What Kind of Florida Auto Insurance Should I Get?
Dear Car Accident Lawyer in Miami:
I was wondering what kind of Florida auto insurance you would recommend that I buy my daughter, who will be driving to high school this fall. She will be 17 in August, and we would like to surprise her by buying her a car for her birthday.
Concerned Padre in Perrine
Dear Concerned Padre in Perrine:
Congratulations to you and your daughter, and I am glad you asked. The brand name of the car insurance is far less important than the coverage it provides. In other words, it makes little or no difference to me if you buy Progressive, State Farm, or Allstate–though I do prefer those to lesser known names like United Auto or Gainsco. Instead, what is far more important in my opinion–after having investigated more than 10,000 car, truck, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic accidents and fatalities–is the type of coverage.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage, or UM, is the single most important insurance coverage you can purchase as it is the only one that will pay you or your child money for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering if and when the person who causes all or part of the accident either has no insurance (sadly very common) or not enough (just as common.)
In fact, the first four questions I ask when I investigate a typical car wreck in Kendall are . . .
- What are the injuries?
- How did it happen?
- Does my client have uninsured motorist coverage?
- Was the accident caused by a drunk driver?
Without uninsured motorist coverage, the chances of my being able to do anything to help the victim or his or her family are almost always none, because most people who are driving on the streets of South Florida–including Coral Springs, South Beach, Homestead and Hialeah–are uninsured.
But I am warning you, UM insurance is not cheap, and your agent will most likely–out of misplaced allegiance to a greedy insurance company or ignorance–work hard to convince you that “you don’t need that” and that “full coverage” includes anything other than UM.
Because UM insurance claims are those where insurance companies are most likely to have to pay out benefits, they make it the most difficult and expensive to obtain. First, in order to buy UM insurance, companies require that you first purchase BI, or Bodily Injury Insurance, to increase both your yearly premiums and offset the amount of money they would most likely have to pay out.
Bodily Injury insurance pays the “other driver” money in case you or your daughter has an accident. And since your daughter is young, the premium will be higher than most as she would be most likely to get into an accident because of her inexperience–either by causing it or failing to avoid it.
But don’t be discouraged. Just buy as much UM as you can afford, as if she is hurt, she will need it. Let me be clear, the idea for having UM is not so that you or your daughter can get rich from an accident; rather, it is to pay for the care she might need and compensate her for the permanent and potentially devastating change in the quality of life that can happen.
People commonly mistake my advice about insurance for some kind of secret trick to enhance the amount of money they can make in an accident–as if I am a football analyst making suggestions on what teams to bet on. And I am sorry if my advice comes across like that. Rather, I have seen first-hand the lives of young men and women grind into a mangled heap of prolonged hospitalizations, leaving them without limbs, scarred, and having literally lost their minds from traumatic brain injuries in one moment when someone accidentally ran a red light–or worse, texted on the way home from work.
FOUR THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CAR INSURANCE
There are some “tricks” you can use to make the most of your insurance, and your agent probably won’t tell you these, either:
First you can double or triple the amount of UM coverage you have by purchasing “stacking” UM for a few dollars a year more if you have multiple cars in your household. Stacking UM allows you to give your family members the benefit of the UM coverage you have on each car for a single accident. For example, if you have three cars in your household and purchase $25,000 bodily injury (remember they make you buy this first) and $25,000 UM for each car or truck, and then stack the UM, your daughter would have $75,000 of available UM coverage for any potential accident that is not her fault.
Second: If you want to save some money now that you are electing to purchase UM, skip the rental car, comp and collision, and roadside assistance options. All nice options, but not nearly as crucial to obtain as UM.
Third: Buy an Umbrella Policy. This catch-all save-all can provide all the bells and whistles that buying a la carte coverages can and usually includes $1million in both BI and UM. Ask your agent what the Umbrella Policy would cost, as it might be cheaper, especially with multiple cars.
Fourth: Make sure you list, if required, all the residents in your household over 15 on your insurance policies, even if they don’t drive. This is a common trap I have seen many insurance companies use to evade having to pay out a claim, as many require their insureds to name all residents or family members 15 years or younger on the policies–even if they don’t drive. What inevitably happens is that at the time of purchasing the policy, the 15 year old may or may not drive, but will soon, and often times the policy is not updated by mistake or out of fear that it will increase one’s premiums. When and if that child either causes or is the victim of an accident, the insurance company will deny coverage for the policy holder’s failing to disclose the then-15-year-old on the policy.
THE GOOD HANDS OF ALLSTATE?
I cannot stress this issue enough: don’t try to outsmart an insurance company. They have had a significant influence in the drafting of Florida law for over a century. And as a lawyer who handles insurance claims for accidents in Miami, I have seen literally thousands of cases where a legitimately injured person was denied compensation because of a legal technicality found buried in Florida’s statutes or case law. For example, last week a Florida appellate court reversed a jury verdict against Allstate Insurance Company in an Uninsured Motorist Claim made by Anthony Marotta after his lawyer asked the jury amongst other things what it really meant to be in “good hands” after Allstate refused to compensate Mr. Marotta for his alleged injuries. To read the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s Decision click here.
Good luck, Padre in Perrine, and thank you for your email. If you or your daughter has any questions regarding making an insurance claim for a car accident in Florida, Email me, Spencer Aronfeld, or call our lawyers in Miami at 305-441-0440 or Toll Free at: 1-866-597-4529 for a free consultation. And please make sure you get her the safest vehicle possible with a 5-Star Safety Rating.