Understanding Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured/Underinsured motorist insurance (“UM’) is a critical optional coverage that you add to your own policy that will cover you in the event that another driver causes an automobile accident and the driver has no bodily injury (BI) insurance or has less coverage than the value of your claim. With an estimated 23% of Florida drivers driving with no insurance at all you should consider this coverage mandatory.
You can purchase UM/UIM coverage up to the same limits as you carry for bodily injury(BI) coverage. You should always purchase the maximum available to protect yourself and your passengers to the same extent you pay to protect the other driver. UM/UIM coverage is usually much cheaper to buy than bodily injury (BI) coverage. If you have more than one car on your policy, you should elect to “stack” the coverage, which efectively doubles the limits without doubling the cost of the coverage.
Often, when we meet with new clients, they think they have UM/UIM because they were told they have “Full Coverage”. Unfortunately, in the industry, “Full Coverage” is referred to as “Fools Coverage”. This is because “full coverage” usually means the absolute minimum required by Florida law, which consists of personal injury protection and property damage coverage.
Because UM/UIM coverage is provided by your own insurance company, there are additional contractual obligations on your part. You have a duty to cooperate with your insurance company during their investigation of your claim. This investigation can include an examination under oath (EUO), or even an independant medical examination (IME) with a doctor selected by your carrier.
Because UM coverage is based on contract and not tort law, the statute of limitations is five years whereas the claim against the at fault driver must be filed within four years. If a claim requires litigation, suit is usually filed against both the at fault driver and the UM/UIM carrier within the four years. If the claim is settled against the at fault driver, but not with the UM/UIM carrier, permission must be obtained from the UM/UIM carrier prior to accepting the settlement from the at fault driver. In some cases where the at fault driver doesn’t have adequate coverage, but they have personal assets, the UM/UIM carrier may not agree to waive their subrogation rights. In order to exercise their right of subrogation, the UM/UIM carrier must pay you (the client) the amount the settlement with the at fault driver would have been. This allows you to recover that portion of your damages without having to execute a release in favor of the at fault driver and your carrier may still pursue the at fault driver for those assets to pay any verdict in excess of the coverage.
In litigation, we are not allowed to talk about insurance in most cases. However, in a UM/UIM case, the insurance company is the named defendant. In these cases a jury must be more carefully screened to make sure there is no bias against either party (i.e. won’t award you money because they are afraid their premiums will go up). Additionally, we are not allowed to bolster our clients claim by stating they have faithfully paid their premiums on time for twenty years.
Filing suit against your own insurance company may sound unusual. However, it is important to remember that you paid for this coverage to protect you in these types of unfortunate situations. If your insurance company does not respond properly or handle the claim in an appropriate manner, it is your right to pursue the claim in court. In fact, here in Florida, a law has been passed that specifically addresses “bad faith” situations where a carrier improperly denies the claim of an insured. We help our client’s trigger that statute by filing a civil remedies notice along with the law suit when necessary.
Did you find the answer you were looking for? If not, email us your auto accident related question and we will send you back an answer.
Auto injury attorneys at Brumbelow Drechsel in St. Petersburg, Florida, represent clients throughout Florida and most frequently the Tampa-St. Petersburg metro area, including Clearwater, Tarpon Springs, Palm Harbor, Largo, St. Petersburg, Tamapa, Lakeland, Pinellas Park, Duneden, Safety Harbor, St. Pete Beach, Madiera Beach, Treasure Island, Kenneth City, Seminole, Spring Hill, Holidy, New Port Richely,and Odesa; from counties including Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, Citrus County, Manatee County, Sarasota County, Hernando County, Polk County, and Pasco County.