Understanding Florida Auto Injury Insurance Coverages
There are three basic and different types of auto coverage that give protection in the event of a crash-related injury. This guide explains what each of these are and how they work in conjunction with each other.
IntroductionWhen a person is selecting auto insurance, many are forced to rely solely on the information provided by the auto insurance agent as their guide in the types of coverage they ultimately select. These agents don't always give great explanations as to what protections each type of coverage provides. Also, let's face it, even if a thorough explanation was provided, it all sounds so similar in description that eventually one's eyes glaze over and the brain simply cannot process anymore.
However, picking out the right auto coverage is very important. Some coverages protect you and your loved ones in the event you are injured, and some coverages only protect others. I could write volumes about these types of coverages, but in the interests of staying simple I have briefly summarized the three basic Florida auto injury insurance coverages for you.
PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION (PIP)Under Florida law, drivers are required to have something called PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION or PIP. It is your own insurance company that will provide this coverage. PIP covers 80% of the first $10,000 of your emergency medical bills that you incur from an accident. Yes folks, that means your insurance company expects you to pay 20% of that $10,000 limit. Also, depending on your own specific insurance policy, you might also have to pay a deductible which can vary from $500 to $2,000. This is in addition to your 20% share you are already forking over.
There's an additional catch though. Within 14 days of the accident you must be diagnosed with an emergency medical condition to have that $10,000 limit apply. If this doesn't happen, then your PIP coverage is reduced to the first $2,500 of your medical bills from an accident. This diagnosis also has to be made by a medical doctor, a dentist, an osteopathic doctor or a nurse practitioner.
It's pretty safe to say it doesn't take much these days to rack up a medical bill that exceeds $10,000, not to mention $2,500. Some types of medical treatment are not covered at all. Unfortunately this is the only injury coverage that is required by law that protects you in a car accident. However, there are optional injury coverages that your auto insurance company can offer you. These are very important coverages for you to consider. Yes they cost more but I cannot count the number of clients I have represented who have been eternally grateful to have these policies.
BODILY INJURY (BI)With the exception of that $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection (or PIP) I've already mentioned, the State of Florida does not require drivers to carry any auto insurance that pays for injuries or medical treatment that they may cause to others. None at all. And this is perfectly legal. The type of auto insurance that pays in the event of injuries that you might cause to OTHER people not in your own vehicle is called BODILY INJURY (or BI) coverage.
Let's say for example that for some reason you accidentally hit another car from behind one day while driving. Even though you are a good person and did not intend for the accident to happen, the person you struck may claim an injury. If you have a BODILY INJURY policy on your auto insurance coverages then your insurance company will investigate this claim, negotiate it, and generally perform everything they have promised to perform in your policy in exchange for your premium payments.
Conversely, if YOU are hit by another person and are injured, this is the policy that the other person who hit you hopefully has that will pay your medical bills. I say hopefully because remember what I mentioned earlier? The State of Florida does not require this coverage, so you may be hit by another vehicle and injured and it is perfectly legal that the person who struck you has no insurance injury coverage to pay for your medical treatment. What can you do in this situation? I'm glad you've asked, read on...
UNINSURED MOTORIST (UM)UNINSURED MOTORIST, or UM coverage, is a policy that covers YOU or other people in YOUR OWN vehicle, in the event that you are struck or injured by a person who does not have the bodily injury coverage I just discussed. It will also cover you in the event the person who caused your injuries does have bodily injury coverage, but just not enough of it to fully compensate you. Remember how I mentioned that in Florida it is not required that a driver carry any injury coverage at all aside from PIP? If a driver without injury coverage hits you, and you sustain serious injuries, this is the only policy that would help pay for YOUR medical treatment. If someone hits you in car accident, you cannot control what type of insurance THEY have, but you can control the kind of insurance YOU have.
Kristy Guy Zinna is the Owner/Operator of The Law Office of Kristy Guy Zinna, P.L. located at 1017 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton, Florida. She practices in the field of Family Law and Plaintiff's Personal Injury. The information in this column is not intended as legal advice and out of necessity is generalized only. For questions about your specific circumstances please consult a qualified attorney.
Questions for this article can be sent to: Kristy Guy Zinna, email: [email protected] or by fax to (941)761-5607.