with one of these people is great.
When you apply for automobile insurance, the agent and/or insurance company are obligated to advise you of your rights to secure UMI coverage. It is your option to either select UMI coverage or reject it. If you decide to reject this coverage, then the insurer must obtain a written rejection from you concerning the coverage. If they do not discuss UMI coverage with you, and do not obtain a written rejection from you, then you are entitled to uninsured motorist coverage benefits up to the limits of your bodily injury liability coverage provided by your policy if you are in an accident.
Another important consideration is called “stacking” of coverage. What that means is that if you own two or more vehicles insured under the same basic policy, you could elect to stack your uninsured motorist coverage for the number of vehicles so insured. Example: if you have a $10,000/$20,000 UMI policy, and you own two vehicles, if you purchase stacked UMI coverage, that means the total available to you in the event you do have a UMI claim is $20,000/$40,000. If you have three vehicles insured for $10,000/$20,000 bodily injury limits, then you have $30,000/$60,000 UMI coverage that inures to your benefit if needed. But again, all of these options increase your premiums, but the coverage is invaluable if the situation arises where you need it. UMI coverage is probably the coverage you will need the most if and when you have an automobile accident which is the fault of someone else and you had serious economic and/or non-economic damages as a result thereof.