When I discuss the subject of automobile insurance with my clients who have been involved in car accidents many of them tell me that they have “full coverage.” Unfortunately, what they consider full coverage and what really is “full coverage” is quite different. Under Florida law, the only two types of insurance coverage that are mandatory are personal injury protection (PIP) and property damage coverage. PIP covers the owner of the vehicle, relatives in the same household, permissive users of the vehicle, passengers, and other persons whom are struck by the vehicle. Property damage will pay for damages you cause to the other vehicle or to other personal or public property as a result of an accident. Incredibly, the Florida legislature in its wisdom does not require bodily injury coverage. Bodily injury coverage pays you if you can establish that you’ve suffered a permanent injury (over and above your PIP benefits) as a result of a accident. When cases go to trial you can assume that the at-fault driver has some amount of bodily injury coverage. Otherwise, unless the driver has other personal assets with which to pay a judgment, the case would not be worth pursuing on behalf of the client.
The point of the above is that you do not have “full coverage” if all you carry is PIP and property damage coverage. According to data published by the Insurance Research Council for 2009, 24 percent of Florida drivers are uninsured. This means these drivers do not even have PIP or property damage coverage! To protect yourself against the 24% of drivers that are uninsured, and the thousands of others that do not have bodily injury coverage, you need to have uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist insurance pays for permanent injuries if the at-fault driver has no bodily injury coverage, if the at-fault driver lacks sufficient limits of bodily injury coverage to cover the injuries sustained, or, if one is struck by a “hit-and-run” driver. This coverage is similar to PIP in that it covers the named insured, the insured’s family members and other persons occupying the insured automobile. This insurance is optional and more expensive but in my opinion it is the most important insurance you can have.