Injured In A Florida Auto Accident? Beware Car Insurance Pitfalls.

Auto accident law quiz question: Why do we need automobile insurance?

A. Because the law requires it.

B. Because it's the smart thing to do to protect you and your family from personal injury.

C. All of the above.

The correct answer is “C.” First Florida law requires that everyone who owns an automobile purchase insurance. Florida drives are only required to have personal injury protection or “PIP” coverage, which pays the medical expenses of 80 percent up to $10,000, regardless of fault. Some people elect a large deductible, presumably to reduce the premium. Unfortunately, they don't realize until it's too late the few dollars they saved on premiums will cost them thousands if they are injured in the accident, which is why the insurance was purchased in the first place. Florida law also requires that the driver responsible for the accident have property damage coverage of $10, to pay for damage to the other car. If you have the required coverage, you are deemed “insured”. Unfortunately, motorists are not required to carry insurance to compensate victims of car accidents that are not at fault. Although the insurance requirement was born from good intentions, you cannot legislate common sense. That's optional.

For my part as a automobile accident lawyer, I believe the minimal insurance required by the law is equivalent to no protection for the non-negligent “innocent” victim of an auto accident. Here's why.

Let's say an individual is involved in an auto accident caused by an uninsured motorist. The driver not at fault has the minimum coverages permitted by Florida law with a $2,000 deductible. That means that if the innocent driver is injured, he or she will have to pay the first $2,000 for services performed at health-care facilities and by their doctors before the insurance is available. After that he or she will be responsible for the 20 percent not paid by insurance under the basic PIP coverages. This financial predicament is a direct result of lack of foresight and desire to save a few premium dollars, which is now minimal compared to the thousands of dollars needed for appropriate medial care for injuries sustained in violent car accident.

Theoretically, the injured person would have been to recover his or her out-of-pocket expenses from the negligent driver who caused the automobile accident. However the deductible may not be reimbursement since it was the personal choice of the accident victim.

Florida law provides each negligent driver a credit of $10,000, even if the coverage was not purchased. What if the negligent driver did not have insurance? Remember our auto accident victim chose not to pay additional money for uninsured motorist coverage. Thus, not only is he or she unable to receive reimbursement for the out of pocket medical expenses, there is no available insurance for which a claim for damages can be made regardless of the seriousness of the injury. Those damages may include pain and suffering, mental anguish, lost income, lose of future earning capacity and loss of enjoyment of life. Equally unjust, the injured auto accident victim will be responsible for out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills and lost wages not paid by the PIP. For serious injuries, the expense could be devastating. Any claim against the uninsured driver directly fir his or her personal assets typically is an exercise in futility.

As a Florida accident attorney, I see this scenario all too often. Only too late do the victims of serious car accidents realize that the savings on premiums cost them dearly when they are injured in an automobile accident. For those who purchase the minimum PIP insurance with a $2,000 deductable, they must realize that they are self insured for the amount of the deductible and the 20 percent not paid by PIP. If funds are not available it is difficult to get treatment for their injuries. Uninsured motorist coverage permits individuals to reduce the risk of uncompensated injuries and take responsibility for themselves and their family's physical and financial well-being.

The main purpose of insurance is to protect ourselves in case we are injured in an automobile accident. Although the cost of insurance is an important factor in choosing the right insurance company and coverages, the amount of coverage and how claims are paid by the carrier must be carefully considered. There were 216,245 Florida automobile accidents in 2010 of which 214,208 resulted in injury and 2,430 resulting in deaths. That painful reality demands that we not only protect other road occupants, but ourselves from the ravages of auto accidents.


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