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Remember the AFLAC commercial with Yogi Berra sitting in the barber’s chair? He says, about AFLAC, “If you don’t have it, that’s why you need it.” Well, when it comes to car insurance, Yogi might as well have been talking about Uninsured Motorist coverage.

If you can afford it, and you probably can, you should always purchase uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage when you buy your auto insurance. Many consumers do not realize how important uninsured motorist insurance is and all too often insurance agents may downplay it. UM coverage is thought by personal injury and wrongful death attorneys to be the most important coverage you can buy. It covers YOU if you suffer injuries caused by:

  1. A negligent driver who does not have any insurance.
  2. A negligent driver who has insurance but not bodily injury liability coverage.
  3. A negligent driver who does not have enough bodily injury liability coverage, is underinsured.
  4. A hit-and-run driver, sometimes called a phantom driver.

Let’s face it. It is often the same irresponsible person who causes a car crash who also fails to get liability insurance.

It is a mistake to assume you have UM coverage just because your agent sells you what you think is “Full Coverage.” In Florida, “Full Coverage” can mean that you have purchased only the minimum insurance required by law — this does not include UM! Our experience indicates UM coverage is extremely important, given the number of drivers with minimal insurance or no insurance at all.

Too often the personal injury trial lawyers at Terrell Hogan see victims of accidents who have no UM coverage, and who have been victimized by a driver with no liability coverage. These victims are always shocked that the at-fault drivers cannot pay for their losses they cause. Many times these victims go without any compensation for grave or catastrophic injuries. That is why you MUST protect yourself with UM insurance coverage if at all possible.

We encourage you to review your auto insurance policy to make sure you have UM coverage, and that the amount is enough for your needs. Considering its vital importance UM coverage is inexpensive!

We represented an architect who had been practicing successfully and profitably for 37 years. He was badly injured in a motorcycle crash while riding to a job on his Harley-Davidson on Highway 17 in Orange Park. The motorcyclist had no chance to avoid a high-speed, “T-bone” collision when a car pulled right in front of him from a side street. The architect was thrown from his motorcycle, and suffered numerous pelvic, hip, wrist, hand, and spinal fractures. He required two surgeries. His medical bills exceeded $100,000.00. Due to his injuries, it is unlikely he will ever be able to work full-time as an architect again. But the driver of the car had no insurance. Without UM coverage, this architect would have gone from plans of a comfortable retirement to bankruptcy. With UM coverage, he was able to pay all his bills and receive compensation now for the earnings he will lose from being unable to practice architecture in the future. He was also fairly compensated for his “pain and suffering.” Fortunately, this victim’s clear thinking and good judgment in purchasing UM coverage made all the difference.

The good news, as mentioned above, is that UM coverage is relatively inexpensive. Recently, I was on a radio interview about insurance on our local NPR affiliate, WJCT, 89.9. An insurance agency executive with Brightway Insurance made the point that by having a higher deductible for property damage to your own car you can save enough to get solid Uninsured Motorist coverage to protect your family. According to the Insurance Infor¬mation Institute, UM coverage costs $50 – $200+ for a 6 month policy, depending on the amount of coverage. Policies range from $5,000/$10,000 limits per person/per accident to $1 million/$1 million per person/per accident. This may surprise you, but the price difference between the lowest and highest levels of coverage is not great; that’s because of some of the hidden facts about how insurance companies work.

If you drive more than one vehicle, make sure to get what’s called “stacked” UM coverage that combines the coverages of all your vehicles. For example, a family with 2 cars — each with $300,000 in UM coverage — would be entitled to $600,000 UM coverage per accident with a stacked policy.

Every day, the lives of hardworking Floridians are forever changed when they are seriously injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver and discover they don’t have adequate UM protection. In these challenging economic times, more drivers may be tempted to skimp on insurance to save money, or even break the law and drive without it. All the more reason to get UM coverage. While you can’t predict when an accident will happen, you can predict with reasonable certainty that you or someone you care dearly about will be in an accident, and, when that happens, you will want to know that you have protected yourself and your family with Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist insurance.

Wayne Hogan is a Florida and National board certified trial lawyer and president of the Terrell Hogan personal injury and wrongful death law firm.