Recently in our office, we have seen a disturbing trend. Due to the difficult economy, many drivers are not carrying any liability coverage whatsoever. Liability coverage is insurance a driver carries to pay damages to another for injuries in the event of an accident. Florida Law does not require a driver to carry Bodily Injury Liability coverage. You are only required to have Personal Injury Protection or No Fault, and Property Damage Liability Coverage.
What does this mean to you? It means that there is over a 50/50 chance that the person who causes your car accident does not have any insurance to pay you for your medical bills, your lost wages, your inconvenience, your pain and suffering, and most importantly, your medical expenses and bills. Thus, even though you were completely not at fault for the accident, you may have no opportunity to recover for your damages.
This is why it is so vitally important to carry Uninsured Motorist Coverage. Uninsured Motorist Coverage, or “UM” for short, provides compensation to a person under their own insurance policy. It provides coverage in situations where the at-fault party either does not have Bodily Injury Liability coverage, or, does not have adequate coverage to fully compensate you for your injuries. The purpose of UM insurance coverage is to afford you an opportunity for coverage that would have been available had the negligent party obtained liability coverage.
Under Florida Law, your insurance carrier must offer you UM coverage in an amount equal to your Bodily Injury Liability Coverage limits. So for example, if you carry Bodily Injury Liability Limits of $100,000 per claim, and $300,000 per accident, your insurance carrier must offer you the option to purchase UM limits in the amount of $100,000 per claim, and $300,000 per accident. You can elect to carry UM limits lower than your Bodily Injury Liability Limits, however, if you do, you must do so in writing. Furthermore, should you elect not to carry UM coverage, your carrier is required to obtain a signed, UM rejection form from you. Without the same, your UM carrier could be obligated to provide you UM benefits in the amount equal to your Bodily Injury Liability Limits.
There are some other important points for you to know about UM insurance. UM coverage follows you, and not your vehicle. What this means is that your UM coverage provides coverage for you even when you are riding in someone else’s vehicle. Coverage is also provided for accidents caused by a hit-and-run driver or a so-called “phantom” vehicle, regardless of whether these vehicles can be identified. UM benefits typically apply to the named insured, the spouse of the named insured, and any relatives of the named insured or spouse that reside in your household. You also have the option to “stack” or combine coverage available from different policies. For example, let’s say you have UM benefits of $10,000 in your name, but you insure three separate vehicles. You could elect to “stack” coverage, and thus have a total of $30,000 in UM benefits available for one accident.
Next time you are driving down our busy Central Florida roads, remember that there is a very high likelihood that the driver to left and the driver to the right are not insured. Ask yourself, if this person hit me right now, what would I do? What would my family do if I am seriously injured?
UM insurance does add additional premium to your insurance costs, but when you consider the prospect of being in an accident, and not having a sum of insurance monies to recover from the at-fault party, the additional expense is well worth it.
The best person to contact about obtaining UM coverage is your insurance agent. Make sure when you renew your Auto Insurance Policy, you thoroughly go over and discuss the various options available to you regarding UM coverage, and purchase as much coverage as you can possibly afford.