No one expects to be in an auto accident. Whether it’s a minor fender bender, or a major crash, an accident can seriously disrupt your life. There will be unplanned expenses, including medical bills and repairs to your vehicle. To make things worse, your injuries may keep you out of work, causing you to lose income or use paid time off that you were hoping to use for other things, like personal or family time. In a perfect world, auto insurance would step up to the plate and cover everything.
However, we do not live in a perfect world. Do some research, and you may be shocked at the number of uninsured motorists who share the road with you. You may even live in a state like Florida, where most drivers are not required to carry bodily injury liability coverage. So, what can you do to protect yourself? Obviously being a safe driver helps, but even the best driver is probably going to be in an accident sooner or later. Rather than hoping it never happens to you, speak with your insurance agent or representative and review your coverage.
Most states require drivers to have some combination of the below coverages. The minimum coverage limits vary by state. However, the minimum coverage in any state would typically not be enough to cover your medical expenses or other damages if you are seriously injured in an accident.
Personal Injury Protection. (PIP) This coverage is also known as “no-fault” insurance. It typically covers some portion of medical expenses, lost wages, and other expenses regardless of whose fault the accident was. Typical coverage is around $10,000, and some states, like Florida, impose restrictions on coverage unless medical treatment is sought immediately (within 14 days in Florida) and certain conditions are met.
Property Damage Liability. This coverage pays for damage that you cause to other vehicles or property.
Bodily Injury Liability. This covers you for any injuries you cause to others while you (or someone else with your permission) are operating your motor vehicle. Most drivers are not required to have this coverage. However, drivers who have committed certain violations are required to have this coverage.
Uninsured motorist. This covers you for injuries caused to you by the driver of another vehicle who was at fault for the accident, but either had no bodily injury liability coverage, or not enough coverage to pay for your injuries.
Make Sure You’re Protected
To make sure you are adequately protected, you should purchase as much bodily injury liability and uninsured motorist coverage as you can afford. You cannot purchase uninsured motorist coverage unless you have also purchased bodily injury liability coverage, and your uninsured motorist coverage limits cannot be greater than your bodily injury coverage limits. The minimum coverage limits you can purchase in most states is typically $10,000 to $25,000 per person and $20,000 to $50,000 per accident depending on which state you live in. However, it is widely recommended that you purchase a policy with limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident if you can afford it. Also, in some states, if you are insuring more than one vehicle, it is recommended that you select the “stacked” uninsured motorist coverage, which multiplies your uninsured motorist policy limits by the number of vehicles that you own.
Review Your Application
Whatever coverage you purchase, it is strongly recommended that you review your insurance application with your agent or representative thoroughly and make sure all of the information is accurate. Once you have made a claim, insurance companies will not only investigate the accident itself, but will also look back at the original application to see if any inaccurate information was provided. If any inaccuracies are found, the insurance company may deny your claim and rescind your policy for “misrepresentation,” even if the mistake was unintentional. Common application mistakes include forgetting to list household members (even if they do not drive), prior accidents, and traffic citations. Some of the lower-priced, “cut-rate” insurance companies are particularly aggressive about denying claims based on errors made in the application process. Therefore, you should be especially careful when dealing with them.
Drive safely, but remember, accidents happen to even the best drivers. Check your insurance coverage today. And of course, if you do have an accident, be sure to contact a local attorney to help you with your claim. Many attorneys offer free consultations for auto accident cases and don’t charge fees or costs unless you recover money.