Do NOT bet on another driver’s insurance to cover you if you get into a traffic accident. It is not a safe bet. If you do, you and your family will probably be underinsured or not protected at all.
Take it from me, a personal injury attorney. This is what I do for a living. I work with people who have been injured in traffic accidents. I see this every day. I have learned that there is a high price to be paid for not having auto insurance coverage or for not having the appropriate underinsured motorist coverage. In fact, the best protection you have in a traffic accident is YOUR OWN insurance.
COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT AUTO INSURANCE
Myths about auto insurance pervade most people’s thinking. But I want to make sure you recognize that the following statements are misconceptions, not truth.
- The at-fault driver’s insurance will cover my care if I get into an accident.
- My own health insurance will cover my medical expenses if I get into a traffic accident.
- I only need the minimum uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage on my auto insurance plan.
- I will call my insurance agent and increase my coverage tomorrow.
Inevitably, if you realize the statements above are myths, not truth, you will realize just how much your own insurance coverage matters.
WHY YOUR OWN INSURANCE MATTERS
Why, exactly, does your own insurance coverage matter?
Who you choose and what you choose matters because you are not always in good hands, and insurance companies are not necessarily saving you money. Yes, they might be saving you money on your upfront premiums. However, they are not saving you money if you are in an accident.
To understand why your own insurance matters, we need to replace the myths about auto insurance with common problems you might encounter in a traffic accident.
#1 – The at-fault driver may not have any insurance.
First, the driver who hit you may not have auto insurance. Sure, most states require drivers to carry auto insurance policies. But the facts prove that not every driver obeys the law.
Most likely, if a driver without insurance hits you, he will not hang around for the police to write a report, give him a ticket, or charge him with a crime. That makes you the victim of a hit-and-run accident. If you cannot find or identify the at-fault driver, how will you or your insurance company make him pay for your expenses?
If the at-fault driver without insurance does stick around, the chances he will or can pay for your expenses related to the accident are slim to none.
#2 – The at-fault driver does not have enough insurance.
Then, the at-fault driver may not have enough insurance. He may be underinsured.
Let’s say that you know who the at-fault driver is. Yet, he has the minimum coverage required in Virginia and Maryland – $30,000. You have medical bills over $30,000. That means that you are out of luck. You get $30,000. That’s nice. Have a nice day, and you are on your way.
Even if your health insurance pays, they put liens on your recovery monies. So, they pay less than the cash price of your medical bills. But even after that, they ask you to repay them because you were in the accident.
#3 – You do not have enough insurance.
Whether you know it or not, you have Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage through your own auto insurance policy. Essentially, UM is designed to cover you if an at-fault driver does not have insurance or is not found. UIM kicks in when the other driver does not have enough insurance to cover your accident-related costs.
So, you have both of these policies. Yet, the question is, do you only have the minimum coverage?
As I mentioned above, the minimum coverage a driver must carry in Maryland and Virginia is $30,000. But as we have just discussed, that may not be enough, especially if the other driver has no insurance. Let’s look at this.
Scenario 1 – You have the Minimum Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage
If the at-fault driver cannot be found or has no auto insurance, your Uninsured Motorist coverage will have to cover your medical expenses. Yet, you only purchased the minimum required $30,000 coverage. What happens when you are in a collision? You get up to $30,000 to cover your expenses.
Scenario 2 – You have Better Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage
In a second scenario, let us say that you have more than the minimum UM coverage. Let’s say you opted for UM coverage of $100,000. Like scenario 1, the other driver has none. You still get nothing from his insurance.
Now, though, if an uninsured driver causes your accident, you have up to $100,000 for your medical bills and expenses. That is much better protection for you and your family if you are in an accident!
Scenario 3 – You have the Minimum Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage
What if the at-fault driver has insurance, but it is just the minimum coverage? Well, that is where your Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage comes into play. You have an at-fault driver, but his $30,000 is not enough to pay for all your accident-related expenses.
This is where you might think, “Oh good! I have Underinsured Motorist coverage, so I’m double covered.” However, you only chose the minimum UIM coverage of $30,000, too. They have $30k, and you have $30k. Your policies cancel each other out!
So, you are in a collision. How much can you get? You receive no more than $30,000 total to cover your expenses, including medical bills and lost wages. It is something, but it may not be enough.
Scenario 4 – You have Better Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage
In our fourth scenario, let us say that you have more than the minimum Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage. Yes, the at-fault driver only took out minimum UIM coverage. Yet, you chose a UIM policy of your own for $100,000.
You are in a collision. In this scenario, you receive the at-fault driver’s coverage of $30,000. And then, you get up to a total of $100,000! In other words, your policy is basically gap coverage. You get an additional $70,000 to use for your treatment and your medical care.
So, you receive $30,000 from the at-fault driver’s insurance, and then you can receive an additional $70,000 from your own insurance for a total of $100,000 in UIM coverage! If you have more than $100,000, you can receive reimbursements up to that higher price.
This scenario shows that your own auto insurance coverage is your best protection in a traffic accident.
#4 – You may not have another day.
Finally, your own auto insurance matters because you are not promised tomorrow. If you keep telling yourself, “I’ll look at my insurance later,” you may never get to “later.” Procrastination, accidents of any kind, and life events can all prevent you from examining your Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverages.
However, you cannot bet on another driver to cover your mistakes or procrastination. You cannot assume that you will get money from an at-fault driver. He may not have insurance, or he may have the minimum coverage, which will probably not reimburse all your expenses.
The truth is that many motorists do not have insurance, and they certainly may not have enough insurance. So, do something to protect yourself. Examine and increase your Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist auto insurance policies before it is too late.