How Important is Bodily Injury Insurance Coverage?

bodily injury insurance coverage can protect you if you're hurt in a car accident

Bodily injury insurance coverage is the most important auto insurance coverage. It protects you in the event you are at-fault for an accident. It also allows you to protect yourself with uninsured motorist insurance coverage.

If you cause an accident, bodily injury liability insurance is available to compensate the injured person. Without bodily injury liability coverage, the injured person can seek to recover your personal assets.

WIth a Florida automobile insurance policy, bodily injury and property damage coverages are separate. Any policy in Florida has a state requirement that requires it to carry PIP and property damage liability coverage. However, Florida law does not require its drivers to carry bodily injury insurance.

What does Bodily Injury Insurance Cover?

As stated above, bodily injury insurance is meant to protect you from claims made against you by injured people. If you injure someone in a car accident as a result of your own negligence, that person has the right to pursue a personal injury claim against you.

In a personal injury claim, the injured party is typically seeking reimbursement for medical expenses, lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, and other damages (like pain and suffering). If you have bodily injury coverage, your insurance company will pay these things up to your coverage limit.

Your bodily injury coverage limit is the maximum amount your insurance company will pay on your behalf for injuries that you cause. These limits can range anywhere from $10,000.00 into the millions. However, in Florida, there is no requirement that a driver carry bodily injury insurance. Therefore, many drivers have $0 in bodily injury coverage.

In theory, a driver with no bodily injury coverage is exposed to being sued. They could owe the injured party for their medical bills and other expenses and have to pay out of their own pocket. This is yet another reason why carrying bodily injury insurance is vital to protecting yourself.

Florida is the only state that doesn't require bodily injury insurance coverage

Bodily Injury Insurance Coverage State Laws

Many states have a minimum limit of bodily injury insurance that all drivers must carry. In fact, every state but Florida requires its drivers to carry bodily injury coverage.

Bodily injury insurance coverage is often described with two numbers back to back. Within the insurance industry these are referred to as split limit policies. 

For instance, the smallest policy most people buy in Florida is a $10,000/$20,000 bodily injury policy. On a policy like this, there is $20,000.00 available to anyone injured in a crash and $10,000.00 maximum available to any individual injured in a crash. 

For example, in West Virginia drivers are required to carry a $25,000/$50,000 policy. That is the minimum amount of coverage drivers in the great state of West Virginia must carry in order to be compliant with their insurance laws. 

Florida’s Bodily Injury Insurance Coverage Debate

Lawmakers have been debating making bodily injury insurance coverage mandatory in Florida since before I became an attorney. Many believe that it is unnecessary. Florida requires drivers to carry PIP insurance. Some legislators think that PIP fills the gap left by not requiring Florida drivers to carry bodily injury (“BI”) insurance.

In April, Florida legislators finally passed a law making bodily injury coverage mandatory. The law would eliminate mandatory PIP coverage for Florida drivers. Instead, Florida drivers would be required to carry BI coverage. The minimum limit for Florida’s BI law would likely have been $25,000/$50,000. 

However, Florida Governor Ron Desantis vetoed this bill. In his statement on the matter, Governor Desantis cited unintended consequences of the bill, stating “While the PIP system has flaws and Florida law regarding bad faith is deficient, (SB 54) does not adequately address the current issues facing Florida drivers and may have unintended consequences that would negatively impact both the market and consumers.”

Governor Desantis believes the law would most hurt Florida’s poorest people. His concern is that the law would increase insurance costs across the board, thus hitting the lowest income earners the hardest.

Governor Desantis’ reasoning is fair and seeks to protect the most vulnerable people in Florida. But, Florida should join the rest of the country and mandate bodily injury coverage.

How much Bodily Injury Insurance Coverage is Enough?

Everyone should have BI coverage. It protects you from injured people filing a claim against you directly. It also allows you to further protect yourself with uninsured motorist coverage. Even though the law doesn’t require it, BI coverage is very important to any driver in Florida.

Then the question becomes, how much BI coverage should you have? The most important factor to consider is what you can afford. Insurance companies charge their insureds premiums. Those premiums are based on the types and amounts of coverage those insureds choose to buy.

A person that buys the minimum insurance policy with no bodily injury coverage will pay less than a person that buys a $250,000/$500,000 BI policy. So, each individual must decide for themselves how much BI coverage they can afford to have.

Umbrella Insurance Policies

Some people buy “umbrella” policies. An umbrella policy protects the insured over and above their insurance policy. For example, if a person has a $250,000/$500,000 (usually the minimum required to purchase an umbrella policy), they can get an umbrella policy for $1 million (or more) that protects them above and beyond their original coverage.

Umbrella policies are a “combined single limit” policy. With a combined single limit (or “CSL”) policy, all money that the insurance company pays out on your behalf comes from a single limit. This is in contrast to the split limit policies we discussed above.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Bodily Injury Coverage

The number one reason that I recommend buying BI coverage is to allow yourself to get uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage. Auto insurance companies will not sell UM coverage to a person that does not have BI coverage. The idea is that it is not right to protect yourself while leaving third parties unprotected.

I’ve discussed UM insurance coverage at length elsewhere in this blog. However, it is important to remember that it protects you in the event someone hurts you in an accident. If someone that hurts you in an accident doesn’t have enough insurance coverage, UM insurance can cover your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Call Knapp Accident & Injury Law

Hiring an attorney that you can trust to handle your case isn’t just about finding someone who can simply handle the legal process, it is about hiring someone who will do everything they can to protect your rights and fight for the pain and suffering you have endured.

We know accidents can happen at any moment. We will protect you and your future.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident and you want to discuss pursuing a bodily injury claim, call me at (813) 568-3724 for a free consultation.

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