There's a television commercial out now from a major auto insurance company that promotes their “accident forgiveness” auto coverage, saying that you won't experience any rate increase after your first accident. And as in almost all auto insurance commercials, they don't tell you about the “fine print” details, and you certainly can't be expected to read any tiny print on the bottom of your TV screen.
We'd like you to know some facts.
If you really investigate the details of accident forgiveness coverage, you'll learn that this type of coverage usually comes as an addition to your auto policy, and there is an additional charge for it. There are a number of other restrictions and limitations on an accident forgiveness add-on, like drivers under 25 years old must have a clean driving record for 5 consecutive years in order to be eligible for accident forgiveness, plus a few other stipulations.
If you've ever tried to actually read your auto insurance policy – every single paragraph – you know how daunting that can be. Most people read what they feel are the most important clauses, but seldom keep reading the subsequent pages of legal mumbo-jumbo. This usually leads to people not having any idea what their policy covers, or what will happen if they ever get into a crash and make an insurance claim.
The personal injury attorneys at the Goldberg Noone Law Firm have been dealing with giant insurance companies when helping our clients after a serious motor vehicle accident for 20 years, and we'd like you to know the truth.
In Florida, the State Statutes clearly define what insurance companies can, and cannot, do when it comes to your insurance premiums. Here are the actual Florida Statutes:
F.S. 626.9541(o) “Illegal dealings in premiums; excess or reduced charges for insurance.” –
626.9541(o)(3)(a): “Imposing or requesting an additional premium for a policy of motor vehicle liability, personal injury protection, medical payment, or collision insurance or any combination thereof or refusing to renew the policy solely because the insured was involved in a motor vehicle accident unless the insurer's file contains information from which the insurer in good faith determines that the insured was substantially at fault in the accident.”
Translation: Insurers can't cancel or non-renew your Bodily Injury, Property Damage or PIP (Personal Injury Protection) coverage, and can't raise premiums for those coverages just because you're in an accident unless there is evidence that the accident was your fault.
The same also applies to your comprehensive collision and uninsured motorist (UM) coverage:
626.9541(o)(10): “imposing or requesting an additional premium for motor vehicle comprehensive or uninsured motorist coverage solely because the insured was involved in a motor vehicle accident or was convicted of a moving traffic violation.”
Translation: Insurers can't increase premiums for UM just because the insured was involved in an accident, regardless of fault.
Florida law also regulates insurance carriers when it comes to getting a traffic citation when there has been no crash:
626.9541(o)(12): “No insurer shall impose or request an additional premium, cancel a policy, or issue a nonrenewal notice on any insurance policy or contract because of any traffic infraction when adjudication has been withheld and no points have been assessed pursuant to s. 318.14(9) and (10). However, this subparagraph does not apply to traffic infractions involving accidents in which the insurer has incurred a loss due to the fault of the insured.”
Translation: Insurers can't cancel, non-renew, or raise premiums on your policy just for getting a ticket if the court withholds adjudication and no points are added to your license - unless the ticket was for an infraction involving an accident you caused.
Mike Noone, who was formerly a senior insurance claims adjuster at a major auto insurance firm, points out that a lot of insurance agents often do not even offer you the correct products for adequate coverage and try to sell you a policy that will not be sufficient in the event of being hit by another driver.
“I've spoken to insurance agents who have no idea what Florida law actually says when it comes to buying adequate coverage for one or more vehicles you own,” Noone says. “I have seen instances in negotiating with an insurance company, who are supposedly in business to protect you and your assets, where they had no idea their insured would have been better protected by purchasing a specific type of policy until I read the Statute to them.”
Get Answers BEFORE You Buy car Insurance
We've spent every day for the past 20 years dealing with insurance companies, fighting aggressively to see that our clients receive fair and reasonable compensation when they've been in a crash. We know every facet of auto insurance coverage, and have seen every trick in the book when it comes to the hurdles and hoops insurers will use to pay you as little as possible, or pay you nothing at all.
One phone call to our office can clear up any confusion about what type of car insurance you really need, and we're always available to talk to you anytime. Its better to speak with us before you buy your policy than to discover you ended up with inadequate coverage after a crash. It doesn't cost a thing to get the answers you need, and it could end up saving you money and a lot of aggravation in the long run.
If your insurance company is trying to raise your rates or cancel your coverage following a crash, we're here to help. Call us at 239-461-5508, or just fill out this short contact form and we'll call you right away.
Goldberg Noone attorney Elizete Velado provided research for the content of this article.