SUV vs. School Bus on SR 13 near Julington Creek June 2012. Think of the implications of such a wreck when reading this blog post about chronic under insurance in Florida.
"Full Coverage" is not enough. It keeps a car owner/driver compliant with state law but it does not fully protect him or her. In Florida a motorist does not have to have bodily injury (BI) protection for the injuries caused to someone else in a car wreck UNLESS the motorist has a prior accident in which he/she caused someone physical harm. The motorist with a prior wreck with injuries must carry a whopping (read sarcastically) $10,000 in BI coverage to comply with state law.
Note: The Georgia minimum is $25,000 and an insured Florida driver driving in Georgia is automatically bumped up to the Georgia minimums in most cases.]
Clients frequently tell me they have "full coverage." More often than not they have a 10/20/10 liability policy with coverage for comprehensive and collision and Personal Injury Protection (PIP). This means the client is covered for injuries he/she causes to another up to $10,000 per injured person; and up to $20,000 to cover ALL injured persons in that accident; and $10,000 to cover property damage to other vehicles or property. That is the "10/20/10" part. The "comprehensive and collision" covers damage to the insured motorist's own car.
This minimal coverage keeps the vehicle owner/driver "fully covered" enough to satisfy the State authorities BUT it leaves the insured holding the bag if he/she causes significant injuries beyond this coverage and beyond the injured parties' PIP coverage.
For example, you misjudge a left turn arrow and end up running a red light and collide with an on-coming vehicle containing a driver and passenger. That vehicle careens into a third vehicle containing a family of 4. All six people are injured and both cars are determined to be total losses. You think, "I have 'full coverage' I'm OK." Wrong. Depending on the severity of the injuries and the value of the cars you may be personally responsible for the injuries and replacement of the cars beyond the "full coverage." Your insurance company has an obligation to try to settle the injury and property claims against you within the limits of your 10/20/10 policy. If they make a good faith effort to do so but the injured parties claims exceed your policy limits and all claims cannot be resolved then you can be on the hook in the event the claimants are successful getting a judgement against you.
When purchasing insurance you must remember that the insurance is to protect you and minimize the financial risks in the event of a wreck. If you have assets that will be at risk purchase enough insurance to protect those assets. You should also purchase Uninsured/Under-insured motorist coverage (UM / UIM). UM / UIM covers you in the event the person who causes the accident, as in the example above, does not have enough coverage to fully compensate you for your damages.
Obviously this is a cursory overview of automobile insurance in Florida. We are suffering epidemic instances of under insurance in our state. The legal minimums are too low to fully compensate accident victims. We can blame the legislature and the insurance lobby for that. We can blame cut rate insurance companies for selling bare-bones coverage and not fully advising their insureds that the cut rate policy leaves the insured unprotected and the injured without complete compensation. Responsible vehicle owners must take it upon themselves to purchase adequate minimum BI and UM / UIM coverage.
Mr. Rosskopf is available for personal or group insurance evaluations for no charge. Call his office to schedule an evaluation before you are involved in a wreck.
(904) 422-4323 in FL
(404) 421-4233 in GA
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Attorney Erik Rosskopf
An active member of the Florida and Georgia bar associations, he practices in Jacksonville Florida handling cases throughout North Florida and Georgia.