Picture this: You are driving with your family on what you know to be a quiet road in a Tallahassee neighborhood. The next thing you know, you have been in a car accident.
The driver admits their mistake to you and your family and apologizes profusely before providing the investigating officer with their insurance information. “Well, thank goodness they have insurance,” you think to yourself. If anyone was hurt in the accident, at least the other drivers’ insurance coverage will pay for any medical care you or your family will need, right?
Unfortunately, that is not necessarily true. Perhaps the coverage the at-fault driver obtained turns out to be the minimum required to lawfully drive in the State of Florida: including only Personal Injury Protection benefits (which are generally for the driver’s own benefit, not yours) and Property Damage Coverage (which pays up to $10,000.00 to fix the damage to your car).
The above described scenario highlights the importance of Uninsured Motorist Insurance in Florida, also referred to as Underinsured Motorist Insurance, or simply “UM” coverage. Essentially, UM coverage provides coverage for damages you incurred as a result of an auto accident when the at-fault driver does not have sufficient insurance coverage to reimburse you for all damages they caused in an accident, or — even worse – when the at-fault driver has no coverage at all.
UM coverage is insurance that you obtain through your own auto insurance provider and, unlike bodily injury (“BI”) coverage – which insures you against losses to others hurt in an accident you may have caused – UM coverage insures against losses incurred by you, and others covered by your policy, as a result of an accident caused by someone else. UM coverage also protects you when you are injured in an auto accident caused by a hit and run driver.
Another thing to keep in mind is that, In Florida, your UM coverage can be “stacked” – which means that, for an additional premium, the limits of your UM coverage can be multiplied by the number of cars insured under your policy, increasing the amount of coverage you have for any one particular accident. For example, if your auto policy includes $25,000.00 in UM coverage and insures two vehicles identified in your policy, the limits of your “stacked” UM coverage you have available for any one accident is $50,000.
The good news is that UM coverage is generally not expensive and can more than pay for itself if you are injured by an uninsured driver. UM coverage must be in place prior to the date of an accident. You cannot go back to your insurance provider after an accident with an uninsured, or underinsured driver and add UM coverage to retroactively cover damages you incurred as a result of the accident. Many people do not know if they have this coverage, and some clients have advised they were not aware this type of coverage was even available.
I have never had a client who have regretted purchasing UM coverage. However, many have lamented their failure to secure this type of coverage. Hindsight may be 20/20, but it is not difficult to foresee the benefits of obtaining UM coverage outweigh the risks of failing to do so. Some clients have relayed that insurance agents told them they did not need UM coverage. While it is true that UM coverage is not legally required to operate a motor vehicle in Florida, it is certainly advisable to obtain as much UM coverage as you can afford. You truly never know when you will need it.