So you’re involved in a motor vehicle collision. If you’re lucky, it’s a minor impact causing nothing more than damage to the bumper of your brand new car, and no injuries to you or anyone else involved. If you’re not so lucky, you have a lot more than property damage to contend with and the last thing you need is to be unable to have your vehicle repaired, thereby preventing you from seeking treatment for your injuries.
Let’s assume, however, for the sake of this article, that the collision caused no injuries and that all you must do is seek repairs for your vehicle. Easy, right? Sure. About as easy as baking a pie with no oven. Once again, the secret is understanding Florida law and your insurance policy. When it comes to dealing with damage to property, there are two types of coverage – and they apply in totally, utterly, different scenarios:
- Property Damage Coverage – this is coverage one carries on his policy to pay for damages caused to someone else’s property. Florida law requires that drivers carry a minimum of $10,000.00 in Property Damage Coverage on their policies.
- Comprehensive/Collision Coverage – this is coverage one carries on his policy to pay for damages to his own property. Florida law does NOT require that drivers carry this coverage.
Why is it so important to understand the difference between these coverages? Let me give you an example:
You’re driving at 45 MPH with very little traffic around you. You proceed through a yellow flashing caution signal at an intersection, continuing straight. Out of nowhere you are T-Boned by a vehicle in the middle of the intersection and your car is totaled. First, if you walk away from that impact with no injuries, buy a lottery ticket because you are clearly invincible. Second, assuming you were not injured, your concern is, of course, your vehicle. At the scene of the crash, the driver of the other vehicle is apologetic, saying it was raining, he didn’t see you, he’s so very sorry. The driver asks you not to call the police and offers to give you insurance information. You, knowing that you are better safe than sorry, call the police anyway. The police arrive and suddenly, the apologetic driver’s story changes and he convinces the police officer that in fact the caution signal was malfunctioning. Long story short, nobody is ticketed and now what you thought was going to be a simple situation has turned into a liability nightmare.
You call the driver’s insurance company to report your claim and seek repair of your vehicle. The driver’s insurance company says hey, not so fast, we’re investigating this and don’t believe we are liable based on what our insured has told us and the fact that no one was ticketed. WHAT?? In the meantime, you have no car to get to and from work or to pick your kids up from school. Now what?
THIS is where carrying the right coverage can make a world of difference to you. Let your own insurance company fight it out on your behalf. This is probably going to be the only time you ever see me recommend that you communicate with your insurance company about a claim without attorney representation. However, if it is a matter of nothing more than getting your vehicle repaired, and no injury claim whatsoever, it is probably in your best interests to do so. If you have opted to carry Comp/Collision coverage, you can contact your own insurance company to set up a claim, and your own insurance company will have the vehicle appraised, and either fixed or totaled. You can negotiate the total payout with your own company, and you will only be out of pocket your deductible. (On that note, you should carry deductibles that you are able to pay easily out of pocket at ANY TIME. If you cannot, your deductible is too high).
If, however, you do not carry Comp/Collision coverage, your insurance policy will NOT cover the repairs to your vehicle, or the cost of replacing same, and you are left to rely upon the other driver’s insurance company to “investigate” the claim. You can say goodbye to driving your own vehicle for a very long time.
Nobody wants to file a claim with their own insurance company, despite the fact that we pay premiums for the security of coverage. Plan for the worst, and hope for the best – trust me, you’ll be glad you did.