Often, when somebody is struck by or causes a motor vehicle accident, the thought is that as long as the insurance companies are notified, the rest will take care of itself. However, when significant personal injuries and/or property damage are involved, there is more to it than that and it is important to know what is actually going on behind the insurance company curtain.
Generally speaking, liability insurance covers bodily injury to other people and damage to the property of others caused by your negligence or the negligence of someone driving your car with your permission. Under Connecticut law, a minimum of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for bodily injury liability and $25,000 per accident for property damage liability is the mandatory minimum, but it is certainly recommended to obtain higher limits if possible.
The term “uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage” is about that portion of an auto policy that covers bodily injury to you, your relatives who live with you and your passengers if they are injured in an accident caused by an uninsured motorist. An uninsured motorist could be a motorist whose bodily injury liability limits are less than your uninsured/underinsured motorist limits or a hit-and-run driver. Usually, the standard coverage is an amount equal to your bodily injury liability coverage, but you may purchase additional coverage up to an amount double your bodily injury liability. Again, the minimum amount required by Connecticut law is $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident (“aggregate”).
Underinsured motorist conversion coverage can also provide for reimbursement in case you are injured by an underinsured driver. If your personal injury damages exceed the at-fault driver’s insurance, your underinsured motorist conversion coverage could be available for damages that are not paid. This kind of coverage is optional when selecting auto insurance and is not reduced by payments from any other source (like health insurance), including the at-fault driver’s liability insurance. For example, if you have uninsured/underinsured coverage of $300,000 and you sustain $400,000 in personal injuries caused by an at-fault driver with $200,000 in bodily injury liability, without underinsured conversion coverage you would only be able to collect the $200,000 from the other driver’s insurance plus $100,000 from your own underinsured coverage, which equals your $300,000 limit minus the $200,000 collected from the other driver’s insurance. With conversion coverage in your policy, you could collect the full $200,000 from your own underinsured coverage.
Sometimes auto insurance coverage provides basic reparations or medical payments coverage (“Med Pay”). This optional coverage, which used to be required, provides for medical payments, and in some cases, lost wages and funeral expenses if you or a relative living with you are injured or killed in an accident. These Med Pay provisions usually are limited to a total of $5,000 or $10,000 as a reimbursement cap. These payments are generally not counted against you if you are still seeking recovery for damages against the other at-fault driver’s insurance, although it can sometimes act as a small set-off.
Collision coverage covers property damage to your car caused by collision with another vehicle or object or by your car turning over. There is almost always a deductible which you must pay if you repair or replace the car. Comprehensive coverage covers damage to your car other than that caused by collision, including scenarios like theft, vandalism, impact with animals or birds, explosion, flood, falling objects, windstorm and glass breakage. As with collision coverage, there is usually a deductible. Full glass coverage covers your car’s glass for breakage of safety glass with no deductible for an extra premium. Towing coverage covers the expense of towing your car to an auto body shop. Rental reimbursement pays toward the expense of renting a vehicle if you have a loss covered by either collision or comprehensive coverage and your car is disabled or totaled.
If you have been in a car accident and are unsure of the ramifications of both your own auto insurance coverage or the other drivers, please contact the personal injury litigation attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. at (203) 221-3100.