We were called by a nice person recently who was in traffic and slowing for a stop light when she was rear-ended by a driver who then drove off before any identity could be obtained. This type of accident is a growing epidemic in Florida. The irresponsible fleeing-the-scene driver left this person in a serious bind. She was not at fault but was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. In addition to her own physical injuries, her car was heavily damaged.
Property damage insurance on the driver who caused the crash would normally pay for the damage done to her car. However, the driver who caused all the issues drove off before being identified. This meant the property repairs to the victim’s car would have to come from her own auto policy, using the “collision” coverage. However, the victim had tried to save money and had only the bare minimum required in Florida. That minimum is property damage to repair the other driver’s car if the victim had been at fault and PIP/No Fault to cover her own medical bills up to the minimum limit.
This driver learned a hard lesson: the average person cannot afford to buy cheap car insurance. Instead of paying a few hundred dollars a year for better coverage, she was stuck with having to pay thousands to repair her car or replace it. And she had done nothing wrong.
Florida drivers need two basic additional coverages to protect against the nearly 40 percent of drivers out there who have no insurance. “Collision” coverage pays for damage to a driver’s car caused by an uninsured driver, for a driver who flees the scene, or for damage the driver causes by running into a parked car or a tree, for example, when there is no one else to blame. The other important coverage is “uninsured motorist” insurance (UM), which pays for the consequences of injury done to a driver by an uninsured or unidentified driver. It includes any pain and suffering, lost wages or ability to earn a living, medical expenses not paid by PIP, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Here are two things to keep in mind. First, you must add liability insurance to your policy in order to purchase UM. Second, UM does not pay for property damages. It will not pay to repair or replace your own car or bicycle after a crash. I hope you will act on this information so that I won’t have to have this conversation with another innocent victim of a hit and run driver.