Protecting your Assets from the Other Guy: Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Florida

Car accidents are a fact of life.  No matter how good or careful a driver someone may be, there is always a chance that they’ll be involved in an auto accident.  And while cars are much safer nowadays than in years past, with stability control, front and side airbags and even collision avoidance technology, it’s entirely possible to be severely hurt or killed in an instant in a car accident.
And if you are involved in a car accident, it can ruin you financially.  Leaving aside medical bills, someone who was earning a good living can lose those earnings; if you are in the hospital for months, or if you wind up disabled, you may not be able to run your business or work at your profession. Even if you are on a salary or hourly wage, if you’re out of work because of injuries you’re not making money.
And, theoretically, you can sue the guy who caused the accident for your lost wages and earnings; the problem with that is the guy who caused the accident may be carrying minimal, or no, insurance, and may not have anything. In other words, you may wind up with a piece of paper saying he owes you all this money and no way to collect it.
Understand, all Florida requires of drivers is $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection, which covers the owner, driver and passengers of the owner of the car, and another $10,000 in property damage, which covers any property damage, such as damage to the other guy’s car. Florida does not require any bodily injury coverage; or insurance that will cover the people that you hurt in an accident, unless they are in your car when they are hurt.  In plain language, if you are hit by another driver, that driver does not have to have insurance that covers any injuries to you; all he has to have is insurance that covers himself and his passengers and insurance that covers damage to your car, up to $10,000.
So,  this is the situation in Florida; if  you are involved in an accident, and the other guy is at fault, and  you are severely hurt or killed, you or your estate can sue the guy who hit you, get a judgment for all your medical expenses, all your lost income and wages, and basically be left holding a worthless piece of paper that is uncollectible; if the guy who hit you doesn’t have insurance, or doesn’t have insurance in an amount to cover  your damages, you’re probably out of luck and out of money.
And, if you think about it, who is least likely to carry insurance?  A responsible, safe, driver or the guy with a bunch of tickets, with a history of bad driving?  The guy with the history of bad driving, that’s who; precisely because his record is bad enough that he can’t get insurance or the insurance will cost him an arm and a leg.
That’s a problem; you can do everything right, be the safest driver in the world, be driving the safest car in the world, and some fool comes along and T-bones you and  you wind up in the hospital, out of work, maybe even disabled and unable to work for the rest of your life.
What can you do to protect yourself?  You can get Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage.  What lawyers, and your insurance agent call “UM” coverage. UM coverage is available in Florida to anyone who has Bodily Injury coverage; and it is available up to in the same amount as  you have Bodily Injury coverage. In other words, if you have $100,000 in Bodily Injury coverage, you can get up to $100,000 in UM coverage; if you have a half million in Bodily Injury,  you can get up to a half million in UM coverage.
UM coverage covers you; if the guy who hits you doesn’t have insurance, or if he doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your damages, your UM coverage will step in and cover your damages and losses up to the limits of your policy.  In other words, you look to your own insurance company to make you whole.
Also: I am not going to get into a technical discussion of UM coverage, but you should choose “stacking” coverage, even if  you only own one car.
So: in a nutshell, if you are interested in protecting yourself; you should contact your insurance agent and make sure that  you have Uninsured Motorist coverage;  you should have Uninsured Motorist coverage in an amount equal to whatever you are carrying for Bodily Injury; and frankly, if your Bodily Injury coverage is low,  you should probably consider raising it, and raise the Uninsured Motorist coverage as well.  How high?  Ask your agent what limits  you can get and what it will cost; if you are a good driver higher limits of Bodily Injury and Uninsured Motorist are not usually that much more expensive.  And you should choose “stacking” coverage; particularly if you own more than one vehicle, but even if you only own one, choose the stacking.
Remember, Uninsured Motorist coverage protects you from the other guy.  Bodily Injury protect the other guy from you; but you can only get Uninsured Motorist coverage up to the limit of what you have for Bodily Injury.  So, it makes sense to protect the other guy if you can protect yourself at the same time.


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