For personal injury attorneys, one of the saddest events is meeting with a new client who sustained significant injuries in a traffic collision, and quickly realizing there will not be enough insurance available ever to make the client “whole” again. This is a problem that even the most skilled attorneys cannot overcome for a client.
Especially in challenging economic times, with rising gasoline, food, and housing costs, many people struggle to barely meet their household expenses every month. And sometimes, they let their auto insurance lapse. After all, their car will take them to work even without insurance, but it won’t take them to work without gas. If they can only afford one, it’s gasoline not insurance. This mindset is more common than you might think.
The Dangers of Uninsured Motorists
In a 2019 study, research showed there were 28 million drivers in the U.S., and almost 13% of them drove on public roads without having auto insurance. That’s about 1 in every 8 cars on the road. And its reasonable to assume that this average is now HIGHER as Americans are under an increased financial squeeze. So if you just hop in the car to take a quick trip to the store, you are likely to be in close proximity to an uninsured motorist. And if that uninsured motorist injures you, your only recourse is your OWN auto coverage.
Most states mandate that an auto policy pay benefits to the policyholder/occupants if injured by an uninsured motorist. That’s great, right? You still have insurance to recover from. But what if you are ALSO uninsured? Then, you are most likely out of luck. In that scenario, there is no insurance on either your car or the vehicle that struck you. No insurance generally means no recovery at all for the victim.
Auto Insurance State Minimums
What if you carried the state minimum for auto insurance? Well, that’s a better option than having no insurance, but it could still leave you upside down after a serious collision. Consider a driver who is hospitalized after a collision caused by an uninsured motorist. The driver has their own policy to look to, but they have purchased “minimum limits.” In some states that can be as low as $15,000 in coverage. If the victim is now facing surgical costs, hospital room fees, anesthesia, outside physician charges, prescriptions, physical therapy, and extended time off work, the minimum coverage they purchased will be quickly eclipsed by bills associated with the crash. Even after their meager insurance limits are collected, the victim, who never asked for any of this misery, is left with uncovered medical expenses and lost wages.
The Importance of Auto Insurance
The best solution is to assume the guy in the lane next to you has no insurance. INSURE YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY before you are in a collision. Take just a moment and think about what would happen to your household if you were out of work and facing mounting medical bills. Most people couldn’t cover that kind of expenses. The better choice is to buy good insurance, not bargain insurance, on your next policy renewal. State minimum insurance is not likely to provide you with adequate coverage if the worst happens. And unknown to most motorists, the cost to buy better coverage limits is modest.
Consumer group BankRate recently did a survey of insurance costs in all 50 states. They compared the typical cost for minimum limits coverage against the cost for higher limits. The results are startling. On average, the cost to increase a minimum policy (say $30,000 coverage) to the best coverage limits (say $250,000 or more) typically added only $200 or so annually. That means hundreds of thousands in additional insurance coverage for the cost of maybe one x-ray.
This one easy decision could mean the difference between a financial disaster after a serious collision or landing on your feet. If that extra $200 a year seems steep, imagine how a stack of medical bills would seem. So tighten your financial belt in other areas of spending. Cut down on trips to the local coffee shop or meals out, but don’t skimp on good auto coverage..