In Georgia, if you get in a wreck, the at-fault driver pays. In Florida, if you get in a wreck, you pay, regardless of fault. The Florida system is called no-fault insurance. This disparity can cause tremendous problems for those of us Georgians that enjoy a quiet week in Panama City or a loud week in Daytona Beach, and find that we aren't paying attention and cause a wreck. (this has never happened to me).
So if you are injured in Florida, what are your options with your Georgia policy?
First you may think you can sue the at-fault driver, but in Florida, you must have “significant and permanent injuries” in order to sue the other driver. This is a very high threshold and would require you to go to Florida to sue. While it may sound like fun to be forced to return to Panama City to conduct depositions and trials, it will not be a vacation.
The good news is that Uninsured Motorist Coverage may fill the gap created for Georgia drivers in Florida, but only if you are not at fault. If you are not at fault, then your UM coverage picks up because the other driver is essentially uninsured. To get some insight into how much UM coverage you need, read this article.
But, if you are at fault, Uninsured Motorist Coverage will not pay for family members in your car if a Georgia immunity applies. One such immunity is called the “parental immunity.” Children cannot sue a parent. Since parents typically drive, this is the typical case that I see.
In that instance, the best solution is Med-Pay coverage. Med-pay coverage can be a lifesaver. My partner, Sam Rumph, wrote a great article on Med-Pay coverage. Think of med-pay coverage as no-fault health care. It can be a lifesaver and is paid very quickly. Furthermore, Doctors love it because it pays the full value of healthcare, so it is accepted almost everywhere.
But Med-Pay does not cover lost wages and doesn't pay for pain and suffering. While this may not sound like a big deal, imagine being out of work for even a few months. Do you have resources to cover your lost income? Most people don't.
Consequently, some insurance companies will allow you to add a temporary rider to your insurance policy to meet the minimum standards while out-of-state. This is perhaps the best all-around solution.
Of course, most people won't remember to do this until it is too late. Consequently, at Lindley, Powell & Rumph, we have crafted another solution to resolving injury claims for family members who are passengers in a car. I call it “my little creation” after hearing a piece on NPR about an equities lawyer that found loopholes to legally manipulate insurance companies.
However, such a claim involves complex legal issues and frequently requires litigation. If you find that you are an at-fault driver in a Florida wreck, and a family member who was a passenger was hurt, you need to hire a lawyer.