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Snowbirds: Make Sure Your Vehicle is Properly Insured, or Risk Denial of Accident Claims

It’s important for “snowbirds” in Florida (those part-time residents who flock to the Sunshine State when the weather cools up north) to understand their obligations when it comes to car insurance. Failure to do so can result in denial of a claim.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles notes that every vehicle registered in the state must have Florida insurance. Further, any person who has a vehicle in the state of Florida for more than 90 days during a 365-day period must purchase both personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, as well as property damage insurance coverage. Those 90 days do not have to be consecutive for this requirement to apply. Failure to do this can result in denial of a claim.

Recently in New Jersey, one man discovered the consequences of this (though the circumstances were different than a typical Florida snowbird). The New Jersey Law Journal reported the driver lived in New Jersey full-time, but registered his vehicle in Florida because the auto insurance costs were cheaper. When he was involved in a collision in New Jersey, his claim was denied on the grounds he fraudulently maintained the insurance.

Although he was struck head-on by another vehicle traveling in the wrong direction in his lane and even though he was seriously injured, the county superior court in that state dismissed plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver on these grounds. Defendant successfully argued that those who live and work in that state must maintain car insurance from that state, and because plaintiff did not, plaintiff was not considered insured. The judge agreed, finding that to allow plaintiff to continue the claim would be to undermine both the purpose and policy of state insurance law.

Plaintiff is in the process of appealing.

But this is not the standard situation we are dealing with in Florida. There are not an influx of people fraudulently buying insurance out-of-state just because it’s cheaper. We find the more common scenario is that people who make Florida their home part-time don’t understand what their obligations are with regard to auto insurance.

Our Orlando car accident lawyers understand it might be tempting to simply register your vehicle only in your home state, which might help you save on your car insurance rates and avoid the hassle of dealing with two separate insurance policies and agents. However, as the New Jersey case shows, the consequences could be severe.

Florida law requires at least $10,000 in personal injury protection benefits, per F.S. 627.736, and $10,000 in property damage liability in order to meet minimum requirements. However, it’s advisable to have coverage limits that are the same or very similar to what you would have in your home state. That includes also buying bodily injury liability and uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage. If you’re spending three months or more in this state every year, your risk of being involved in a car accident here at some point are significant.

If you only spend a couple of months in Florida every year, you should be safe to keep your home state coverage. It’s advisable to discuss all this with your auto insurance agent to make sure you are adequately covered in case of a crash.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Judge Bars Lawsuit by Injured NJ Driver Who Maintained Fla. Insurance, Nov. 30, 2017, By Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal

More Blog Entries:

Auto Insurer Pays Families of Teens Who Died in Stolen SUV, Despite Their Fault, Nov. 11, 2017, Orlando Car Accident Attorney

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