Is Bodily Injury Liability Insurance Required in Florida?

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Introduction

If you're asking, "Is bodily injury liability insurance required in Florida?", we've written this article to answer that very question.

Bodily Injury Liability Insurance (BI) is a type of insurance coverage that pays for bodily harms caused by negligent acts. The coverage only pays for the harms to the victim of the wrongful acts. For example, if you drive badly and cause a wreck, your bodily injury liability insurance will pay for injuries you cause to other people, but not for your own injuries. Your own injuries would be paid by other parts of insurance coverage you might have, like your No-Fault Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage. 

This article will explain how BI coverage works, when it bodily injury insurance is required in Florida, and why you should have it.

Written by a Gainesville car accident lawyer , we will explain BI coverage and how it relates to Florida car accident laws and other types of insurance coverage. We also discuss how BI coverage is critical to a successful car accident lawsuit. At the end of the article you will find insurance coverage recommendations from a car accident personal injury attorney serving Gainesville and greater Florida. We will cut through the complexity and confusion of this topic to tell you how you can best protect yourself and your family.

Florida has one of the most complicated auto insurance systems in the country, mainly because of the No-Fault Personal Injury Protection law. This law was enacted to try to make it easier to manage claims for less serious injuries. But that law only makes it more difficult to hold negligent driver’s accountable. Florida’s lack of a bodily injury liability coverage requirement also puts you at risk. Read the rest of the article to find out what you need to do to protect yourself!

What is Florida Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) Insurance Coverage? 

Bodily injury liability coverage (BI) is the part of a typical auto insurance policy that protects the “body” of the person who was injured by a negligent driver. This coverage is paid to the other person, not to the person who owns the policy. For instance, if you were hit by another driver who was at fault in the wreck and they have bodily injury liability coverage, you should be paid money from their coverage for your injuries. Bodily injury policies pay for injuries and deaths of other people caused by your negligent acts.

If you have bodily injury coverage your policy will not cover your own injuries. There are other parts of your policy that may cover your injuries in Florida. Those are your no-fault (PIP) coverage, Medpay coverage, and UM (uninsured or underinsured motorist) coverage. If you are at fault in a wreck and you cause someone else to be injured, that person would have a claim against your Florida bodily injury liability coverage. Your policy would pay to represent you with an attorney and to pay any damages you caused.

Does Florida Require Bodily Injury Liability Insurance?

The technical answer is no, but the practical answer is that you should have at least $10,000 of bodily injury liability insurance in Florida. Florida does not require any bodily injury liability insurance unless you’ve been in a car accident or committed certain traffic violations. Many states do require their residents to have bodily injury liability coverage to drive, but Florida does not. Florida only requires two types of insurance coverage to get a license and drive, Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage Liability, each in the amount of $10,000 minimum coverage.  

The exception to the lack of a bodily injury liability requirement applies if you’ve been in a car accident or committed certain traffic offenses. These requirements are set out in the Florida Financial Responsibility Law. This law states that an owner or operator of a vehicle involved in an accident with at least $500 of property damage or bodily injuries must be “financially responsible” or have his license and registration suspended. The law gives three methods of meeting the financial responsibility requirement. The easiest method is if you already have an insurance policy with at least $10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident bodily injury liability coverage at the time of the accident. The other two options are much harder for most people. One is to post a $30,000 bond and the other is to “self-insure,” which requires demonstrating at least $40,000 of unencumbered assets. 

Another exception is for people who have been found guilty or pled no contest to a DUI charge. They must have bodily injury liability insurance of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per wreck for at least 3 years after the return of their driving privileges.

If you cause a car accident and you can’t meet the Florida Financial Responsibility requirements, your license will be suspended for three years. The only way to get your license back sooner is to be released from all liability by the injured person or post security to cover their entire claim. It makes sense to have at least the minimum bodily injury coverage of $10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident in Florida. Otherwise you could lose your license and have to pay a lot of money.

When is BIL Required?

As stated above, bodily injury liability insurance is only required in Florida under certain circumstances. You can drive or register a vehicle without having it, but if you do you are opening yourself up to a lot of potential problems. The lack of a bodily injury liability requirement in Florida is a big problem for victims of bad drivers. There are many people driving in Florida who don’t have bodily injury liability coverage. If they hurt you in a wreck, you may not be able to recover money from them for your injuries.

Why Would You Want Coverage?

You definitely want bodily injury liability insurance if you drive in Florida or any other state, even though it is not required. There are two main reasons why you should have it. First, if you cause a car accident and someone else is injured, they can sue you for their damages. Bodily injury coverage is the type of coverage that will pay them and protect you and your assets. If you have BI coverage your insurer will also pay the costs for an attorney to defend you against the lawsuit. 

The second reason you want BI coverage is that insurers will only sell you Uninsured Motorist coverage if you also have BI coverage. Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage protects you if someone else injures you and they don’t have adequate bodily injury coverage. Since Florida doesn’t require bodily injury coverage, many Florida drivers do not have adequate coverage to protect you. Thus you have to protect yourself by purchasing UM coverage. 

A recent study by the Insurance Research Council found that Florida has the highest percentage of uninsured motorists in the country. Over 26% percent of drivers on Florida roads have no insurance. Of the remaining 75%, 25% have the minimum required coverage that does not include any bodily injury liability coverage. So, 50% of drivers in Florida have no coverage that will protect you if they injure you. This is why you must get uninsured motorist coverage to protect yourself.

Can You Sue Someone with No Bodily Injury Insurance Coverage in Florida?

Yes. You can sue someone who doesn’t have bodily injury insurance. Lawsuits don’t require there to be any insurance coverage. In practice, though, a personal injury lawsuit usually has the goal of making the parties tender their insurance coverage. The reason is that most people don’t have enough free (non-mortgaged) or exempt assets to pay a judgment. 

Florida auto accident lawsuits are governed by the common law of Florida. The common law is the law that has developed over time in the courts of Florida. Before that the same common law developed over hundreds of years in England. It is known among lawyers as the law of Torts. The word “tort” is an old Latin term that came to mean a “wrong” in English. A tort or personal injury lawsuit is a civil lawsuit for damages that do not arise from a contract dispute. The key aspect of a personal injury lawsuit is to prove that the wrongdoer owed you a duty of care and that he breached that duty by being negligent.

There are also statutes that have been enacted by the Florida legislature that affect car accident lawsuits. The main one is called the Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law (Florida Statutes 316). This law applies uniform requirements for drivers and pedestrian actions throughout the state. It preempts local requirements, meaning that local governments cannot pass laws that alter the uniform state laws.

The Florida Uniform Traffic Control Law governs things like right-of-way, signaling, speed, safety requirements and all other traffic related issues. Traffic citations are based on this law. In a car accident lawsuit, however, this law is only one aspect of the evidence of the case. Basically, if a person involved in a car wreck violated the Traffic Control Law, then their violation can be presented as prima facie evidence of negligence. “Prima facie” evidence is evidence that will be considered as proof unless it is rebutted by a defense. 

What this all means is that to win a personal injury lawsuit for a car accident you must prove that the other person breached their duty of care to you and caused you an injury. Everyone who uses the roads owes everyone else a duty of care. One key aspect of that care is to obey the traffic laws of Florida. However, if your case goes to trial it will be the jury who has the final say in whether someone was negligent and caused you harm. They will weigh all the evidence they have heard and make their best conclusion.

As mentioned above, another important consideration is whether the defendant is worth suing if they don’t have any bodily injury liability insurance. Most people do not have significant liquid assets to pay a judgment, so we are usually just trying to make their insurance company pay their policy limits. Florida has a strong homestead law. It exempts people’s homes from being seized to pay a judgment. In addition, most judgments or debts arising from personal injury lawsuits can be discharged in bankruptcy. So even if you sue and win a judgment against someone who injured you, if they don’t have adequate bodily injury liability coverage, you are likely to never recover any money from them. This is why we recommend that you purchase your own Uninsured Motorist coverage. To protect you against the negligent acts of underinsured drivers.

How Much Bodily Injury Liability Insurance Should you Get in Florida?

As car accident lawyers, we recommend that you buy as much Bodily Injury Liability insurance as you can afford. Your bodily injury coverage does two things for you: it protects your assets if you injure someone else on the roads, and it allows you to buy an equal amount of Uninsured Motorist coverage. 

The Financial Responsibility Law requires bodily injury liability coverage of $10,000 per person and $20,000 per accident. That would be the minimum amount you should have to protect you from losing your license if you are in a car accident. However, that coverage is insufficient to protect you. One visit to the hospital can easily cost more than that. 

We recommend that you purchase BI coverage of at least $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. If you can afford more, then you should purchase more. Your insurer will only sell you Uninsured Motorist coverage to the amount of Bodily Injury Liability coverage that you purchase. So if you buy the $100,000/$300,000 of BI you will be able to purchase $100,000/$300,000 of UM. This is a good level of coverage that will protect you if an underinsured motorist injures you. Keep in mind, though, that a serious injury from a car accident can easily cost well over $100,000 in medical treatment, loss of income, pain and suffering, and permanent disability. That is why we recommend that you purchase more BI and UM if you can afford it.

"Eric Kem was a Fantastic Lawyer...knowledgeable, patient as well as kind. He helped me understand the law, know my rights and not feel like an idiot for asking so many questions. I had a better outcome then I ever expected. I would highly recommend him!!!"

Crystal DeJesus, Gainesville Florida

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