Instead of taking 15 minutes to save 15%, take 15 minutes to make sure you have the coverage you need to protect you and your family.
The majority of motorists that I have met over my 25 years of practicing law (representing both insurance companies and injured clients) have told me that they treat car insurance as a necessary evil. They do not like being required to insure their vehicle before they can travel on the roads of our state; so they buy minimum insurance coverage! Many insurance companies direct their advertising to consumers who have this mind set. Limiting the amount of insurance policy coverage puts a lid on the insurance company’s obligation to pay for injuries and damages caused by car crashes.
Those same motorists universally tell me that they regret their decision to minimize coverage after they are involved in a motor vehicle accident, sometimes with tragic consequences. Unfortunately, as your lawyer, we cannot re-write your insurance policy based on hindsight. Injured car crash victims must live with the consequence of inadequate insurance coverage. But our firm feels it is our responsibility to help you make an informed decision about what coverage is best for your family. Here are a few, major reasons to review your coverage.
- Liability Coverage. This type of coverage protects you if you caused the accident. Car insurance companies advertise cheap rates to compete with each other; typically these rates provide liability coverage as little as $15,000 per person with a cap of $30,000 per accident. This means that if you are at fault for a motor vehicle accident, your insurance company will pay up to $15,000 for the injuries to the other person, but only up to $30,000 if more than one person is injured. You (not your insurance company) could be held personally liable for any amounts above this coverage. Your personal assets (including your home and income) could be at risk. You should always purchase as much Liability Coverage as you can afford in order to protect you and your family. A minimum of $100,000, $300,000 or higher depending on your financial condition.
- Uninsured Motorist Coverage. In New Jersey, insurance companies must offer uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage protects you if the other driver is at fault but has no car insurance (a very common event in theses economic times). For example, you are on your way to work; someone runs a red light injuring you. Your injuries are severe enough to keep you out of work; you suffer long term pain and disability. What if the other driver has no insurance? Your Uninsured Motorist insurance coverage would compensate you for the damages and loss you and your family suffered because of your injuries. This coverage amount should equal the amount of liability coverage that you purchased in example #1 above. This coverage protects you directly; it should be as high as you can afford.
- Underinsured Motorist Coverage. Insurance companies offer this coverage in conjunction with Uninsured Motorist Coverage. Using the example above, assume the other driver who ran the red light has only $15,000 in Liability Coverage because he had the common attitude that he only needed minimum coverage. What if your injuries prevent you from working and cause permanent disability? It is not likely that $15,000 will compensate you. In that instance your Underinsured Motorist coverage would step in to provide you additional benefits (again up to the amount you purchased). For example, if you had $100,000 in Underinsured Motorist Coverage, and you exhausted the other drivers $15,000 in coverage, your insurance company would provide up to another $85,000 in available benefits. ($100,000 minus $15,000). Again, the more coverage you purchase, the more protection you have.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP). This is the portion of your car insurance that pays for your medical treatment (and other limited wage loss benefits) if you are injured in an accident regardless of who caused the accident. You should purchase $250,000 in coverage, even if you have health insurance. You should also make your PIP coverage primary for any car accident related injuries. This is so because many times your health insurance will resist paying for auto related injuries and, if it has paid such bills, it may seek reimbursement from your claim against the other driver for your injuries.
Just like any other insurance, such as life and health, you should purchase as much as you can afford. We have explored a few reasons for you to review your auto insurance coverage to protect yourself and your family. Always ask your insurance provider to explain the best available options, not simply the cheapest. The future is uncertain. The risk of involvement in a car crash is real. Inexpensive coverage options will not satisfy the genuine needs of seriously injured car crash victims, whether you or the other driver is ultimately found responsible for those injuries.
Author: Don Caruthers, Esq., Law Offices of Hoffman DiMuzio