Congratulations on getting your first car! I know that this is an exciting time for you. I remember saving up my money and buying my first car when I was in high school. It wasn’t anything special (in fact, my friends called it a golf cart), but it was my first taste of freedom. But, for all of us, with that freedom, comes extra responsibility. One of the first things that you are going to have to do before you register the car, is to get insurance on it. In Florida, you cannot register your car until you provide proof of insurance. If you are reading this article, it is because you are looking for some help.
I was very lucky to have a dad who knew about insurance. He made sure that I was added to his policy and explained how much coverage that I needed. I learned at an early age how important it was to avoid tickets and accidents in order to keep the premiums low. But, I know that not everyone is as fortunate as I was. I know that many parents don’t fully understand Florida’s car insurance laws, so can’t give good advice to their children about what is needed. This is where I can help. As a car accident lawyer, I am on the front lines of the car insurance war. I see firsthand how car insurance companies treat people. I also know how people can protect themselves and what they truly get for their money.
This article is written for people who are new to owning a car in Florida. As a car accident lawyer, I always see the worst case scenarios. I felt it was extremely important to try and educate people (and particularly young people) before they are in an accident and it is too late.
What Are Florida’s Car Insurance Requirements?
Florida has pretty minimal car insurance requirements. All you are required to carry is Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability (PDL). PIP pays for 80% of medical bills up to $10,000 regardless of who was at fault for the accident. PDL covers damage to other property that you cause in an accident. That is all that is required to register and drive a car in Florida. Now, that does not mean that is all the insurance that you should carry. Please keep reading.
What is Full Coverage?
You might have heard the term “Full Coverage” when people talk about car insurance. Full coverage is a term that drives me crazy because it really doesn’t mean anything. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve asked my injured clients what type of insurance they have. Many say Full Coverage. But, what does Full Coverage really mean in Florida? It simply means that you carry enough insurance to register and drive your car. That’s it. It doesn’t mean anything special. So, if you hear someone tell you that you need full coverage, please remember that the term means nothing.
What Amount of Car Insurance Is Recommended?
My suggestion is that you carry more than the minimum insurance required by law. I know that it is more expensive, but it is a smart and careful decision. If you cause an accident and don’t carry enough insurance, you could be sued or your license could be suspended. You must protect yourself.
Here are my suggestions to carry in addition to the minimum PIP and PDL:
- At least $10,000 of Bodily Injury (BI). This coverage protects you from lawsuits if you cause an accident and injure someone.
- At least $10,000 of Uninsured/Underinsured (UM). This coverage pays you for any injuries that you receive as a result of a driver who did not carry any coverage or did not carry enough coverage.
- Comprehensive and collision coverage. Comprehensive pays for damage to your vehicle when it is not involved in an accident caused by another vehicle. Some examples are flooding, vandalism, or an animal crash. Collision insurance pays for damage to your vehicle when another vehicle hits yours or you crash into something. Both of these coverages are very important.
- Rental car coverage. This is optional, but if you have it and your car is in the shop or totaled, you will be very glad that you bought it.
Don’t Waste Your Money on a Garbage Company
The point of car insurance is to pay for your losses after an accident, right? You might be surprised to hear that some insurance companies will literally do anything to avoid paying a claim. They won’t answer phone calls, will delay, will make excuses not to pay, or make lowball offers. Many of these companies are based out of Miami and are total rip-offs. So, do not choose the car insurance company solely based on how much they charge. Do some research into the reputation of the company before you choose. Or, follow my picks below.
What Car Insurance Company Should You Choose?
Geico has become a great company. They are responsive and have a huge network of places to get your car repaired. They are also reasonable in paying out claims. They have become my favorite company to work with.
Progressive is very similar to Geico. They do a great job for their customers. I have not observed much difference between the two companies, so I recommend getting quotes from both and then going with the cheaper option.
USAA is the best insurance company that I have ever seen. But, they are limited to military members and their families. They are also expensive. If you have a military member or veteran in your family, ask them to qualify you for USAA benefits. They really protect their customers unlike anyone else. I have actually seen them pay way more than a claim was worth simply to avoid their customer being sued for causing an accident.
Farmers is much smaller than most companies, but they are fair. They try to take care of their customers and do the right thing. I recommend them.
What Car Insurance Companies Should You Avoid?
- State Farm
State Farm has become one of the most difficult companies to deal with. They do not care about their customers at all. You are simply a number to them in their equation. Steer clear of them at all costs. They have changed.
Allstate has become a cut rate company. They are very difficult about paying claims. Stay away from them.
- Pearl Holding/Ocean Harbor
Avoid at all costs even if they are the cheapest. They are worthless.
Avoid at all costs. They give car insurance companies a bad name.
- Direct General
Avoid them. They are the type of company to use when all you care about is registering your car and being able to drive. Don’t expect them to do anything other than the bare minimum.
What Do I Do If I’m In A Car Accident?
Don’t panic, a lot of young drivers get into accidents. Your life isn’t over. You are just going to have to deal with it the right way to make sure that it doesn’t get worse.
- Contact the police
- Take pictures of the damage
- If you are injured, go get checked out
- Report the accident to your insurance company
- Take pictures of any injuries
- Follow your doctor’s advice
- Call a car accident lawyer for a free consultation
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
I have seen every type of car accident there is. I have seen minor injuries to very serious injuries to even death. But, as a young driver, even if you might have been doing something wrong, it is smart to speak to a lawyer. The advice that an experienced car accident lawyer can give you might make a big difference in your life. Our consultations are always free, so do not be afraid to call.
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your car and please be safe on the roads of Florida.
This article was written by Sean McQuaid, the head of the personal injury department. He has been practicing car accident law since 2000 when he graduated from Stetson College of Law. Sean previously graduated from Princeton University where he was the captain of the baseball team. He is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell, a Florida Super Lawyer, Florida Trend Legal Elite, and has received virtually every award available. He is Past President of the St. Petersburg Bar Association, a group of over 1,100 lawyers and judges in the Tampa Bay area. Sean is also president of Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., St. Petersburg’s oldest and most prestigious law firm.