Auto insurance protects you against financial loss if you have an accident. It is a contract between you and the insurance company. You agree to pay the premium and the insurance company agrees to pay your losses as defined in your policy.
Auto insurance provides property, liability, and medical coverage:
- Property coverage pays for damage to, or theft of, your car.
- Liability coverage pays for your legal responsibility to others for bodily injury or property damage.
- Medical coverage pays for the cost of treating injuries, rehabilitation, and sometimes lost wages and funeral expenses.
The State of Florida requires all drivers to have at least $10,000 coverage in both Property Damage Liability and Personal Injury Protection. If you have previously been involved in a major crash or have been convicted of a certain offense, you may also be required to carry Bodily Injury coverage. Also, if you are financing a car, your lender may have specific requirements on the types of auto insurance coverage you purchase.
Most auto policies are for six months to a year. Your insurance carrier will notify you by mail when it’s time to renew the policy and to pay your premium.
An auto insurance policy is comprised of six different kinds of coverage: Bodily Injury, Personal Injury Protection (Medical Payments), Property Damage Liability, Collision, Comprehensive, and Underinsured/Uninsured Motorist Coverage. Each coverage is priced separately.
- Bodily Injury
This coverage applies to injuries that you or an approved driver cause to someone else while driving a covered vehicle. You and family members listed on the policy are also covered when driving someone else’s car with their permission.
It’s very important to have enough Liability insurance, because if you are involved in a serious accident, you may be sued for a large sum of money. Definitely consider buying more than the state-required minimum to protect assets such as your home and savings.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments
This coverage pays for the treatment of injuries to the driver and passengers of the policyholder’s car. At its broadest, PIP can cover medical payments, lost wages, and the cost of replacing services normally performed by someone injured in an auto accident. It may also cover funeral costs. The State of Florida requires all drivers to have at least $10,000 coverage in Personal Injury Protection. Many carriers will also allow you to purchase additional Medical Payment coverage.
- Property Damage Liability
This coverage pays for damage you (or someone driving the car with your permission) may cause to someone else’s property. Usually this means damage to someone else’s car, but it also includes damage to lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, buildings, or other structures your car hits. The State of Florida requires all drivers to have at least $10,000 coverage in Property Damage Liability, but additional coverage can be purchased.
This coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with another car, object, or as a result of flipping over. It also covers damage caused by potholes. Collision coverage is generally sold with a deductible of $250 to $1,000 – the higher your deductible, the lower your premium. Even if you are at fault for the accident, your Collision coverage will reimburse you for the cost of repairing your car, minus the deductible. If you’re not at fault, your insurance company may try to recover the amount they paid you from the other driver’s insurance company. If they are successful, you will also be reimbursed for the deductible.
This coverage reimburses you for loss due to theft or damage caused by something other than a collision with another car or object, such as fire, falling objects, missiles, explosion, earthquake, windstorm, hail, flood, vandalism, riot, or contact with animals, such as birds or deer.
Comprehensive insurance is usually sold with a $100 to $300 deductible, though you may want to opt for a higher deductible as a way of lowering your premium.
Comprehensive insurance will also reimburse you if your windshield is cracked or shattered. The State of Florida requires auto insurance carriers to repair or replace damaged windshields with zero deductible (essentially, for free) under Florida Statute 627.7288. If you opt out of this coverage, however, you will be responsible for the full cost to repair or replace your windshield.
Florida does not require that you to purchase Collision or Comprehensive coverage, but if you have a car loan, your lender may insist you carry it until your loan is paid off. In addition, these coverages are recommended for the protection they offer against the cost of repairs.
- Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
This coverage will reimburse you, a member of your family, or a designated driver if one of you is hit by an uninsured or a hit-and-run driver.
If the driver of the other vehicle only carries the minimum required insurance, the $10,000 Property Damage Liability coverage may not be enough to replace your vehicle if it is totaled in the accident. Underinsured Motorist coverage will help bridge the gap between the other driver’s insurance coverage and the damage to your vehicle.