Understanding coverages in your automobile insurance policy

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By: Shane Farnsworth Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers
Insurance is never important until you need it. That is why one of the first questions asked of a potential new client injured in a car crash is what insurance coverages do you have? Often the new client confidently advises they have full coverage. What does full coverage mean? Very little if you fail to understand what coverages you have and what protections they afford you.
In Florida the only coverages you are legally required to purchase for your automobile are Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage. Just because your coverage meets the legal threshold to drive in Florida does not mean you are anywhere close to being adequately protected. In fact, not having the right coverages leaves you susceptible to all kinds of legal peril.
Following a car crash is not the time to find out what coverages you needed but failed to purchase. It is too late at that point. With that in mind this article is intended to help explain the basics of insurance coverages available and what they protect you against.
Personal Injury Protection (Required)
Florida is a no-fault State. What that means is regardless of who causes a car crash, up to the first $10,000.00 of your medical bills will be paid by the Personal Injury Protection coverage (PIP) under your automobile insurance policy. Since PIP is required, if your vehicle is insured you have PIP coverage.
Property Damage Coverage (Required)
Property damage coverage (PD) pays for damage caused by you to the property of another. It does not cover damage to your vehicle caused by you or anyone else. Property damage coverage is required so like PIP, if your vehicle is insured you have PD coverage.
Medical Payments Coverage (Optional)
Your PIP coverage pays your medical bills at 80% of the amount allowed by your insurer. You remain responsible for the remaining 20% co-pay and any PIP deductible you elect to have. Medical Payments coverage pays the amounts you owe that are not covered by your PIP coverage up to your medical payments coverage limits.
Bodily Injury Insurance (Optional)
Bodily injury insurance (BI) is coverage that you purchase to protect you and your assets in the event you are negligent and injure somebody else. If you are sued and don’t have BI or have insufficient BI coverage you may become personally responsible for the financial damages incurred by the injured party.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist’s Coverage (Optional)
Uninsured/Underinsured motorist’s coverage (UM) is an extremely important coverage to have. This coverage protects you in the event that you are injured by someone without BI coverage or insufficient BI coverage to compensate you for your injuries. You can only purchase UM coverage if you also have BI coverage and in an amount no higher than your BI limits. Without UM coverage you can very easily be injured by someone else through no fault of your own and have no avenue to get compensated for the injuries you suffer and medical bills you incur.
Comprehensive and Collision (Optional)
Comprehensive insurance provides coverage for damage to your vehicle that is not caused by a collision (i.e. theft, vandalism, fire, falling objects, hitting an animal). Collision coverage pays to fix or replace your vehicle when it is involved in an accident (i.e. hitting another car, hitting a stationary object). These coverages are very important if you cause an accident or an uninsured person damages your car. Without these coverages you may have to pay out of pocket to repair or replace your vehicle.
Knowing and understanding your insurance coverages is a must in today’s world. Be proactive. Review your automobile policy and make sure you have adequate coverage to protect yourself and your assets. Try to purchase the highest limits you can afford and try to limit your deductibles. The legal ramifications of failing to take these steps could have serious consequences if you are involved in an automobile crash where you or someone else is injured and you lack the necessary insurance coverage.