Anyone who has been in a car accident knows that getting insurance to pay is never as easy as it seems in TV commercials.
The insurance companies have created the perception that simply having automobile insurance will protect you if you’re involved in a car accident. But to get the most out of their insurance, consumers need to make sure they have the right kind of coverage.
If your auto insurance policy does not include Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage and Medical Payments (Medpay), you could be left with medical bills to pay out of your own pocket even if someone else caused your injuries.
North Carolina law requires all drivers to carry automobile liability coverage. But many people break the law and drive without any liability insurance coverage. Or their insurance policy may not be sufficient to cover all the expenses of an accident.
Minimum coverage amounts
The law states the minimum coverage requirements are $30,000 for bodily injury per person and $60,000 per accident. That may seem like a lot of money, but consider that healthcare costs are rising and just a trip to the emergency room could easily cost more than $5,000 and much more than that if you have traumatic injuries.
If your injuries require extensive treatment over several months, you could have medical bills that exceed the minimum coverage limit. Then what happens?
Doesn’t the liability carrier HAVE to pay my medical bills no matter how much they are?
The surprising answer is not always. If the at-fault driver has no insurance or doesn’t have enough coverage on his policy, you could be responsible for medical bills that exceed his coverage limits. That’s why you have to protect yourself.
How do I protect myself?
This is the easy part. Auto insurance carriers offer Uninsured (UI) and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM). UI and UIM are typically sold together and listed as separate coverage on your policy.
Uninsured coverage (UI) covers you if the at-fault driver failed to carry liability insurance or if you were injured by a Hit and Run driver. As long as you can prove there was actual contact between your vehicle and the driver who fled, you can recover your damages under your UI provision. If this happens to you, be sure to notify your insurance carrier within 24 hours of the collision.
Underinsured coverage (UIM) covers you if the other driver doesn’t carry enough coverage. An underinsured driver is defined as someone whose liability coverage limits are less than your own and not enough to cover the expenses of the people injured in the accident.
This means that to protect yourself adequately, you should carry more than the minimum limits. You should have at least $50,000 in UIM on your policy and more if you can afford it. UIM will pay the difference between the other driver’s liability limits and your own Underinsured Motorist limits.
Check your policy or contact your agent today to see if you are adequately covered. Tell your agent that you need to have at least $50,000 in UIM on your policy.
Ask your agent about medpay as well since this type of coverage is usually very affordable.
During hard economic times, it can be tempting to get the least amount of coverage required by law, but too frequently we see people who took that risk and ended up with unpaid bills.
Download this handy chart that explains what the different types of auto insurance cover