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Personal Auto Ins Overview

Personal automobile insurance covers private passenger vehicles. It provides protection against economic loss to an insured from bodily injury or property damage to others (liability) arising from the operation, maintenance, or use of a covered automobile. Coverage may also be purchased for damage to vehicles owned by you (Collision & Other than Collision).

Common Coverages Available in Florida

When shopping for a policy, beware of terms such as “full coverage” and “what’s required.” What one considers “full coverage” or “what’s required” may differ from one person to the next. You should determine the type and amount of insurance you need. The following is the most common coverage available in Florida.

Bodily Injury Liability (BI) Coverage: pays for death or serious and permanent injury to others when you are legally liable for those damages. If an insured is sued, the insurer will provide legal representation.

Property Damage Liability (PD) Coverage: pays for damages that an insured is legally liable for resulting in the physical damage to, or destruction of, tangible property of another, including loss of use. If an insured is sued, the insurer will provide legal representation. Florida law requires a minimum of $10,000 in this coverage.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Coverage: pays 80 percent of all necessary and reasonable medical expenses incurred as a result of a covered injury, regardless of who caused the accident. This includes medically necessary medical, surgical, x-ray, dental, and rehabilitative services, including prosthetic devices and medically necessary ambulance, hospital, and nursing services. After January 1, 2013, payment is based on the fact an individual receives initial services and care within 14-days after the motor vehicle accident. Follow-up care after January 1, 2013, is contingent on the covered person being diagnosed with an emergency medical injury. PIP also pays 60 percent of work loss and a $5,000 death benefit. After January 1, 2013, the $5,000 death benefit is an additional amount of insurance.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) Coverage: pays for an accidental bodily injury, sickness, or disease, including death, when such an injury is the result of an automobile accident and the at-fault party does not have Bodily Injury (BI) Coverage or has liability limits lower than what is needed.

Medical Payments (Med Pay) Coverage: pays reasonable expenses for necessary medical and funeral services due to a bodily injury or death sustained in an automobile accident, regardless of fault.

Comprehensive or Other than Collision Coverage: pays for damage to a vehicle from incidents other than a collision including: fire, theft, windstorm, vandalism or flood. It also covers damages caused by falling objects or from hitting an animal.

Collision Coverage: pays for repair or the actual cash value of the insured's vehicle if it collides with another vehicle, flips over, or crashes into an object (except animals), regardless of who causes the accident.

Towing & Labor Coverage: provides coverage for emergency road service (at the scene) and towing up to the limits shown on the policy.

Rental Reimbursement: provides reimbursement for automobile rental up to a specified limit shown on the policy. It applies if the insured gets into an accident with their own automobile and can no longer drive it, and usually if the auto is stolen. Some insurance companies will have the insured rent/lease the replacement vehicle and then submit receipts for reimbursement.

Most Common Concerns

Claim Delay: Although Florida law does not address a timeframe for an insurer to settle a claim, 30 days is normally ample time. Unavoidable delays may occur if more than 2 vehicles are involved in the same accident. The more vehicles involved, the more difficult to assign liability. Also, when multiple vehicles are involved, most insurers will not pay one claimant until they have received final claims including estimates from all involved parties, normally when the at-fault party has lower limits of liability.

Claim Denial: Insurers must provide you written notice if your claim is denied. If you have additional information that contradicts the insurer’s position, you should provide the additional information to them for consideration. If you cannot reach an agreement with the insurer, you may be eligible for mediation.

Unsatisfactory Settlement Offer: If you feel the insurer is not providing enough money to repair or replace your vehicle, do your homework. You must provide the insurer with documentation to substantiate your request for additional funds. Please keep in mind you have the right to negotiate with the insurer. If you cannot reach an agreement with the insurer, you may be eligible for mediation.

Diminished Value: Florida law is silent regarding how a determination is made concerning diminished value. Florida courts have agreed this may be a covered loss in a third party claim but not a first party. The claimant is responsible for providing proof of his/her loss to the insurer.

Non-Disclosed Operators: Most applications for insurance ask for information regarding all licensed residents of the insured’s household as well as any individuals that have regular usage of the insured vehicle/s. If this information is not provided on the application and later an undisclosed operator is involved in an accident, the insurer may deny the claim and cancel the contract for material misrepresentation. Some policies cover a permissioned user as long as they don’t live with you or have regular usage of your vehicle/s. You should always check your policy to determine who is covered to use your vehicle/s; there are also policies which cover only the operators listed in the policy.

Cancellation: An auto insurer has 60 days to decide whether or not to extend coverage to an applicant. After the initial 60 days, Florida law limits the insurer’s ability to cancel the contract.

Nonrenewal: If an auto insurer decides not to continue your insurance at renewal, they must provide an advance notice of at least 45-days.

Premium Refunds: According to Section 627.7283, Florida Statute, when an insurance company cancels a policy, any unearned premium must be returned to the insured within 15 days after the effective date of the cancellation. The insurance company must refund 100 percent of the unearned premium.

If the premium is financed with a Premium Finance Company, the unearned premium must first be returned to the Premium Finance Company which will delay receipt by the insured.

Per Florida Administrative Code: 69O-170.010, if the insured cancels a policy, any unearned premium must be returned to the insured within 30 days after the effective date of cancellation. The insurer may retain 10 percent (short rate cancellation) of the unearned premium, unless the request is from a military service member being called to active duty, in which case the insurer must refund 100%.

The insurance company must pay 8 percent interest on overdue refunds.

Insurance Tips

Verify before you buy!!!! Contact us to verify the license of the agent and the insurance company before you sign the application for a policy.

Automobile Insurance Guides: The guides are excellent tools to gain a better understanding of all the coverage and limitations of automobile insurance.

Review your policy carefully!!!! Make sure you have all the coverage you need.

- Understand your responsibilities in the event of an accident.
- Make sure you are covered if you drive someone else’s vehicle.
- Make sure a person you give permission to use your vehicle will be covered.

Definitions

Accidental Death & Dismemberment: Covers an insured for accidental death or dismemberment in an automobile accident, regardless of fault. This coverage pays up to the policy limits.

Actual Cash Value (ACV): ACV is the cost to replace or repair a vehicle less depreciation and any applicable deductibles. This cost is determined by the value of a vehicle at the time of an accident.

After Market Parts: An after-market part is a replacement for any of the non-mechanical sheet metal or plastic parts which generally constitute the exterior of a motor vehicle, but can include inner and outer panels. They are parts that are not manufactured by the original automobile maker. This is regulated by the Florida Department of Agriculture and is referenced in Florida Statute 501.32.

Betterment: An improvement that adds value to the auto. (i.e. a company replaces a used part (that has a 7 year life expectancy) on a five year old vehicle with a brand new part.

Cancellation: An automobile policy cancellation is the termination of an insurance policy before its normal termination date. A notice of cancellation must be mailed to the first named insured’s last known address on file and provide at least 45 days advance notice. For a cancellation due to nonpayment of premium, an insurance company is required to issue a 10 day notice of cancellation. The cancellation notices must include the specific reason in compliance with F.S. 627.4091. The notice must advise the insured of possible eligibility for coverage in the Florida Joint Underwriting Association (the insurer of last resort).

Comparative Negligence: This means that each party can share in the negligence (action) that caused the accident.

Customized Equipment: Items added to a vehicle after it has been released from the manufacturer. This equipment can be covered on an automobile policy by endorsement only which requires the purchase of additional coverage.

Depreciation: A decrease or loss in value because of wear, tear, age, or other cause.

Diminished Value: This is the decreased value of your car due to an automobile accident. If another party caused your accident, their insurance company may be responsible for payment for the decreased value of your vehicle. If you disagree with the company’s claim payment offer, you can obtain your own inspection to document your position on the value of your vehicle.

Examination Under Oath (EUO): Considered a part of the claim investigation. If an insurance company feels you are not cooperating in the claim investigation, they may request an EUO. The EUO may be conducted by the insurance company’s attorney and the process could take several hours. If you are subjected to an EUO, you may wish to seek legal counsel through a personal attorney. Refusal to cooperate in an EUO could result in the claim being denied.

Force Placed: Coverage placed by a lienholder when the purchaser of a vehicle fails to meet any insurance requirements listed in their loan agreement.

Independent Medical Exam (IME): The insurer has a right to request an independent medical exam. The request for this exam may be for several reasons. It may be used to determine whether the patient has reached maximum medical improvement and to determine the percentage of total or partial disability. An exam may be requested to obtain a second opinion regarding the medical condition or treatment of the patient. The insurer’s request for this exam should not stop payments for PIP benefits until it’s finalized and the report is received by the insurer. However, if the patient refuses the IME, benefits can be terminated. The reference for IMEs can be found in Florida Statute 627.736.

Mediation: A voluntary program that is available to anyone filing a claim with an insurance company for property damage for any dollar amount, or for bodily injuries up to $10,000, which includes injuries covered under PIP. Either party (consumer or insurance company) may request mediation of the claim prior to the institution of litigation or the appraisal process. The insured may have an attorney present but must notify the company in advance.

Mediation is non-binding and neither the consumer nor the insurance company is legally obligated to accept an offer that they consider unsatisfactory. If a settlement is reached, the consumer has three days in which to change their mind as long as the check has not been cashed.

Both 1st party claims (claims against your insurance company) and 3rd party claims (claims against the other party's insurance company) are eligible for mediation. The cost of mediation is $100.

Non-Renewal: A non-renewal is the termination of an insurance policy at its normal expiration date. A notice of non-renewal must be mailed to the first named insured’s last known address on file and provide at least 45 days advance notice.

The non-renewal notices must include the specific reason in compliance with F.S. 627.4091. The notice must advise the insured of possible eligibility for coverage in the Florida Joint Underwriting Association (the insurer of last resort).

Non-Stacked UM: An insured can elect "not" to have their Uninsured/Underinsured (UM) Coverage limits added together (non-stacked) by signing a non-stacked Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist form, pursuant to Florida Statute 627.727.

Pre-Insurance Inspection: Section 627.744, Florida Statues, require inspections of vehicles to obtain auto insurance in Duval, Palm Beach, Broward, Dade, Orange, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Although Florida law only addresses these counties, it is common for insurers to require inspections of vehicles located in other counties as a precondition to receiving insurance.

Reservation of Right: The insurer provides a Reservation of Rights notice to claimants when a coverage question arises. In most cases, the insurer suspects a breach of policy conditions by the insured. The notice is sent to notify the claimant the insurer may desire to investigate the claim without admitting liability or waiving any of its rights under the policy.

If an insurer investigates a question of coverage, they must send the insured a Reservation of Rights letter within 30 days after they knew or should have known of the coverage defense. If the insurer fails to do so, they cannot deny coverage based on the coverage defense.

Stacked UM: Florida law requires that a company add together, or "stack" uninsured/ underinsured (UM) coverage for multiple vehicles, unless otherwise rejected in writing. For example, an insured has three vehicles, and each has a UM limit of 50/100 ($50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident). This means they have up to $150,000 per person/$300,000 per accident available for a claim. The Florida Statute to reference is 627.727.

Total Loss: A vehicle is a total loss when an insurer pays to replace the damaged vehicle with one of like kind and quality or when the owner is paid upon the theft of the vehicle.

The definition of a total loss and requirements of such is addressed in Section 319.30, Florida Statutes. This statute is overseen by the Department of Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles and includes directions for submitting the title to a ”total loss vehicle”.

Contact Us or File a Complaint

Should you need additional information, you may speak with an insurance specialist between the hours of 8am–5:00pm at one of the telephone numbers listed below:

1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236)

Out of State Callers: (850) 413-3089

You can also contact us for assistance anytime by email at Consumer.Services@MyFloridaCFO.com. or file a complaint through our “Consumer Help Online” website.