1. What are the available insurance coverages?
Many people do not understand the insurance coverages available to them from their automobile insurance carrier and as a result they frequently do not obtain all of the insurance they need. We will review some of the abbreviations used by insurance companies to eliminate the confusion. "BI" stands for "bodily injury." Bodily injury coverage provides insurance to you in the event that you are at fault for an accident. It is the amount that the insurance company will pay to somebody else for injuries you caused due to your carelessness. Bodily injury coverage is usually written in amounts of "$20,000/$40,000, $50,000/$100,000, or $100,000/$300,000". These numbers mean that no one person can collect more than the first number ($20,000, $50,000 or $100,000) and no group of people can collect more than the second number $40,000, $100,000, or $300,000. So, the first number indicates the most that any one person can collect. and the second number represents the total amount the entire group of injured people can collect. Occasionally, insurance companies write "single limit" bodily injury coverage. In that circumstance your insurance coverage would be, for instance, $300,000 or $500,000. In that circumstance an individual or a group could collect no more than the "single limit" amount of coverage e.g. $300,000.
Another available automobile insurance is uninsured motorist coverage ("UM") and underinsured motorist coverage ("UIM"). Let's take them one at a time. Uninsured motorist coverage is insurance coverage purchased to protect you or a member of your household in the event that you are hurt by the carelessness of a totally uninsured individual. An uninsured individual is generally defined not only as somebody who does not have any insurance, but also a hit-and-run driver or somebody that does not hit you but causes a collision by, for example, forcing you off the road. Underinsured motorist coverage is insurance coverage purchased in the event that somebody has less insurance than you do. For instance, if you had underinsured motorist coverage in the amount of $50,000/$100,000 but the person that caused an accident resulting in injury to you has $20,000/$40,000 insurance coverage, then the wrongdoer's insurance company would pay you the $20,000 insurance, and your insurance company would be obliged to pay up to another $30,000 (a total of $50,000) in underinsured motorist benefits.
2. How much automobile insurance should I get?
Automobile insurance serves many purposes. One of those purposes is to protect your assets in the event you inadvertently cause an accident and injury to another person. The amount of the insurance that you should purchase is related to the amount that you can afford and the amount of the assets that you want to protect in the event that you cause an accident causing injury to another person. There is another reason to purchase as much insurance as you can possible afford. In the event that you are struck by an uninsured motorist, or somebody that has less insurance than your own, then you would look to the amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage you purchased from your own insurance company to pay you for the injuries to you or a family member injured as a result of the carelessness of a uninsured or underinsured motorist. Therefore, when purchasing automobile insurance it is important to keep in mind that it is the uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage that you purchase that protects you and your family members and others who are residents in your household in the event you are struck by another individual and that individual causes serious personal injury to you or to another member of your household. In that event, your own insurance company will likely provide the compensation for your injury. Accordingly, you should take the highest amount of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage you can possibly afford.
3. What is an umbrella policy?
An umbrella policy is insurance purchased that is in addition to the primary insurance available to you under your automobile or homeowner's insurance policy. In other words, an umbrella policy covers and insures you in the event you cause a catastrophic injury to others. Umbrella policies usually require a primary insurance of $300,000 or $500,000. The umbrella insurance protects from the $300,000 or $500,000 up to $1,000,000, $2,000,000, or $3,000,000 in total coverage, depending on how much insurance you purchase. Umbrella policies are useful for individuals who have significant assets at risk. Only you can determine if umbrella coverage is desirable for you. Umbrella coverage can be a very valuable protection for those people who need it.
4. What is "Medpay" and Personal Injury Protection ("PIP") Coverage?
"Medpay" coverage is short for medical payments coverage. Insurance companies that write policies for citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia, and other jurisdictions, frequently offer medical pay coverage as part of an automobile insurance contract. Medical pay coverage permits an individual to have medical bills paid up to the amount of the coverage, which is frequently $5,000 or $10,000, irrespective of who caused the accident. The benefit of purchasing this coverage is that in the event an automobile collision an individual need not worry whether they have health insurance because, so long as the bills are fair and reasonable and related to the automobile collision, your own automobile insurance company will pay all of your medical bills up to the amount of the coverage purchased.
Personal injury protection "PIP", available in Maryland the District of Columbia, provides for the payment of medical bills and/or loss of wages up to the amount of the coverage purchased.
Maryland allows the payment of personal injury protection benefits from your own insurance carrier, without any impairment on the ability to sue the individual that was the cause of the collision. The law is very different in the District of Columbia.
One must be very careful in the District of Columbia because if you accept the benefit of personal injury protection coverage, you may be precluded from filing a lawsuit against the wrongdoer. Determining whether to accept PIP coverage in the District of Columbia requires careful consideration, frequently with the counsel of an attorney experienced in personal injury litigation and, in particular, automobile accident cases, before determining whether to accept those benefits.
by Ira Sherman, Esq.