For most of us, the extent of what we know about car insurance is what we see on tv and what we remember from driver’s ed, the fact that we have to buy car insurance. What now? We have people telling us that we’re in good hands, or that they’re like our neighbor, or that we can save 15% in 15 minutes. That’s great and all but it still doesn’t answer the basic question. What is right for me?
Unfortunately, that is different for each person and their situation. The basic saying is true, having something is better than nothing. But before you go out there and either ask for the barebones minimum or the Cadillac package, get to know what coverages are available.
We all have to have it. This is what the law says that we have to carry in Washington State. At a minimum, you MUST carry liability insurance that covers $25,000 for injuries or death per person, $50,000 total for injuries or death per accident and $10,000 for property damage. If you have moved from another state and have not updated your coverages recently, make sure you have sufficient coverage. Liability coverage is the portion of insurance that protects you when you have caused harm to another person, whether it is because you are at fault for hitting someone else or whether someone in your car was hurt due to the same accident.
PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION
An optional coverage in Washington State, Personal Injury Protection is like medical insurance but provided by your auto insurance. While it is not mandatory to have, your insurance company is obligated to offer you at least $10,000 in coverage and if you do not want it, you have to opt out. You ask but hey, I already have health insurance, why do I need this? Personal injury protection has far fewer restrictions than your health insurance. It has no co-pays, deductibles, network doctors, or pre-authorizations. Regardless of fault, your insurance company will pay for what is reasonable, necessary, and related to the collision. While $10,000 is the minimum coverage you can purchase, we always recommend buying as much as you can afford. A single ER visit can total $10,000. You want to have sufficient coverage to pay for any potential long-term medical treatments. Also as part of most PIP coverages, it allows for you to recover some lost wages after a certain amount of time off of work and/or have some funds to pay for essential household services such as cleaning or gardening.
Collision coverage is what it sounds like, coverage to protect and pay for repairs to your car if it is damaged in a collision. Why should you have collision coverage? There are many situations where it would be helpful. For example, if you have financed a vehicle or are leasing it, the terms of your contract might require it. If you own the car outright, it would help avoid any large unexpected bills if your car were to be damaged. Even if the accident was the other person’s fault, you ALWAYS want to use your own insurance to repair your vehicle. You’ll get your car repaired faster because you don’t have to wait on an investigation by the other party and you’ll have far more consumer protection laws on your side if your insurance company pulls any shenanigans. Without it, you may have to go out of pocket for repairs if the accident is your fault or partially your fault.
Comprehensive coverage typically covers most everything else. For example, if during the windy months, a tree falls on your car, or if someone steals it and takes it for a joyride and damaging it in the process, comprehensive coverage takes care of those bills.
UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED MOTORIST PROTECTION
Often abbreviated as UM or UIM coverage, this coverage takes care of you when other people are either irresponsible and do not carry insurance or if they cause a significant harm to you, and their coverage isn’t enough to pay, UM/UIM will step in and pay the difference in what is outstanding. While it can be confusing as to why your own insurance company will step in to pay you for what someone else did wrong, it is all about helping you move forward from the accident and letting your insurance company worry about being made whole. For example, someone hurts you and you have $50,000 in medical bills. Unfortunately, the other driver only has the minimum limits of $25,000. Your insurance company will “step into the shoes” of the other driver and compensate you for the remaining $25,000 and whatever pain and suffering damages that you may have incurred. Keep in mind however that your insurance company will pay you only up to the amount that you insure yourself for. Typically, most insurance companies will only offer a UM/UIM coverage that matches whatever your own liability limits are.
OTHER BELLS AND WHISTLES
Different insurance companies may offer other features that you may pay for but again, we would encourage you to figure out your budget, sufficiently protect yourself with the other coverages first before adding anything extra. Such extras may include but are not limited to:
- RENTAL/LOSS OF USE
- ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE
- ACCIDENT FORGIVENESS
- TOTAL LOSS WITH CAR OF SAME YEAR OR ONE YEAR NEWER
There is no magic bullet for insurance coverage. Having insurance like all similar coverage is making a bet for or against the likelihood of something bad happening. For many people, it’s a balance of how much can you afford. If you have any questions regarding purchasing insurance or any aspect of the process, feel free to contact us here at Premier Law Group for a free consultation. (206) 285-1743.