What is Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage?
Uninsured motorist coverage, also sometimes referred to as underinsured motorist coverage (hereafter, “UM” coverage), is a form of excess bodily injury coverage that you may carry on your own policy. Insurance companies often do not do a good job of informing their clients on the importance of UM coverage, nor do they even explain what it is. That is why you are here, and that is what I seek to do in the remainder of this article.
Bodily Injury Coverage is Not Mandatory in Florida
Florida is a no-fault state, and thus drivers are not required to keep bodily injury coverage (or, “BI” coverage) on their policy. If you are scratching your head at this, you rightfully should. This in effect means that people may legally drive their vehicles without carrying any form of insurance to cover your injuries should those drivers cause an accident. In other states where BI coverage is mandatory (e.g. New York), if a driver were to cause an accident you could rest assured knowing that there is at least some amount of coverage for your injuries. However in Florida, this is not the case.
What Happens if I Am in An Accident and Do Not Have UM Coverage?
Let us take an example: Say you are involved in an accident, to no fault of your own, and that you have a mid-range policy with $50,000/$100,000 in BI coverage. Let us also assume that you do not carry UM insurance. Further, let us assume that the at-fault party is carrying a bare-bones policy, i.e. no BI coverage. How much insurance coverage is available to you for your injuries?
In this scenario, I have had many clients say to me “do not worry, Avnish, I have a ‘fully loaded policy,’ I will have coverage for my accident.” They are referring to their own BI limits (plus maybe some other add-ons like collision coverage, etc.), and are assuming that their bodily injury coverage is what will matter for the accident at hand. Indeed, they are unfortunately incorrect. In the example above, it is actually the case that you, the injured and not-at-fault party, will have no coverage to which you can turn besides your own PIP coverage, a mandatory component of all auto policies. PIP only covers 80% of your medicals up to the first $10,000, and that is only if you meet certain very specific criteria.
Therefore in the above example, you would effectively be left completely unprotected despite carrying $50,000/$100,000 in “bodily injury” coverage.
What if I Do Have UM Coverage? How Does UM Coverage Work?
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is designed to protect you, the insured, if there is insufficient bodily injury coverage available from other sources. In other words, if the at-fault party is not carrying enough insurance to cover your medicals, pain and suffering, lost wages, etc., then your UM coverage kicks in. Because Florida does not require bodily injury coverage, injured drivers often find themselves in situations where the at-fault party has little to no coverage for the injured driver’s medicals, etc.
Let us take the example above but this time assume that along with $50,000/$100,000 in BI coverage, you carry the same in UM coverage. In other words, you carry $50,000/$100,000 in uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. What happens then?
Just like above, the at-fault driver has no BI insurance so you cannot turn to his/her policy for coverage. However, since you are carrying UM insurance, in the event your injuries produce medical bills and otherwise damage your life in any way, you can actually turn to your own policy to then provide you with $50,000/$100,000 coverage, i.e., up to $50,000 per person and up to $100,000 total for the accident.
Consult With An Attorney Today to Find Out More
The topic of uninsured and/or underinsured motorist coverage extends far beyond what is written above and can be a confusing matter to anyone not working with it on a daily basis. Come to MANGAL, PLLC today to consult with Attorney Avnish Mangal to learn more and see whether UM insurance makes sense on your policy.