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Florida Auto Insurance

Learn about auto insurance in your state.


  
  

If you live in Florida, even for just a few months a year, you must have automobile insurance to be able to drive your vehicle legally. If you don't have at least the minimum coverage, you could find yourself in trouble with both law enforcement and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

The minimum required

Florida law requires drivers to carry a minimum of:

  • $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP)
  • $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL)

PIP is also called Florida No-Fault Insurance. PIP insurance will cover your medical expenses as well as lost wages and some other damages if you're in an accident whether or not it's your fault up to the limits of your policy.

PIP will cover your child, members of your household and any passengers in your car who don't carry PIP. Passengers who carry PIP will be covered under their own insurance. PIP also protects you if you're riding in someone else's car or a bicycle or are a pedestrian.

PDL coverage pays for damages to other people's property that you or members of your family cause and are liable for when involved in a crash.

Bodily injury liability recommended

Florida does not require you carry Bodily Injury Liability (BIL). However, BIL, which pays for serious and permanent injury or death to others should you cause a crash involving your automobile. If you have BIL insurance, your insurance company will not only pay for injuries up to the limits of your policy but it also will provide legal representation should you get sued. That's why, while not required, having bodily injury liability is highly recommended.

Have proof of insurance with you at all times

Your insurance company will issue you a Florida Insurance I.D. card. You must have this card available to show any law enforcement officer who asks. You could be ticketed for not having proof of insurance.

If you don't carry insurance on your vehicles and you are stopped by police for any reason or are involved in an automobile accident, you could lose your driver's license. Your license could be suspended for up to three years or until you prove you have purchased coverage - whichever comes first. You will have to pay a reinstatement fee of $150 for the first offense. You will pay $250 for a second offense within three years and $500 for a third.

Your insurance must be issued by an insurance company that is licensed to sell in the Sunshine State. If you move to Florida from another state, ask your insurance agent if your company writes in Florida (most do) and to transfer your insurance to Florida. You can look up insurance companies licensed to do business in Florida at the company directory on the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

Requirements apply to snowbirds

If you're a snowbird and only live in Florida during the winter months, you still must maintain automobile insurance. The state requires any vehicle holding a valid Florida license plate and registration be covered by a Florida insurance policy while it is registered. If you leave your car in Florida while you head north, it still must be insured while you are away.

Over 55 can qualify for discount

If you have a Florida driver's License and you are 55 or older, you are eligible to complete a six-hour motor vehicle accident prevention course. Once you complete the course approved by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, you will be eligible to receive a discount on your automobile insurance. The discount is good for three years. Then you can take a refresher course to renew.

You can take the course online at your leisure.

Florida's graduated driving privileges

Florida is one of many states that has graduated drivers' licensing. You can apply for a learner's license after you turn 15. You must complete a Traffic Law and Substance Abuse Course, pass written, hearing and vision tests, and have a signed parental consent form. With your permit, you can drive during daylight hours as long as a licensed driver who is at least 21 is in the front passenger seat.

When you're 16, you can earn an intermediate license and drive between the hours of 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. When you're 17, you can drive between 5 a.m. and 1 a.m. When you turn 18, all restrictions are removed.

Driving in Florida

As an insured, licensed driver in Florida, there are few laws and regulations that you should keep in my mind so that you remain legal on the road. Certainly there are more than those that we've outlined here, but these are the top 6.

Renew Your Florida License or Plates

Online registration and renewals are available based on eligibility. Check renewal options at the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Clean Emissions

Though Florida eliminated its emissions testing for motor vehicles back in July 2000, the state still does its best to encourage clean emissions. Drivers who own an Inherently Low Emission Vehicle or a hybrid vehicle are permitted to drive in High Occupancy Vehicle lanes at any time - even if the driver is the sole passenger in the car.

Using Laser and Radar Detectors

Under federal law, the use or possession of radar and laser detectors is illegal in all commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds and on military bases. For all other purposes, radar and laser detectors are legal in Florida.

Radar Detector Law & Legalities

No one wants to get a speeding ticket and then pay more in car insurance. But are "radar busters" legal? The answer in Florida depends on the type of technology you use and how you use it.

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Recent estimates suggest that over 10 percent of all drivers employ some sort of "radar-busting" technology on our nation's highways. This isn't that surprising, considering the advances in radar-detecting technology since the 70s. Drivers today can choose from a variety of radar detectors, laser detectors, scanners, jammers and stealth coatings designed to elude law enforcement officials. But before you decide to use one of these devices, you should be aware of the laws pertaining to them.

Radar & Laser Jammers
Under federal law it is illegal to jam or attempt to jam police radar signals. Many states also criminalize the mere possession of a radar jammer, so it is best to avoid such products altogether.

Police Scanners
The use of police scanners in Florida is illegal if installed or transported in vehicles unless you are either a licensed alarm system contractor, member of Press on assignment, licensed amateur radio operator or citizen with written permission from Chief of Police or Sheriff or Chief of Fire Department of your community.

Stealth Coatings
to date, neither Florida nor any other state has banned the use of stealth coatings to impair the ability of police LIDAR laser guns ("Light Detection and Ranging") to obtain an accurate speed reading of a vehicle. Stealth coatings first gained notoriety due to their defense applications (such as with the Stealth Bomber). Their efficacy on the roadways, however, remains to be seen although some testers claim that stealth coatings can reduce laser gun sensitivity by up to 50 percent (see http://www.radarbusters.com/2003lasercoatingsarticle.cfm ).

Radar & LIDAR Detectors
Under federal law, the use of radar and LIDAR detectors is illegal in all commercial vehicles over 10,000 pounds (see http://www.ncsl.org/programs/transportation/radar.htm). For all other purposes, radar and LIDAR detectors are legal in Florida.

In light of the obvious conflict between speeding laws and radar detector use, law enforcement officials, safety advocates, and insurance companies continue to lobby to legislators nationwide to ban the use of radar and laser detectors altogether. Thus far, they have only been successful in banning radar detector use in Virginia, Washington D.C., and on U.S. military bases.

Some speculate that one of the reasons that legislatures have been loathe to ban consumer use of radar detectors is that such bans could expose the inaccuracy of radar and laser-based speed detection systems. Independent studies have shown that radar and laser guns are susceptible to technical and operator error, leading some radar detection advocates to claim that over 25 percent of all radar-based speeding tickets are generated in error (see http://www.radarbusters.com/mistakesarticle.cfm). Some of the more common reasons for errors include:

  • Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) from sources such as radios, garage door openers, and police radar
  • Cosine errors generated by an inappropriate angle of the gun to the target
  • Mechanical errors caused by guns overheating or being out of alignment

Regardless of the accuracy of speed detection systems or the legality of radar detectors, one fact remains crystal clear in Florida-speeding is against the law. Accordingly, the best advice is for Florida drivers to rely on their common sense, rather than technology, when assessing the proper speed for the prevailing road conditions. For more information on safe driving in Florida, please visit http://www.dmv.org/fl-florida/defensive-driving.php. If you're interested in learning more about radar detectors, please visit the RadarBusters.com Buyer's Guide.

Child Restraint Law, Protecting Precious Cargo

Children ages birth to 5 years old must be in a federally approved child passenger restraint system to help protect them while driving. Children 3 years old and under the device must be a separate carrier or a vehicle manufacturer's integrated child seat. A separate carrier, integrated child seat or seat belt may be used for 4- and 5-year-olds. Drivers who do not have children properly restrained will be fined, get 3 points added to his license and may have to participate in a child restraint safety program.

Children are undoubtedly the most precious cargo that parents carry in their automobiles. Nevertheless, improper usage of child restraint systems needlessly injures thousands of children on Florida's roads each year. While some of these injuries are caused by clear violations of Florida's car seat law, advocates for broader car seat laws claim that many of the injuries occur because Florida's car seat law doesn't go far enough.

According to the Florida Department of Transportation's car seat laws:

  • All children 5 years of age or younger must be properly restrained no matter where they are sitting in the vehicle
  • Children through age 3 must be secured in a separate carrier or a vehicle manufacturer's integrated child safety seat
  • For children aged 4 through 5 years, a separate carrier, an integrated child safety seat, or a safety belt may be used

Thus, under the Florida car seat law, children over 3 years old may ride in a vehicle using a standard adult safety belt. The problem with this according to advocates is that most children under 80 pounds are too small for an adult seat belt. Adult seat belts can actually be dangerous to children because the belt cuts directly across their neck instead of snug across the center of their shoulder. This can lead to serious injury or even death in the event of an accident.

So what's a safety-conscious parent to do? Car seat safety advocates recommend that Floridians follow one of the following guidelines:

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that children over 40 pounds use a belt-positioning booster seat until they are 8 years old, unless they are 4'9" or taller
  • The American Academy of Pediatricians goes a bit further and advocates for booster seat use until the child reaches 4'9" in height and is between 8 and 12 years of age.

If your child resists using a belt-positioning booster, experts recommend the following:

  • Avoid referring to the seat as a "car seat" or "baby seat." Instead, use the terms "booster seat," "safety seat," or "big boy/girl seat."
  • If your car's back seat has headrests, consider using a backless booster which looks less like a "real" car seat to most children
  • Discuss car safety with your children and the reasons a booster keeps them safe
  • Emphasize the benefits of a booster seat, such as an improved view out the window, cup holders, and arm rests

In the end, the Florida car seat law should be viewed as a starting point for any child's traveling safety. Parents should take into consideration their child's unique height, weight, and other attributes that may impact their use of standard, adult seat belts. And if you have any doubts about what's the right thing to do, simply err on the side of caution. After all, you're protecting your most precious cargo

Seat Belt Law

Florida requires safety belt use. Drivers and front seat passengers must wear their seat belts. These people are exempt from the law:

  1. Children subject to the child safety restraint law
  2. Letter carriers
  3. People with an affidavit from a physician stating their medical conditions that prevents seat belt use
  4. An employee of a solid waste or recyclable collection service.
  5. Those people riding in the living quarters of a recreational vehicle.
  6. Driver and passengers in vehicles not required to be equipped with safety belts under federal law.

Alcohol Laws & Penalties

Under Florida law, it is illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 or above. Consumption of alcohol is not allowed in vehicles, either parked or moving. Open containers of alcohol, including those that have been closed again, are prohibited in all vehicles.

Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, depending on whether it's a first or repeated offense, range from a mandatory fine of no less than $500, probation, mandatory community service, possible imprisonment, vehicle impoundment and 180-day license revocation, to an up to 5-year jail sentence, a mandatory fine of $2,000 or more, community service and permanent license revocation. More than three convictions in a 10-year period or cause serious bodily injury and you are looking at a third degree felony: up to $5,000 fine, jail time, no license and more.

Many auto insurance companies in Florida will raise your rates or cancel or non-renew your insurance if you're convicted of an operating a vehicle under the influence. Conviction for excessive violations, license suspension, or major violations also carries the risk of the Florida Department of Transportation requiring you to submit an SR-22 filing for three to five years, to prove that you're maintaining car insurance.

Florida Auto Insurance Rules and Regulations

If you are a driver or are about to become a driver who lives in Florida you should know that to legally drive in the state, you must have auto insurance. It's mandatory, and if you fail to maintain insurance coverage on your car, you could find yourself in trouble with both law enforcement and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor.

The Minimum

Florida law requires drivers to purchase insurance $10,000 personal injury protection (PIP) and $10,000 property damage liability (PDL). That said, carrying the minimum isn't always the best - or cheapest - solution. Learn more about how much coverage you should buy before you shop so that you're protecting things like your home, your finances and your family.

PIP insurance covers medical expenses, as well as lost wages and other damages, though not in all cases. PIP kicks in no matter who is at fault for an accident. PDL covers another driver's vehicle or a person's property when you're at fault for an accident.

Though Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) is not mandated by the state of Florida, it is strongly recommended. And if you have shown financial irresponsibility following an accident, you may be required to carry it. BIL covers the cost for death or serious and permanent injury to others when you are at fault for an accident.

For example, if you own a home, carrying the minimum auto insurance coverage in Florida may not protect you if you cause an accident and your insurance doesn't cover all of the damages. If the other driver decides to sue to recoup those damages, it could mean you could lose your house.

Optional Car Insurance Coverage

Though you must carry minimum coverage, you are not restricted to minimum coverage. There are several options you can take advantage of to protect, you, your passengers, other drivers and, in many instances, your financial well being and other property. Here's a rundown:

No Car Insurance? No Driving Privileges

If the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles determines that you drove without car insurance, it can suspend your driving privileges, including tags and registration, for up to three years or until proof of Florida insurance is provided, whichever is first.

Once you have auto insurance and have served your suspension, it will cost you restoration fees to get your driving privileges back. That will set you back at least $150 and could go as high as $500 with subsequent violations.

You Can’t Take it with You

If you are moving to Florida from another state, you cannot keep your current auto insurance policy. You must acquire at least the minimum allowable coverage by law from an agent licensed to sell or insurance company licensed to issue policies in Florida.

Snowbirds who live in Florida for a few months out of the year and keep a car in storage while they're away should note that if the car holds a valid Florida tag and registration it must its auto insurance coverage must be current. But here's the loophole. You can surrender your tag and registration for the time that you're away so that you do not have to maintain your policy. Reregister and shop for a new policy when you return.

Using Your Credit History to Determine Rates

Auto insurance companies in Florida are allowed to use your credit history when setting rates and determining your payment schedule (monthly, quarterly, in full). They may also use it to help create a personal "insurance risk score." However, they may not use credit as the sole factor that determines the price of a policy, whether the policy is issued, or any other negative action. You policy will include specific information about how you can learn about the effect of credit on your rate, if any.

Florida Auto Insurance: Mandatory Auto Insurance Coverage

Florida Bodily Injury & Property Damage Limits:

Bodily injury limit: This is the maximum amount your insurance policy will pay when an insured person becomes legally liable for bodily injury or death caused by an insured person in an auto accident.

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Property damage limit: This is the maximum amount your insurance policy will pay when an insured person becomes legally liable for damage in an auto accident to the property of other people (e.g. light poles, fences, another vehicle, etc.).

Bodily Injury & Property Damage coverage:

$10,000 person/$20,000 accident/$10,000 property

$25,000 person/$50,000 accident/$25,000 property

$50,000 person/$100,000 accident/$50,000 property

$100,000 person/$300,000 accident/$50,000 property

$100,000 person/$300,000 accident/$100,000 property

In Florida a driver must have a minimum coverage of $10,000 for bodily injury to one person, $20,000 for bodily injury sustained by two or more persons in a single accident, and $10,000 for property damage that results from one accident. To adequately protect yourself, you may want to purchase much more than the minimum amount of coverage required for Florida.

Common Exclusions: Bodily injury and property damage coverage apply to injury and damage from normal use of the insured vehicle. Coverage is limited by your policy and there may be some circumstances in which coverage does not apply. For example, in some policies coverage does not apply to:

  1. Bodily injury or property damage arising out of the use of your vehicle while transporting people or property for a fee.
  2. Injury or damage caused by an intentional act.
  3. Injury or damage as a result of operating a vehicle owned by a person covered by your policy, where the vehicle is not listed on your policy.
  4. Injury or death of you or a family member.
  5. Property owned by, rented by or in the control of an insured person.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP)-$10,000 coverage:

PIP, also referred to as No-fault Coverage, is a legal requirement in Florida. Regardless of who is at fault, PIP covers bodily injury to covered persons caused by an accident involving an insured private passenger motor vehicle, up to your policy limits. PIP also covers bodily injury resulting from an accident involving a motor vehicle to:

  1. You while in another person's vehicle.
  2. Your child who lives in the same household if that child suffers an injury while riding on a school bus.
  3. You as a pedestrian or bicyclist.
  4. Residents of your home.
  5. Certain passengers who do not have PIP.
  6. Certain licensed drivers who drive your vehicle with your permission.

By Florida law, a minimum of $10,000 of PIP coverage is required and pays:

  1. Medical expenses - Up to 80% of reasonable medical expenses.
  2. Lost Wages - Up to 60% of lost wages and all reasonable expenses for replacement services, such as childcare, housekeeping or yard work.
  3. Death Benefits - $5,000

Higher limits may be purchased through some carriers.

Extended Personal Injury Protection: In return for additional premium, you may increase coverage for reasonable medical expenses to 100%. You may also increase coverage for lost wages to 80%, up to the limits of the policy.

Wage Loss Exclusion: This option allows you to exclude benefits received for loss of gross income and loss of earning capacity from PIP coverage. This usually results in a reduction to your premium.

Military Benefits Coordination: Some carriers offer this option, which allows you to utilize military benefits under the federal Medicare program to pay for medical expenses resulting from an auto accident. Your PIP coverage would pay only for the expenses not covered by your military benefits. This may reduce your premium.

Deductibles: You may select a deductible of $0, $250, $500, $1,000.

Named Insured: The first person in whose name the insurance policy is issued to.

Resident Relative: Person related to you who is a resident of your household.

Please Note: This coverage definition is intended only as a guideline. All terms and coverage is defined solely by your policy.

Department of Insurance - Looking Out for You

When shopping for insurance in Florida, residents can rest easy knowing that the Florida Department of Financial Services (DFS) is looking out for their best interests. Responsible for the regulation of Florida's insurance industry, the DFS is akin to a department of insurance and oversees all types of insurance policies including:

  • Auto
  • Health
  • Home
  • Life
  • Long-term care
  • Worker's compensation

The principal responsibility of the DFS is to protect Florida consumers. The DFS does this by:

  • Licensing insurers and insurance companies to do business in Florida
  • Regulating insurance contracts and rates
  • Protecting against insurance fraud
  • Ensuring that insurance companies comply with Florida law
  • Ensuring that insurance companies abide by their own policy language
  • Processing Florida insurance consumer complaints
  • Monitoring and reporting annual insurance complaint rates
  • Providing Florida residents with comprehensive insurance guides

Licensing Insurers
The DFS manages the licensing process for all insurance companies, agents, adjusters, and groups in the state. Licensing procedures ensure not only that, insurance companies are financially secure but also that individual agents are well-versed in Florida state insurance laws through pre-licensure and continuing education coursework. The DFS also reviews all insurance products to verify that they comply with the Florida Insurance Code's rules regarding insurance contracts and rates.

Through CDI, consumers can verify:

  • Whether an insurance company is licensed in Florida
  • Whether an insurance company is licensed to sell a specific line of insurance
  • Whether an agent is licensed in Florida and a legitimate representative of the insurance company Whether an insurance company has a good record of handling policy complaints

Protecting Consumers.
Beyond licensing, the DFS works on a number of fronts to protect Florida insurance consumer interests. The agency actively seeks to help consumers resolve their insurance-related disputes by reviewing and investigating consumer complaints. The DFS also seeks to limit disputes by providing a searchable database of frequently asked questions to help consumers better determine their insurance needs. This database can be found on the DFS website.

In addition to managing consumer complaints, the DFS polices all other insurance activities in Florida. The DFS Chief Financial Officer works diligently with his division commissioners to protect consumers by prosecuting insurance fraud scams, revoking the insurance licenses of those who violate the Florida Insurance Code, and issuing cease & desist orders to stop sales of unlicensed insurance products. The DFS also publishes regulations to ensure the proper implementation of the Florida Insurance Code.

For more information regarding Florida insurance laws as well as complete information about the Florida Department of Financial Services, Florida's department of insurance, please visit the at DFS website. http://www.myfloridacfo.com/


Sentinel Casualty Insurance
P. O. Box 551718
Davie, FL 33355
Tel: 877-408-9499 Fax: 877-408-9498
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