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Understanding Your Florida Auto Insurance Policy

As a Florida driver with auto insurance it is important that you understand your auto insurance policy. Many people don’t understand what they are paying for, and unfortunately most people don’t find out what their insurance will or will not pay for until it’s too late and they’ve been injured in an auto accident. Whenever we speak to people about their auto insurance policies we break the coverage down into three categories:

  1. Insurance that covers you regardless of who is at fault;
  2. Insurance that covers you in the event that you are in an accident and it is determined that the accident is a result of your actions;
  3. Insurance that covers you in the event you are in an accident and it is determined that the accident is NOT a result of your actions, but the at-fault party has inadequate insurance coverage.

Insurance that covers you regardless of who is at fault

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) – this coverage pays for the costs of treating injuries that you, other authorized drivers, or passengers in your vehicle suffer in a car accident. In Florida, PIP insurance will pay up to 80% of your first $10,000 of medical expenses, 60% of your lost wages, and $5,000 for death benefits. It is vitally important to know that you have only 14 days to seek medical treatment in order to make a claim for PIP insurance coverage.

Example: John Doe is involved in a car accident. He is having major back and neck pain so he goes to see a doctor 2 days after the accident. The doctor refers John Doe to a chiropractor for treatment, which he begins going to twice a week. In this case, John Doe would be able to file a claim for PIP coverage to pay for the costs of treatment for his accident related treatment.

 

Medical Payments (MedPay) – because PIP only pays 80% of your medical expenses, many people purchase additional coverage known as Medical Payments Coverage or MedPay. This type of coverage supplements PIP insurance and pays the additional 20% of the medical expenses not covered under your PIP policy along with any medical expenses above and beyond your PIP coverage.

Example: John Doe has been receiving treatment for his auto accident related injuries. His doctors are billing his PIP for his treatment costs and are being paid 80% of what they submit. John Doe would have to pay the remaining 20% of the bills unless he has MedPay coverage.

 

Collision Coverage – this coverage will pay for repairs to your car if you collide with another vehicle, or crash into an object, after you’ve paid any applicable deductibles. If your car is totaled (meaning the cost to repair the vehicle exceeds the value of the vehicle) then collision coverage will pay the value of your car. This coverage is NOT required in Florida.

Example: Jane Doe is driving extremely fast and crashes her new car into a tree. The car is taken to an auto repair shop where it is determined that she did $6,000 worth of damage to her vehicle that is worth $18,000. After paying her $1,000 deductible, her collision coverage would pay for the remaining $5,000 of damages to repair her vehicle.

 

GAP Coverage – this coverage pays off your loan if your car is totaled and you still owe more on the car than what it is worth.

Example: Jane Doe finds out that the cost to repair her car will be $20,000. Her car’s value is $18,000 and she owes $25,000 on her loan for the car. The cost of repairing her vehicle exceeds the value of her car, so it will be deemed totaled. If Jane has GAP coverage then her insurance will cover the difference between what her car is worth ($18,000) and what she owes on her loan to pay it off ($25,000). If she didn’t have GAP coverage she would be responsible for paying the $7,000 difference between what she owes and what her car is worth.

 

Comprehensive Coverage – this pays to repair or replace your car after a non-accident related incident (i.e. theft, vandalism, fire, or other covered incident). This coverage kicks in after paying any applicable deductible. This coverage is NOT required in Florida.

Example: Jane Doe just got her car back from the repair shop after the accident where she ran into a tree. She parks the car in her driveway and goes inside for the night. The next morning she discovers that someone spray painted “tree killer” on the side of her vehicle and scratched up the paint all over her car. She takes the car to the auto body shop and they tell her it will cost $3,000 to repair the damage to her vehicle from the vandalism. After paying her $1,000 deductible her comprehensive coverage would pay the remaining $2,000 to repair her vehicle.

 

Insurance that covers you in the event that you are in an accident and it is determined that the accident is a result of your actions

Property Damage Liability (PD) – this insurance covers the damage you cause to the property of another motorist. Property damage coverage does NOT protect your own car if it is damaged in the accident, it only protects the property of the other driver involved in the accident. In Florida, drivers must carry a minimum of $10,000 of property damage coverage.

Example: John Doe was involved in an auto accident and it is determined that he is the at-fault party who caused the crash. John’s auto insurance policy carries the minimum property damage liability coverage required by law in Florida which is $10,000. The person’s vehicle who John hit has damages of $6,000 so John’s property damage liability coverage will pay for the cost of repairing the other person’s car.

 

Bodily Injury Coverage (BI) – this coverage pays for injuries to others caused by you, relatives who live with you, or other authorized drivers of your vehicle. This coverage is NOT required in Florida.

Example: John Doe ran a red light and struck a vehicle. The vehicle’s driver was injured and had to be taken to the hospital from the scene of the accident. The driver of the other vehicle had to continue receiving treatment and ended up with bills well over $20,000. John’s BI coverage would pay for the costs related to the other driver’s injuries up to John’s BI coverage limit.

 

Insurance that covers you in the event that you are in an accident and it is determined that the accident is NOT a result of your actions, and the at-fault party has inadequate coverage

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) Coverage – this coverage protects you when the other at-fault driver either doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough coverage to pay all of your damages. This coverage is NOT required in Florida.

Example 1: Jim Doe was rear-ended while stopped at a red light by a driver who was texting while driving. The driver of the vehicle who struck him admitted to Jim that he didn’t have any auto insurance. If it was determined that the other driver was at fault, Jim would be able to file a claim against his own insurance policy if he has UM coverage to cover the costs related to any injuries he suffered as a result of being rear-ended by the uninsured driver.

Example 2: Jim Doe was involved in a car accident while driving to the grocery store. The other driver was at fault and had an auto insurance policy with BI limits of $10,000. Jim’s medical bills and damages related to the car accident are $50,000. If Jim has sufficient UM coverage he would be able to file a claim for UM to make up the difference between the at fault driver’s BI coverage of $10,000 and Jim’s damages and medical bills of $50,000.

 

Stacking – when a driver purchases Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Protection they are entitled to “stack” or add together the combined UM or UIM limits of their policy. For example, if Jane Doe owns two vehicles and has UM or UIM coverage of $25,000 on each vehicle policy, she will have $50,000 in coverage per accident in either vehicle. If Jane chose not to stack her UM or UIM coverage, she would be limited to the coverage amount of the particular vehicle that was involved in the accident.

 

Rental Reimbursement – this coverage allows you to be reimbursed for the cost of a rental vehicle if the accident leaves your car unable to be driven. In some cases the at-fault party’s liability insurance coverage may reimburse you for renting a vehicle similar to your own. This coverage is NOT required in Florida.

 

It is important to review your auto insurance policy to make sure you are adequately covered

When speaking to friends and family about their auto insurance we always advise them to strongly consider purchasing both Bodily Injury (BI) and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM) coverage. These types of coverage are not required in Florida but many attorneys agree that they should be. You want to make sure you are protected in the event you are at fault in a car accident and cause injuries to another.

Having BI coverage ensures that your insurance company will pay up the limits of your coverage in the event you are at fault and injure others. You also need to ensure that you have adequate UM coverage in the event that you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. Since BI coverage is not required in Florida it is vital that you have UM coverage to protect yourself in the event that you are injured by a negligent driver in a car accident.

Weylie Centonzio, PLLC sponsors golf event to benefit veterans

On Saturday, February 20, 2016, over 120 golfers and supporters gathered at the Chi Chi Rodriguez Golf Club in Clearwater, Florida, for the 2nd Annual Sgt. Jessie Davila Memorial Classic. As a veteran-owned business, Weylie Centonzio, PLLC, was proud to be a sponsor of this year’s tournament. The tournament was started by Elder Law Attorney Javier Centonzio to raise money for a scholarship named in honor of his friend, Sgt. Jessie Davila, who was killed on February 20, 2006, while they were serving in Iraq.

The Sgt. Jessie Davila Memorial Veterans Scholarship will be awarded to veterans who want to attend Stetson University College of Law and need financial assistance because they have no remaining veterans’ educational benefits. The goal of the scholarship is to attract veterans to the practice of law as a means of continuing service to others while honoring the memory of a great man who gave his life for his country. By virtue of their willingness to volunteer to join the military, veterans have shown a commitment to serving others and are equipped with the core values necessary to make valuable contributions to the legal profession.

This year’s tournament was significant because it marked the 10 year anniversary of Jessie’s ultimate sacrifice. Many of the golfers who played in the tournament were Stetson Law alumni, students, staff members, and professors. There were also several veterans playing in the event, including the team that won the tournament. The first place team was comprised of Marine Corps veterans, Hector Zelaya and Billy Burns; Army veteran, Steve Larson; and Air Force veteran, Donovan Rose.

 

Weylie Centonzio supports Wills for Warriors program

On February 23, 2016, and March 30, 2016, Elder Law Attorney Javier Centonzio of Weylie Centonzio, PLLC participated in the Wills for Warriors program hosted at Stetson University College of Law’s Gulfport campus. The Wills for Warriors program is a partnership between Stetson University College of Law and the Community Law Program to provide free simple wills and advance directives to local low-income veterans and their spouses aged 60 or older.

The program teams volunteer attorneys with Stetson Law students who interview the participants and draft their legal documents. Once drafted, the documents are reviewed by a volunteer attorney, and then the attorney and a law student meet with the veteran and/or their spouse to discuss and execute the documents. This process is very beneficial for everyone involved because it provides a great learning experience for the law students and allows the volunteer attorneys a chance to provide pro bono legal services to very deserving clients.

This is the third year that Attorney Centonzio has participated in this program, and he would encourage any attorneys who might be interested to volunteer for this annual event. Attorneys interested in volunteering for next year’s program should contact the Center for Excellence in Elder Law at Stetson.

For more information about the Wills for Warriors event, please click here.

Javier Centonzio, Florida Elder Law Attorney in Pinellas County

Pinellas County, Florida Elder Law Attorney Javier Centonzio

Javier Centonzio graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 2012 with his J.D. and received his Masters of Law (LLM) in Elder Law in 2014. He is accredited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps and the Kansas Army National Guard. Javier lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and proudly serves the Pinellas County area. His office is conveniently located in Largo, Florida, in the center of Pinellas County.

Elder Law Attorney establishes fund for disabled veterans

On March 30, 2016, Elder Law Attorney Javier Centonzio established the Veterans Advocacy Legal Operational Resource (VALOR) Fund at Stetson University College of Law. The VALOR Fund will be used to help veterans seeking disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs by covering the costs related to obtaining evidence to support their claims.

Centonzio is a Stetson Law alumnus who graduated with his Juris Doctorate in 2012 and his Masters of Law in Elder Law in 2014. Prior to entering law school, Javier served as an enlisted infantryman in the U.S. Marine Corps and the Kansas Army National Guard. During his time at Stetson, he spearheaded many efforts to raise awareness of veterans issues and helped create the Veterans Law Institute (VLI).

One of the components of the VLI is the Veterans Advocacy Clinic, which represents veterans who need free legal help with VA disability benefits appeals. Many veterans who are represented by the Veterans Advocacy Clinic need additional evidence to support their disability claims–such as medical examinations, psychological reports, etc.–but simply cannot afford this additional expense. The sole purpose of the VALOR Fund is to provide direct support to these veterans and claimants by eliminating the financial obstacles that may prevent them from obtaining the evidence they need to win their appeals.

For more information about the VALOR Fund or to make a donation please contact Elder Law Attorney Javier Centonzio at jac@wclawfl.com. For more information about the Veterans Law Institute please click here.

Javier Centonzio graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 2012 with his J.D. and received his Masters of Law (LLM) in Elder Law in 2014. He is accredited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps and the Kansas Army National Guard. Javier lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and proudly serves the Pinellas County area. His office is conveniently located in Largo, Florida, in the center of Pinellas County.

Probate: What is it and why do people want to avoid it?

What is Probate?

Probate means “prove” and it describes the process by which a person’s (decedent’s) estate is settled after he or she passes away. This “proving” process is structured to ensure that heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors receive what they are due from a person’s estate. In order to settle a person’s estate through probate the court must identify a Will (if one exists), determine if the Will is valid, inventory and appraise the decedent’s property, pay remaining debts, and distribute the remaining property according to the terms of the decedent’s Will, or, if no valid Will exists, according to Florida law.

Many people who contact my office incorrectly believe that they can avoid probate by having a Will. I explain to them that having a Will simply means that they are choosing to have their estate distributed per their terms through the probate process. As a result, by executing a valid Will people can have peace of mind, knowing that their estate will go to who they choose when they pass away. I also stress to my clients the importance of naming a trustworthy person to serve as personal representative in their Will. A personal representative is the person appointed by the court when probate proceedings commence who is responsible for overseeing the probate process.

Pros and Cons of Probate

The probate process has some disadvantages that many people want to avoid. Probate can be time-consuming and complicated. During the probate process many of the decedent’s assets are frozen and require the court’s involvement to handle the decedent’s affairs, which increases the costs associated with the process. The costs associated with probate are also a reason that people may want to avoid the process altogether. The other common disadvantage associated with probate is that the decedent’s private affairs become public. For example, the terms of the will, the nature and amount of the decedent’s estate, and any disputes related to the will become public record. People who want to avoid probate should contact an estate planning attorney and discuss ways to do so, such as creating a revocable living trust.

There are also advantages to the probate process that should not be ignored. Having court oversight can be invaluable and will help ensure that the personal representative properly distributes the decedent’s assets according to the terms of the will. An estate planning attorney can help you weigh the disadvantages of probate—such as time, cost, and lack of privacy—with these advantages.

Whether you are considering creating a will, forming a revocable living trust, or just need guidance to help you through the probate process of a loved one, you should contact estate planning attorney Javier Centonzio for compassionate and effective representation.

Javier Centonzio graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 2012 with his J.D. and received his Masters of Law (LLM) in Elder Law in 2014. He is accredited by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and admitted to practice before the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. He is also a proud veteran of the United States Marine Corps and the Kansas Army National Guard. Javier lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, and proudly serves the Pinellas County area. His office is conveniently located in Largo, Florida, in the center of Pinellas County.