Misunderstandings About Florida Auto Insurance: An Attorney's Perspective

Auto insurance may seem like a simple concept, but many of us don't really understand some of the basic coverages. Knowing the basics is important from both a coverage and pricing standpoint. This article discusses what is commonly misunderstood.

We asked Brian LaBovick,  an attorney in South Florida who specializes in auto accident cases, what he thinks insurers misunderstand most about automobile insurance. Here's what he had to say:

One of the most misunderstood things in automobile insurance is the two numbers on a policy that indicate the amount of insurance you've purchased. Insurers use numbers such as 10/20 to indicate these amounts – it's very common nomenclature in bodily injury and uninsured motorist insurance.

What many insurers don't understand is that it doesn't mean that you have one policy that's $10,000 and another that's $20,000. It means that it's $10,000 of a maximum amount that it will pay to another person if you hurt them under your bodily injury insurance or if they hurt you and they don't have any coverage, it will pay you $10,000 individually for your case under your underinsured motorist insurance.

However, let's say you're carrying six people in the car. Will it give each person $10,000? No; it caps out at the second number, so a 10/20 policy would be $10,000 per person, but $20,000 among all people. So let's say one person is really hurt among those six. That person might get all $10,000. The other five would then have to split up the remaining $10,000 out of the $20,000 total. Or if it was a 100/300 policy, that person may collect the $100,000; then the other five have to split the remaining $200,000 of the $300,000, with none of them getting more than $100,000.

People come into my office and say, "He has 100/300 in coverage, so I should get $300,000." I respond, "But no, you're a single person; you can only get $100,000. If he was driving and you had six people in your car, everybody would be trying to collect that and believe it or not, those limits get expended pretty quickly."

$10M of insurance exhausted – quickly

LaBovick has seen his share of automobile cases – it's a major part of his practice. He provided a recent example where policy coverage amounts were used up – quickly. "There was a major bus accident in south Florida last year where a bus full of elderly residents was hit at a red light. It was a T-bone accident and a dump truck ended up hitting them. So, between the bus insurance and the dump truck insurance, there was five million dollars of insurance; ten million dollars of total insurance and they exhausted it. People were complaining about who was going to get what because there was a major problem."

Plaintiffs don't always win cases

As a plaintiffs' attorney, LaBovick believes that consumers have been propagandized to a certain extent and often believe that auto injuries are a panacea of money for anybody who is not really hurt in an automobile crash. He explained, "I also believe that a misunderstood aspect of Florida automobile insurance litigation is that plaintiffs are winning their cases. By and large, they are not. Defendants are winning more cases than plaintiffs. Even when they don't win, the level of damage is so much less than the person deserves that it's almost as bad as a loss, as a singular loss. It's unfortunate because the more the public is propagandized that that's the case, the tighter they become and the more suspicious they become of people who are hurt."

Plaintiffs often start out on their own five yard line…

Because so many people have brought fraudulent claims, LaBovick thinks that you go into trial as a plaintiff these days, you are on trial; not the person who hurt you. He explained, "You are on trial along with your credibility and honesty and you walk in with ten yards behind the eight ball. I guess using a football analogy is that if this were a football game and the football game is supposed to start out even, with both teams on the 50-yard line, jurors don't start you on the 50-yard line. They start the plaintiff on their five-yard line and they have to drive 95 yards to score. The defendant starts off on the 65-yard line and they only have to drive 35 yards to score. I guess that's the feeling that I get with Florida jurors. I think the public believes it's exactly the opposite."

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