At least once or twice a month our firm must advise a prospective client that, although they were faultless in the accident which injured them or a loved one, the at fault driver who hit them failed to carry insurance coverage for their injuries. Because our prospective client failed to carry uninsured motorist coverage we have no choice but to turn down their case. Our prospective client usually protest, "But my insurance agent told me I was purchasing 'full coverage.'"

"Full coverage" as used by many insurance agents is a misleading, meaningless term. As typically used by agents the phrase means no more than the insured has purchased the minimum insurance required by Florida law, and in Florida the law requires nothing more than what is commonly referred to as "PIP", or Personal Injury Protection coverage, and property damage liability insurance.

Property damage liability insurance pays for damage caused by you to the automobile of another. PIP coverage pays for 80-90% of your medical bills and 60% of your lost wages, usually up to a limit of $10,000 in total payments. PIP coverage pays nothing for the first 10-20% of your medical bills,for your future medical care needs, for the 40% of your lost wages not covered by PIP, for your medical bills beyond the typical $10,000 PIP limit, or for your pain and suffering; all of which comprise the real value of an automobile personal injury claim.

Various studies have established that approximately 40% of all Florida drivers either do not carry any insurance or carry only PIP coverage. A person injured in an automobile accident by an uninsured driver, or by a driver insured with only PIP coverage, has no insurance coverage against which to make a claim or file a lawsuit. These are the clients whom we must regrefully inform have no case, no matter how extensive their injuries.

All drivers in Florida should elect to carry some level of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, otherwise known as "UM" coverage, to protect themselves against the 40% of Florida's drivers who do not carry insurance for another person's injuries or carry inadequate insurance. Uninsured motorist coverage pays for your medical bills and lost wages not covered by PIP, and also pays for pain and suffering and future medical bills up to the limit of your coverage. If affordable, you should also carry Medical Payments coverage, to cover the 10 - 20% of your medical bills not covered by the PIP deductible, and to cover any medical bills above your PIP coverage.

We also advise clients to explore purchasing PIP coverage over and above the traditional $10,000 PIP policy. Most insurance carriers offer qualified customers additional PIP coverage, and because PIP does not have to be repaid in the event of a recovery (unlike health insurance or workers compensation benefits), additional PIP coverage may increase your recovery in the event of an automobile accident. For the nominal cost involved, additional PIP coverage is a wise investment.

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