By Charles Caraway- Personal Injury Department
HOW DO I PICK MY AUTO INSURANCE?
At some point, it is almost certain that you, or a close loved one, will be involved in an auto accident. If and when this occurs, it is best to be prepared. Preparation starts long before the accident occurs, and the first step and most crucial step is picking your insurance coverage.
California requires that every driver have insurance. However, what kind, and how much can often be confusing. For starters, there are a lot of confusing terms, and jargon that is thrown around. UM, UIM, Med-Pay, Liability, and so on. As you read, the important terms will be defined, but first, it is important to start with the most important aspect of insurance coverage.
Nothing is more important than which carrier to choose. As an auto accident attorney, I have strong opinions on the various companies. Some I outright salute for their efforts in representing their clients, and assistance in resolving claims quickly and fairly. Others, the unfortunate super majority, can be so difficult to deal with when they are needed, it makes having them almost pointless. To be more clear, insurers can, shockingly, care more about the bottom line than they do about their own clients. Thus, picking a good one is of the utmost importance. This process can be better navigated by specialists, called brokers. They will assist a person in picking the appropriate insurance, and will be able to assist you in answering questions as to the reputation of each insurer.
Next, how much insurance coverage should a person have? This question is a personal one, and really it relies on what you can afford, or think you may need. Cost is not lost on me, as I understand that bills are bills, and at the end of the day, saving money is important. However, I have seen all too many times, the unfortunate situation of a person being gravely injured, or even killed, and the only money available is the minimum policy amount of $15,000.00.
The typical driver has minimal policy limits of $15,000.00. This is why it is important to insure yourself through UIM/UM (Under-Insured or Un-Insured Motorist) coverage. UM/UIM coverage is personal coverage that protects you from drivers that do not carry adequate policies. A typical ambulance ride and emergency room visit can cost as little as several thousand dollars, to tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. Even in the most minimal of circumstances, almost 1/3 of a $15,000 policy could go towards paying these initial bills. If you think that you have medical insurance, and that this will cover this issue, you are not quite right. Medical insurance companies have the right to take money to re-pay themselves from your settlement. This is why it is important to carry a policy that will cover you, even if the other driver’s insurance will not. Typically, it is smart to at least insure yourself for $100,000/$300,000. This will cover most claims, up to a claim that would require a major surgery or worse.
In order to insure yourself for this amount, you will have to up your liability (or the amount other people can sue you for) to the same amount. After this is done, the last two items are medical payments coverage and property damage limits. Medical Payments (Med-Pay) is an amount that will pay for medical treatment. If you have insurance, you can use it for deductibles. It is usually wise to carry at least $5,000.00, and increase it depending on your medical insurance coverage. Property damage should cover the cost to fully replace your vehicle.
All of this is a brief over view of things that should be regarding when purchasing coverage. For further information, it is never a bad idea to consult with a broker. They are professionals in this area, and will typically cost you nothing out of your pocket to consult with. Their fee is typically paid by the insurer of the plan you ultimately purchase.