You’ve just left a nice restaurant after dinner with your family. You leave the parking lot and turn the family truckster onto the boulevard. A fourth of a mile down the road, a speeding car cuts you off, causing both vehicles to crash. Your resulting injuries require surgery, and you’ll be out of work for several months. Your spouse does not work. and you are the breadwinner. The other driver had the mandatory “full coverage” required by the state of Florida. Surely, his insurance will cover your losses.
Surprisingly, Florida DOES NOT require drivers to carry bodily injury coverage to protect you and your family if another driver injures you and/or your family! In fact, the only insurance required in Florida is $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection (PIP – which protects the other driver and occupants of the vehicle) and $10,000 of property damage insurance to cover damage to your car.
It’s 100 percent legal for others to drive around with zero bodily injury insurance to protect you if another car injures you or your family. Your health insurance will cover some of your past medical bills, but you’re responsible for deductibles and co-pays. Unless you have disability insurance, you won’t recover the wages you lost while you were out of work for several months. What about the pain, suffering and stress created by the situation?
So how do you recover for all of the money you’ve lost that was not covered by your health insurance (the vast medical bills, deductibles, co-pays, potential future medical bills and co-pays, lost wages and potential loss of ability to earn wages in the future)? This is an unfortunate and wrenching scenario which plays out over and over. Someone is seriously injured by a reckless driver with no or insufficient insurance, and if the injured person did not buy uninsured motorist insurance, he/she is often completely unprotected.
If you do not have uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage, there is a good chance you will never directly recover those losses. UM is the flip side of the coin to bodily injury insurance. You buy bodily injury insurance to protect yourself by compensating other people if you injure them. You buy UM insurance to protect yourself by compensating you if you are injured by someone without any or enough insurance to cover your losses.
UM insurance steps in when you are injured by another driver who either has no bodily injury insurance (uninsured) or who does not have enough bodily injury insurance (underinsured) to fully compensate you for your losses (i.e., if the other driver in the example only carried $10,000 of bodily injury insurance, which would likely be exhausted during the initial ER visit).
If you have UM coverage in the aforementioned example, you would simply seek reimbursement from your own insurer for the losses you have suffered because of the other driver’s carelessness. Your UM insurance should then reimburse you for the deductibles paid, for the months of wages you lost and for all of the pain and suffering you experienced during your injury and recovery.
If you’re not sure if you have UM, call your agent and find out. If you do not have UM, buy as much as you can reasonably afford. It is invaluable if you are ever placed in the type of situation described here, through no fault of your own.
Jason D. Holbrook is the founder of Holbrook Law in Nocatee, which specializes in wrongful death, serious injury and estate planning. Holbrook founded the firm after spending nearly a decade practicing exclusively insurance defense and defending high value wrongful death, trucking and personal injury lawsuits for insurance companies, trucking companies and many other corporate entities. Contact Holbrook Law at (904) 900-5533 and visit www.holbrooklawpa.com for more information.