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The importance of uninsured motorist coverage in Florida

Phil Photo New By Philip M. Snyder

The Broward County personal injury and accident attorneys at Lyons, Snyder & Collin receive at least one phone call per month from individual(s) involved in serious automobile accident(s) (either by hit-and-run or by driver(s) without insurance coverage or with very minimal insurance coverage) who were advised by their insurance agents (or never discussed with their insurance agents) not to purchase uninsured motorist coverage (UM coverage).   Without fail, these individual(s) were unaware of the significance of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.   Although these individuals oftentimes have outrageously large premiums as a result of high limits for liability (such as bodily injury “BI”, comprehensive and collision coverage) as a result of not purchasing uninsured motorist coverage, these individuals’ medical bills and pain and suffering are not covered when they are involved in an accident due to the negligence of an uninsured/underinsured driver.    As such, the personal injury and accident lawyers at Lyons, Snyder & Collin prepared a brief summary of why it is absolutely necessary to purchase uninsured motorist coverage (UM) and stress all of our friends and family to immediately check their automobile policies to ensure they are covered.

With every potential client involved in an automobile accident the attorneys at Lyons, Snyder & Collin ask, “What type of automobile insurance policy they carry and the associated “limits” of coverage?”   Oftentimes we receive an answer of “250/500”, “100/300” or “10/20”.    A “250/500” insurance policy means that for bodily injury insurance (“BI”) a driver is financially covered up to [the first amount] (i.e. “250,000.00”) per person and up to [the second amount] (i.e. “$500,000.00”) per occurrence (accident). “BI” insurance pays for injuries you may cause to another driver or pedestrian.  To our potential client’s surprise, “BI” coverage does not cover any injuries that they may sustain, however.   At least half of our potential clients are unaware if they purchase uninsured motorist coverage.  Florida does not require drivers to purchase uninsured motorist coverage.

Uninsured (including underinsured) motorist coverage is designed to compensate you for a loss which you sustain at the hands of a driver who is uninsured, or inadequately insured (“underinsured”).    Significantly in South Florida, uninsured motorist coverage will protect you from accidents caused by illegal drivers (without insurance), hit and run accidents, or from drivers with inadequate coverage.Plainly speaking, if you are injured by the negligence of a driver with little to no insurance, your insurance company will not compensate you if you did not purchase uninsured motorist coverage, no matter how large of a “BI” policy you have.

Unlike liability coverage, which pays for accidental bodily injury and property damage to others, uninsured motorist coverage is intended to compensate you for your financial and non-financial loses when the at fault driver does not have proper insurance.  Financial loses include any medical expenses (such as surgery or physical therapy), loss of income or earnings, loss of the ability to earn future income or earnings, or any out-of-pockets expenses (i.e. live-in nurse or wheelchair).  Non-Financial loses include the lack of ability to participate or engage in activities (such as sports, childcare, or sex) as result of injuries or pain and suffering.

Uninsured motorist coverage (UM coverage) is often written just like “BI” coverage.   In Florida, a driver can purchase UM coverage for an amount equal to their BI coverage.   For most policies, it is very inexpensive to add UM coverage to a policy, especially considering the protection it offers.  Additionally, you do not have to be an automobile driver or passenger in order to be eligible for UM benefits – a UM policy applies if you were a pedestrian, bicyclist, or bystander, as long as the “at fault” driver was uninsured or underinsured.    For these reasons, our accident and injury attorney are amazed that any driver would neglect to purchase UM coverage (equal to the amount of “BI” coverage), especially when they are spending such a high monthly premium for “BI” coverage.

Additionally, many drivers who fail to purchase uninsured motorist coverage have extremely high collision and comprehensive limits.   Collision insurance pays for damages to your vehicle caused by a collision with another vehicle or object.   Comprehensive insurance covers loss or damage to your vehicle caused by fire, wind, hail, flood, vandalism, or theft.   One potential client recently advised that he purchased a $100,000.00 comprehensive insurance policy for his $20,000.00 Honda Accord.   This potential client was involved in an accident with a driver who did not have insurance.   As a result, because his insurance agent advised him not to purchase UM coverage, this potential client’s automobile insurance would not pay his $80,000.00 in medical bills.   In the event this potential client had UM coverage, his insurance would have been responsible for his financial and non-financial loses.

Please immediately check your automobile insurance policies to ensure you have adequate uninsured motorist coverage.  Please contact the Fort Lauderdale personal injury and accident lawyers at Lyons, Snyder & Collin if you require additional explanation.

The author Marc P. Lyons, a recent “Florida Legal Elite” recipient, is a founding partner of Lyons, Snyder & Collin, P.A. in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.    Personal injury lawyer Marc P. Lyons handles all accident and injury matters including auto accidents, slip and falls, wrongful death, and dog bites in Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties.   In addition to personal injury, the Fort Lauderdale law firm of Lyons, Snyder & Collin, P.A. also handles family law, divorce, and criminal defense matters.  Lyons, Snyder & Collin is located at 312 Southeast 17th Street, Third Floor, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33316.  Telephone: 954.462.8035.  http://www.lyonssnyder.com/