Being in an automobile crash is a terrible experience. It is even worse when there is not enough insurance to pay for all your injuries and suffering. At the Barnett, Bennett, & Scott LLP, we have dealt with countless people who have been involved in auto collisions. Many times, accident victims can’t get all of the help they deserve because they don’t have the right insurance. People without enough insurance often tell us that they have “full coverage” believing that they are protected. In reality, there’s no such thing as “full coverage.” You should make sure you know the details of your auto insurance policy. Don’t just assume that you are “fully covered.”
One accident victim was involved in a horrific crash where he was in the hospital for weeks, seriously immobilized for several months and unable to return to work for a year. His medical bills and lost income were nearly $200,000. This did not even include any money to make up for his pain and suffering. Unfortunately, the driver who caused the accident only had a $15,000 insurance policy. The victim only had a small uninsured motorist policy, and he was left with almost no money to make up for all of his losses.
Here are a few different types of insurance that you should have on your auto policy to make sure that you protect yourself, your family, and other people on the road.
This is the most basic type of insurance, and it only covers damage that you cause to other people and other vehicles. California requires that you carry personal injury liability and property liability in the following amounts.
Personal Injury: $15,000 for injury or death to one person and a total of$30,000 for injury or death to multiple people in the same accident.
Property: $5,000 for the damaged property of another person.
Although these small amounts may be sufficient for minor injuries, they will never be enough when someone is seriously hurt.
To make sure that you are protecting other drivers, you should never consider having such a small amount of insurance. If you don’t have enough insurance, you can be personally responsible for any harm that you cause. You will be surprised to find that it is pretty inexpensive to get a much higher amount on your liability coverage.
This covers damage to your vehicle when you are involved in an accident even if it is your fault. You will usually have to pay a deductible if the accident is your fault. It is usually O.K. to have a high deductible amount, because this will make your rates a lot lower.
This is similar to collision coverage, but it covers damage to your vehicle from things other than a collision. This could be hazards in the road, theft, vandalism, fire, falling trees, and weather damage.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
With so many drivers with no insurance or with small insurance policies, it is important to protect yourself and your family with uninsured motorist coverage.
If someone else causes a crash and they don’t have enough insurance, your uninsured motorist coverage can make up the difference.
Some people might say, “I have medical insurance, so I don’t really need Uninsured Motorist Insurance.” This is a big mistake. Your health insurance only pays for medical bills and does not pay for the biggest losses that you may suffer in an accident: Lost earnings, pain and suffering, and the loss of enjoyment of life. It can also provide money to take care of your family if you get killed by an underinsured driver.
Uninsured motorist coverage is very inexpensive, and you should always get as much as you can. It can’t be higher than your liability insurance, so if you need a higher uninsured motorist policy, you should also get a higher liability policy. If your insurance agent tells you that you don’t need uninsured motorist coverage, you should find a new agent.
Medical Payments Insurance
Medical payments (med-pay) insurance is another important insurance option. It covers any medical treatment that you, your family, or your passengers receive because of injuries from an automobile collision. Even if you have health insurance, med-pay is very helpful because it can pay for things that your health insurance won’t cover. It can pay for things like co-pays, deductibles, chiropractors, and out-of-network doctors.
The Dangers of no Insurance
The biggest danger of no insurance or inadequate insurance is that you will not be able to help yourself or others who are injured in a crash.
There is another danger. When you don’t have insurance, there is a law in California that limits the amount of money that you can recover even when an accident is somebody else’s fault. If you don’t have insurance and somebody else causes an accident, you only get money for medical bills, lost income, and property damage. You can receive no money for pain and suffering or all of the other intangible losses in your life.
In summary, here are the steps to take.
- If you don’t have auto insurance, get it now.
- Get as much liability insurance as you can afford.
- Get uninsured motorist coverage. Get as much as possible.
- Get Med-Pay coverage of at least $5,000.
- Get collision and comprehensive coverage.