Get Experienced & Committed Counsel Schedule a Free Consultation
Women calling on phone for assistance after car accident

How Does Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage Protect Me?

Law Office of Alex Hernandez May 8, 2024

Florida's status as a no-fault state means that after a car accident, each driver's insurance coverage is responsible for paying the medical bills and certain other expenses of the drivers and passengers involved, regardless of who was at fault for the accident.  

This system is designed to ensure that individuals receive timely medical treatment without the need to establish fault through the legal system. In Florida, drivers are required by law to carry a minimum of $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and $10,000 in Property Damage Liability (PDL). 

With these protections in place, you may wonder whether or not Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage is necessary. If the damages of your accident amount to more than the minimum coverage required by law, UM and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage can provide additional protection for you and your passengers. 

As an experienced car accident attorney at the Law Office of Alex Hernandez, I've seen firsthand how crucial Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage can be. It helps cover medical expenses, lost wages, and other costs that your PIP might not fully cover. Having this coverage means you're prepared for these situations and helps ensure you're protected financially even when facing the uncertainty of accidents with underinsured or uninsured drivers. 

Implications of Florida's No-Fault System 

Florida's no-fault system was established to alleviate the pressure on the judicial system. Here's a breakdown of the dynamic of no-fault insurance in Florida: 

  1. Quick Payouts: The no-fault system allows for quicker payouts for medical expenses because it doesn't require establishing fault first. 

  1. Limitation on Lawsuits: This system limits the right to sue the other driver for damages unless the injuries meet a certain severity threshold, such as significant and permanent loss of an important bodily function, permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability, significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement, or death. 

Complications With Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists

Despite the benefits of a no-fault system, complications arise when an accident involves an uninsured or underinsured motorist, especially if the accident results in serious injuries that exceed the coverage limits of your PIP insurance. 

  1. Financial Risks: If you're involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, and your PIP coverage is not sufficient to cover all medical expenses or you suffer from severe injuries, you may face significant out-of-pocket expenses. 

  2. Legal Action: For serious injuries that exceed the threshold allowed by the no-fault system, you may pursue legal action against the at-fault driver to recover additional compensation. However, if the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, collecting any awarded damages may be challenging. 

UM/UIM insurance steps in where Florida's required coverage policies might fall short, especially in serious accidents that involve substantial medical expenses, prolonged recovery, or permanent disability—situations where the costs quickly exceed the $10,000 limit of PIP coverage.  

This additional coverage safeguards you from facing hefty out-of-pocket expenses due to the negligence of an uninsured or underinsured driver. Thus, while Florida's no-fault law aims to streamline the process of recovering from an accident, UM/UIM coverage can help ensure that you and your loved ones are not financially overwhelmed in the aftermath of a severe incident, even when the other driver is not adequately insured. 

Strategies for Protecting Your Health, Property, and Finances

Given the complexities and potential shortcomings of relying solely on Florida's no-fault insurance system, adopting a comprehensive strategy for protecting yourself is essential. This involves more than just selecting the right insurance policies; it requires an understanding of the available coverage options and how they fit into your overall risk management plan. To effectively safeguard your health, property, and finances, consider the following steps: 

  1. Evaluate Your Coverage Needs: Carefully assess your individual situation, including your daily commute, the value of your vehicle, and your financial ability to handle unexpected expenses. This will help you determine how much and what types of additional coverage are prudent for you. 

  2. Opt for Higher UM/UIM Limits if Possible: While increasing your UM/UIM coverage may result in higher premiums, the extra cost could prove invaluable in the event of a serious accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver. Balancing your budget with your need for protection is key. 

  3. Legal Consultation: An experienced personal injury attorney can provide valuable insights into Florida's no-fault system and how best to prepare for the potential gaps in coverage. Legal advice is especially important if you've been involved in an accident and need to navigate the complexities of pursuing compensation beyond PIP limits. 

  4. Regular Policy Reviews: Your insurance needs can change over time due to new laws, changes in your personal life, or modifications to your assets. Regular reviews of your insurance policies will ensure that your coverage levels remain adequate and adapt to your changing needs. 

By taking proactive measures to enhance your protection within the framework of Florida's no-fault system, you can mitigate the financial risks associated with uninsured or underinsured motorists.

How UM/UIM Protects You in Other Scenarios

Building your insurance package is difficult because it's impossible to predict every potential situation. But opting for UM/UIM coverage is not about fearmongering; it's about being adequately prepared. The right UM/UIM coverage can help safeguard you in the following scenarios: 

  1. Hit-and-Run Accidents: If you're involved in an accident with a driver who flees the scene, UM/UIM coverage provides financial protection for any injuries or damages caused by that driver. 

  2. Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents: UM/UIM coverage also protects you if you're a pedestrian or cyclist struck by an uninsured or underinsured motorist. 

  3. Accidents While Traveling: UM/UIM coverage can extend to accidents that occur outside of Florida as well, providing peace of mind while traveling in other states where insurance requirements may vary. 

The benefits of UM/UIM also do not stop with you – they extend to any passengers in your vehicle, and, by further extension, to family members involved in a car accident even if you are not directly involved. UM/UIM offers a safety net across a wide range of potential incidents, from minor accidents with uninsured drivers to severe crashes that may require a lifetime of medical care.  

Common Misconceptions About UM/UIM Coverage

One prevalent misconception about UM/UIM coverage is that it's an unnecessary addition for those who have health insurance. While health insurance can cover medical expenses, it does not address all the other financial implications of an accident, such as lost wages, long-term care, or the need for rehabilitation services. 

Furthermore, health insurance plans often come with high deductibles and copays, which can accumulate quickly in the event of a serious accident. UM/UIM coverage complements your health insurance by covering these additional costs, ensuring a wider safety net that protects you beyond basic health care needs. 

Another common misunderstanding is the belief that if you're not at fault in an accident, the other driver's insurance will cover all your expenses, making UM/UIM coverage superfluous. However, this assumption fails to account for scenarios where the at-fault driver lacks sufficient coverage or is uninsured.  

In such cases, without UM/UIM coverage, you may find yourself facing significant out-of-pocket expenses, despite not being at fault. This coverage is essential for filling those gaps, providing you with the necessary financial protection to cover all your losses and expenses resulting from the accident. 

Get Guidance From an Experienced Accident Lawyer

Having witnessed the financial strain and uncertainty that accidents involving uninsured or underinsured motorists can cause, I cannot emphasize enough how important UM/UIM coverage is for protecting yourself and your loved ones.  

But, everyone's circumstances are different. If you'd like to talk through how your insurance coverage can be improved to protect you from the risks of uninsured and underinsured motorists, reach out to me today for a no-cost, no-obligation review. 

At the Law Office of Alex Hernandez in Clearwater, Florida, I'm dedicated to delivering comprehensive legal support to clients across the Tampa Bay Area, including Pasco County, Pinellas County, Hillsborough County, Sarasota, and Bradenton.