When my clients here in Saint Petersburg hear the term “full coverage,” there is a natural inclination to think that you are securely insured in the event of a car accident. This phrase created images of comprehensive protection, a nearly impenetrable safety net that will absorb the financial shock of an auto accident occurring. However, it could mislead you into thinking that you are fully insured and protected.
What makes this misconception especially troubling is the unique auto insurance environment in Florida, which is a no-fault state. In no-fault jurisdictions, each driver’s own insurance is generally responsible for covering their medical expenses, regardless of who caused the accident. On the surface, this might sound like a good deal. After all, why worry about the other driver's insurance when your own insurance is guaranteed to cover you? Unfortunately, this is a significant oversimplification.
The no-fault system in Florida exacerbates the problem by giving people the false impression that because their insurance will pay out regardless of who is at fault, they're fully protected. What they often don't realize is that "full coverage" often means they've met only the bare minimum required by state law, which in Florida isn't particularly robust. The state mandates Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which only covers a portion of your medical bills and lost wages, up to a very limited point.
Therefore, while you may think you're completely safeguarded under your "full coverage" policy, the reality could be drastically different, particularly when accidents result in severe injuries or significant property damage. In these situations, the limitations of what is commonly referred to as "full coverage" become glaringly obvious, often too late for remedial action.
The Importance Of Carrying Uninsured/ Underinsured Motorist Coverage
I also can’t stress enough the critical importance of carrying uninsured/ underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage on your auto insurance policy. Although this coverage is not required by current Florida laws, it is an invaluable safety net, especially when you consider that Florida ranks number one in the nation for the highest percentage of uninsured drivers on the road.
What does (UM/ UIM) coverage do for Florida motorists?
It provides a financial cushion when the at-fault driver in an accident does not have sufficient coverage to meet your damages or has no insurance at all. Without this coverage, you could find yourself shouldering medical bills, repair costs, and other financial burdens entirely on your own. Given the prevalence of uninsured motorists in Florida, this scenario is not just hypothetical it is a real risk.
The aspects of UM/ UIM coverage that make it invaluable are that it steps in when you have been involved in an accident with a driver who has no insurance. First, uninsured motorist coverage steps in when you are involved in an accident with a driver with no insurance. Uninsured Motorist coverage will come into play when the at-fault driver has no insurance policy but it is adequate enough to cover all your expenses that result from the accident.
Most full coverage insurance falls short on covering the full extent of the accident. While you might think that PIP will suffice it is important to remember that it will only cover a fraction of medical bills and lost wages as well as long-term treatment for full compensation for pain and suffering. UM/ UIM helps fill in gaps and provides additional financial support that you might need.
Every Saint Petersburg driver should add full coverage of accident insurance to their existing policy. It is not just an extra option but it is a crucial strategy designed to truly protect you as a driver here in Southwest Florida.
Add-Ons That Insurance Companies Offer
As a Saint Petersburg accident attorney, I’ve observed that insurance companies are experts at marketing strategies that offer frequently package add-ons such as roadside assistance and rental car reimbursement under the misleading umbrella of "full coverage." While these additional features may offer some convenience in specific situations, it's crucial to understand that they do nothing to extend your coverage in terms of medical expenses and other damages you may sustain in an accident. Simply put, these extras are not a substitute for comprehensive protection. Consequently, I strongly advise anyone who is considering or currently holds a policy marketed as "full coverage" to scrutinize the fine print meticulously. Do not let the term lull you into a false sense of security. Your financial well-being and peace of mind may very well depend on your level of due diligence in this matter. As an experienced Saint Petersburg auto accident attorney, I can affirm that understanding the limitations of your insurance policy is not just prudent—it's essential.
Knowing your options for insurance in Florida will help you to be prepared if you have been injured in an accident.
A List Of Auto Insurance Options To Maximize your Insurance Payout If You Have Been Injured In An Accident
High Limit Liability Coverage: Choose the highest limits you can afford for both bodily injury liability per person and per accident, as well as property damage liability.
The highest limits for bodily injury liability and property damage liability can vary by insurance company and state jurisdiction, and there is no standard "highest limit" that applies universally. However, some insurance companies offer bodily injury liability limits as high as $500,000 per person and $1 million per accident.
If you are seeking even higher levels of protection, consider an umbrella policy. This type of policy kicks in after the underlying auto policy limits have been exhausted and can offer coverage in the millions of dollars, thereby providing an extra layer of financial security.
Bear in mind that opting for the highest possible limits will generally result in higher premiums, so it's crucial to balance your need for protection with what you can afford. Consult with a qualified insurance agent, and possibly a legal advisor knowledgeable in personal injury and property damage liability, to help you make the most informed choice.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM): This coverage kicks in when the at-fault driver has insufficient insurance or no insurance at all. Opt for limits that are at least as high as your liability coverage.
Personal Injury Protection (PIP):
While PIP is mandatory in some states, the required minimums are often inadequate. Opting for higher limits can cover medical expenses regardless of fault.
The highest limits for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) can vary depending on the insurance company and the state's insurance regulations. Generally speaking, PIP limits can range from as low as $2,500 to as high as $50,000 or more in some states. Some states may even allow you to stack PIP coverage if you own more than one vehicle, thereby increasing the effective limit.
Collision and Comprehensive Coverage:
Collision pays for damage to your vehicle caused by a collision, while Comprehensive covers other damages to your vehicle (e.g., theft, fire, natural disasters). Opt for the lowest deductible and the highest limit you can afford.
The highest limits available for Collision and Comprehensive coverage are often equivalent to the actual cash value (ACV) of your vehicle. This means that the most the insurance company will pay out for a total loss situation is the market value of your car at the time of the accident, less your deductible. Some premium policies might offer a "new car replacement" option, which may replace your car with a new one of the same make and model, but these are less common and more expensive.
Deductibles for these coverages can range widely, often from around $100 to $2,000.
Gap Insurance: If you're leasing or financing your vehicle, gap insurance will cover the difference between the car's market value and the remaining balance on your loan or lease if the car is totaled.
In Florida, the highest level of Gap Insurance typically covers the difference between your vehicle's actual cash value and the remaining balance on your loan or lease at the time the car is declared a total loss. Some Gap Insurance policies may also cover your insurance deductible as part of the claim. It's important to note that the specifics can vary between insurance providers.
Gap Insurance usually doesn't have a "limit" in the way that other types of auto insurance coverages do. Instead, it's designed to cover the "gap" between the car’s current market value and the remaining loan or lease balance. This means that the "limit" is effectively whatever that gap amount turns out to be, up to the full balance owed on the vehicle. However, some policies might have caps or limitations, such as only covering up to 125% or 150% of the car's actual cash value, so it's crucial to read the terms carefully.
Umbrella Policy: This is additional liability insurance, over and above your auto insurance, that protects your assets in extreme cases involving death or long-term injury.
An Umbrella Policy provides an extra layer of liability coverage beyond the limits of your standard auto insurance policy. While typical auto insurance liability limits can range from $50,000 to $500,000 depending on the policy and the state, an umbrella policy can extend your liability protection by $1 million to $10 million or even more.
For instance, if your standard auto insurance policy has a bodily injury liability limit of $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident, and you have an umbrella policy of $2 million, your total coverage for a serious accident could be as high as $2.5 million per person and $2.5 million per accident.