It happens all the time. Another driver slams into the back of your car. You feel the headache instantly (literally), and then anticipate the headaches sure to come in dealing with insurance. But no problem, you tell yourself, the other driver surely has insurance or if he doesn’t, you carry insurance, so this will be fine.
Then reality hits hard – your insurance agent or attorney tells you the other driver is uninsured (or doesn’t have enough insurance) and the insurance you bought doesn’t cover you. But you thought you were insured? What happened? You then vaguely remember back deciding you could save some money if you didn’t buy that one type of auto coverage. Seemed like a good idea at the time to save money, but now you have a big problem and it’s too late to do anything about it. The good news is you can take steps now to prevent this from happening to your family.
There are over two million car accidents per year, which according to Esurance puts your chances of getting into a car accident at 1 in 366 for every 1,000 miles you drive. Let me put this in simpler terms—the question is not if you will be in a car accident, but when.
Most injury law articles focus on what steps to take after an accident, but many of those steps are useless if you don’t take the necessary steps before an accident happens. In this article, I want to address what to do now – as in today!
The single most important step to take now to protect your family from a car accident catastrophe is to purchase the right type and right amount of insurance.
In serious accidents, the difference between good outcomes and bad outcomes is largely based on there being sufficient insurance to cover all your damages. Your damages include medical bills, lost earnings, property (car) damage, and more. While you may not be able to control what injuries you sustain or even whether you can return to work, you can control having the right insurance to protect you when an accident occurs. Therefore, it is important to not only purchase the right kind of insurance, but also the right amount of insurance.
Keep in mind, purchasing the right insurance is important to ensure you are protected not only when you an accident victim, but also when you are at fault in causing an accident.
In my years of representing auto collision victims, I have found very few clients who know what their auto policy covers. Most often clients say, I have “full coverage”, but have no idea what that means. Unfortunately, most clients do not know what coverage they have until they need it, and many are disappointed to find out full coverage doesn’t mean what they think it means.
It is thus important to educate yourself on the auto coverages available to make sure you have the right type and amount of insurance to protect you. Here are five tips to help you:
- Find a knowledgeable agent. Find an agent that will sit down and explain the various coverages to you so you can make an informed decision. Ask questions, become informed.
- Don’t sign rejections of coverage until you fully understand. Make sure you understand exactly what you are giving up before rejecting certain coverage.
- Avoid making decisions solely based on cost. It may be tempting to lower your insurance bill by rejecting certain coverage that is not required by law, but doing so could prove much costlier when you get in an accident. Make decisions based on what gives your family the proper protection.
- Purchase Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Coverage. Uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage will compensate you for injuries that are a result of a collision with an at-fault driver that does not have liability insurance or does not have adequate limits to compensate you. This also protects you in case you are a victim of a hit and run accident. Along with purchasing the state required liability coverage, UM/UIM coverage is the most important insurance you can buy—especially in New Mexico where we have the fourth highest rate of uninsured drivers in the United States.
- Pay attention to the amounts of your coverage. In New Mexico, state law requires you to carry minimum liability limits of $25,000/$50,000/$10,000. That means that if you cause a collision, your insurance company would not pay an injured person more than $25,000. It also means that if two or more persons are injured, your insurance company would not pay more than $50,000 combined. Your insurance company will pay up to $10,000 for damage to property. You can purchase higher limits, which I strongly suggest doing if you can afford it. The amount of coverage is thus important not only to protect you if you cause an accident, but also when someone else hits you. And remember, cars are more expensive than any time in history, as is medical treatment. When in doubt, increase your liability and UM/UIM coverage limits because the minimum limits will not be enough to provide enough coverage to sufficiently protect you in a serious accident.
By taking these steps now to purchase the right kind and amount of auto insurance, you will ensure your family is protected. It is not an overstatement to say it is a potentially life-changing decision.
If you find yourself an accident victim and need help, call us at The Injury and Disability Law Center at 575-300-4000. Our team is ready to help you.