When interviewing new clients in my office after they have been involved in an auto accident, we ultimately get to the question about their insurance coverage. Invariably, their answer is “I have full coverage.”

When asked what “full coverage” means, they don’t have an answer.

Unless you have ever had to use your insurance coverage, most people don’t know what coverages they are carrying and what those limits are. It’s only when involved in an accident, that the reality of their insurance coverage becomes an issue. Many find out they do not have enough limits on the coverages to cover the expenses involved with medical treatment, loss of work, prescriptions, auto repair, etc.

Liability Coverage – Pays bodily injury to another person and property damage to another’s property as a result of an accident in which you are at fault. The minimum coverage you can carry in California is $15,000/$30,000. $15,000 is the maximum that one person involved in the accident can recover. $30,000 is maximum that all injured people in the accident can recover.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM)

Uninsured Motorist coverage pays for your bodily injury damages that are a result of an accident with an uninsured or hit and run driver, where you are not at fault.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage pays for your bodily injury damages that are the result of a not at fault accident with an underinsured driver. A motorist is considered underinsured if their liability coverage is not enough to pay the full amount of your damages.

This coverage will be included in your policy unless you reject it. NEVER REJECT IT. More and more often, drivers are carrying low liability limits or are driving uninsured. This coverage protects you.

If you can afford it, carry higher liability limits and carry the same UM/UIM coverage as your liability. Also, never carry lower limits on this coverage than you do on your liability coverage. Nine times out of 10, my clients have lower UM/UIM coverage than liability. Your agent is not doing you any favors. In fact, I would find a new agent. Uninsured motorist coverage is relatively inexpensive and it protects YOU. Why would you want to cover a stranger with more insurance than you cover yourself?

Collision Coverage – Pays for damage to your automobile when it collides with another auto or object. Most likely it will be written with a deductible, which you will have to pay in the event your automobile needs repairs.

Comprehensive Coverage – Pays for damage to your automobile from causes such as fire, theft, vandalism, falling objects, etc. Most likely it will be written with a deductible, which you will have to pay in the event your automobile needs repairs.

Medical Payments Coverage – Pays for you and your passengers’ reasonable health care expenses for injuries caused in an automobile accident. Ask your agent how this is reimbursed because some insurance companies pay only out-of-pocket expenses, some decide what the reasonable value of the medical bill was, and some will just reimburse you for the full amount of your bills up to your limits.

(Note: In California, in order to sue another driver who is at fault for your injuries, you MUST CARRY LIABILITY INSURANCE. If you are uninsured, you can only recover your medical bills and out-of-pocket costs. In order to get reimbursed for your “pain and suffering” you must carry liability.)

Coverage issues can be complicated. There are various case scenarios, i.e., being a pedestrian in a crosswalk, hit-and-run accident, driving a borrowed auto, etc., which we can help you with. Or if your insurance company is unfairly denying coverage, please contact us. We are happy to help right the wrong.

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