Consumer Pamphlet: Automobile Insurance
Note: This pamphlet is available online only.
According to Florida law, if you own a motor vehicle with four or more wheels you must carry $10,000 of personal injury protection (PIP) insurance and a minimum of $10,000 of property damage liability insurance. You may have a deductible of up to $1,000 for PIP coverage and $500 for property damage liability.
Personal injury protection insurance covers you regardless of whether you cause an accident (are “at-fault”) – up to $10,000 minus your deductible amount. PIP is designed to reduce the necessity of suing for reimbursement of medical and related bills from auto accidents. To be entitled to PIP benefits, you must receive initial services and care within 14 days after the motor vehicle accident. PIP pays:
– 80 percent of reasonable medical expenses related to the accident.
– 60 percent of lost wages as a result of the accident.
– $5,000 for death benefits.
For accidents that happen in Florida, PIP covers you, relatives who live in your home, certain passengers who do not own a vehicle, and others who drive your car with your permission. Pedestrians and bicyclists are entitled to PIP coverage. PIP coverage also provides coverage for acts of violence against the policyholder while driving, including injuries sustained as a result of road rage or a carjacking.
For accidents that happen outside Florida but inside the U.S. or Canada, PIP covers you and relatives who live in your home. In this case, you must be driving your own vehicle. People other than you or your relatives are not covered.
Property damage liability insurance pays for damage that you, or members of your family, cause to another person’s property while driving. The term “property” includes, for example, a fence, telephone pole or building, as well as another car.
Coverage applies even if you drive someone else’s car. Depending on the terms and conditions of your policy, it may also include anyone else who uses your car with your permission.
Bodily injury liability coverage (BIL) is generally not required in Florida. However, if you have been convicted of a DUI, BIL is required for a period of three years after your license has been reinstated. If you were convicted after Oct. 1, 2007, you must have $100,000 worth of coverage per person and $300,000 worth of coverage per accident. You also must have a minimum of $50,000 in property damage coverage.
BIL pays for serious and permanent injury or death to others when your car is involved in an accident and the driver of your car is found to be at fault to some extent. This policy pays for injuries caused by you and relatives who live with you, even if they are driving someone else’s car. It also covers people who drive your car with your permission. With this type of policy, the insurance company also will pay for your legal defense if you are sued.
Although it is not required by law, many drivers buy other types of insurance coverage in addition to the mandatory PIP and property damage liability insurance. Common optional coverage purchased includes: collision, comprehensive, uninsured motorist, medical payment, towing, rental reimbursement, and accidental death and dismemberment.
Collision insurance pays for repairs to your car if it collides with another vehicle, crashes into an object or turns over. It pays regardless of who causes the accident. Collision insurance does not cover injuries to people or damage to the property of others.
Comprehensive insurance pays for losses from incidents other than a collision. Examples would be fire, theft, windstorm, vandalism, flood or hitting an animal. Damage caused by falling objects is also covered under this policy. If you have comprehensive coverage, windshield replacement is the only claim for which you are not charged a deductible. Florida law requires this waiver to encourage drivers to immediately replace damaged windshields.
You may be required to purchase comprehensive and collision insurance if your car is financed. However, it is illegal for the lending institution to require you to purchase insurance from a particular company or agent.
Uninsured motorist (UM) insurance pays if you, your passengers or family members are hit by someone who is “at fault” and does not have insurance, or has insufficient liability insurance to cover the total damages sustained by you. This applies whether you are riding in your car, riding in someone else’s car or are struck by a car as a pedestrian. UM insurance also applies in a hit-and-run situation, or in a “phantom” vehicle accident. UM insurance pays for medical expenses, lost wages (beyond your PIP coverage), bodily injury, sickness, disease or death resulting from a motor vehicle accident that you and your passengers suffer.
Medical payment insurance covers medical expenses, beyond those covered by PIP, that result from accidental injury. Medical payments insurance differs from bodily injury liability coverage in that it covers the medical expenses of you, members of your family and your passengers regardless of who is “at fault.” Medical payment insurance applies whether the injury occurs in your car or someone else’s car, or on the street as a pedestrian. Note that health insurance also covers medical expenses from auto accidents beyond those covered by PIP.
Rental reimbursement coverage will permit you to be reimbursed for car rental if an accident leaves your car unable to be driven. If the other driver was “at fault,” that driver’s liability insurance coverage may reimburse you for renting a vehicle similar to your own.
Accidental death and dismemberment insurance provides coverage, up to the limits of the policy, for accidental death or dismemberment in an auto accident, regardless of who is “at fault.” It covers you and relatives who live in your home.
Rental car companies often sell collision damage coverage that, although similar to insurance, is not insurance and does not fall under the regulatory authority of the Department of Financial Services. If you have collision coverage or property damage liability, you may be covered for damage to rental cars driven by you, depending on the terms and conditions of your policy. You also may be automatically covered by your credit card company if you used the card to rent the vehicle. Check your policy before you rent a car, and call your agent or credit card company if you have any doubts.
Auto service warranties are good only for a specified length of time and ensure only the repair or replacement of items defined in the contract. Service warranties are contracts that are regulated by the Department of Financial Services. Whether a service warranty is worth the money will depend on how the warranty suits your needs.
- Request a quote from several licensed insurance agents. Be sure to ask for the same coverage from each so your comparisons will be accurate. A quote is an estimate of your premium – it is not a firm price or a contract. However, it is against the law for an agent to intentionally quote you a low premium just to get your business.
- Be sure the information on your application is accurate. False or inaccurate information could cause the company to cancel your policy or refuse to pay a claim. Always get a copy of the signed application form.
- Be sure to get a binder from the agent once you sign the application. A binder is your temporary proof of insurance until a formal policy is issued. It should show the name of the agent and insurance company, list your cars and the coverage you purchased, and be signed by the agent.
- Make checks or money orders payable to the insurance company – never to the agent or the agency.
- You should receive your policy no later than 60 days after the effective date. If you do not receive your policy, contact your agent.
- Immediately report any changes affecting your policy to your agent. This would include address or name changes, the addition of a new driver or car, or any change in the use of your car.
- Keep track of your policy renewal date. Policies are usually for a term of 6 or 12 months. Most companies will send you a bill at least 45 days in advance of your renewal and premium due date.
All auto insurance policies must include a summary and an outline of coverage in clear understandable terms.
“Plain language” descriptions must include the following:
- A brief description of the benefits and coverage and a breakdown of how the premium is applied.
- A summary of what is or is not covered under specific conditions. This would apply to such items as deductibles and limitations.
- A summary of the policy’s renewal and cancellation provisions.
- A description of any credits or extra charges.
Property damage liability insurance is not required for motorcycle operators unless the operator is required to prove “financial responsibility” because of traffic violations or failure to pay for damages caused in a previous accident. Under Florida law, PIP coverage is required for all owners of motor vehicles registered in this state. This required coverage will not cover you if you are injured in a motorcycle accident. However, some insurance companies may offer PIP and medical payment insurance for motorcycles as additional coverage that can be purchased. In order to operate or ride on a motorcycle without headgear, you must be over 21 years of age and have an insurance policy providing at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries sustained as a result of a crash.
If your child is a legal resident of Florida, attends college in another state and uses a car registered in Florida, you must have PIP and property damage liability coverage on the car. The state where your child attends school may have other car insurance requirements.
Any person who has a car in Florida for more than 90 days during a 365-day period must purchase PIP and property damage liability insurance. The 90 days do not have to be consecutive.
If you have recently moved to Florida, it’s best to immediately find an insurance agent who will assist you with auto insurance information. Check with your local Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Office for information on driver licensing and auto registration procedures (go to http://www.flhsmv.gov/locations/).
Finally, remember these tips:
- Read your policy. Be sure you understand your policy. If you have any questions, call your agent or the Department of Financial Services toll-free at 800-342-2762 (http://www.myfloridacfo.com/).
- The choice of insurance company and agent is yours. You do not have to buy auto insurance from the dealer who sold you the car or the lending institution financing your car.
- Your policy can be amended. You can add a new or additional car or driver to your existing policy.
- The clock is ticking. If you think you have a claim, contact an attorney as soon as possible. If you wait too long, a statute of limitations may prevent you from pursuing a valid claim.
If you would like more information on automobile insurance requirements in the state of Florida, contact the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Customer Service Center at 850-617-2000.
If you believe you need legal advice, call an attorney. If you need help selecting an attorney, call The Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 800-342-8011, or your local lawyer referral service or legal aid office.
[Updated November 2017]