Do you need to renew your car insurance policy? Before you sign or buy anything, there are a few things to consider when renewing an auto policy, repricing or shopping around for cheaper rates, or looking to review and possibly change coverage limits under your current auto policy.
- It is suggested you should try to get the most coverage for your budget. Some coverage options are more important than others, so prioritize them and know that some things may have to wait or be included later.
- Consider the other people in your household who have their own vehicles and auto insurance policies, as well as how much time everyone in your household typically spends on the road each week or month.
- Even if you do not have multiple vehicles, do not waive stacking. Stacking allows you to literally stack UM and UIM benefits on top of other benefits thereby multiplying the benefits by the number of cars and/or polices. Stacking might allow you to collect additional UIM benefits in certain circumstances even from other policies even if you only have a single car insured.
- Select Full Tort whenever possible. This allows you to recover for pain and suffering without having the hurdle of proving you suffered serious injuries of having sustained a serious impairment of a life function or permanent disfigurement such as a noticeable scar. The term “full coverage” does not apply necessarily to you as it may imply coverage on the vehicle. Again, request or select FULL TORT (not full coverage).
- For liability coverage (or third-party liability coverage), select the most you can afford in coverage to protect you and your drivers for your negligence. The Pennsylvania minimum currently is $15,000 per person and a total of $30,000 per all persons per accident. That amount is generally woefully inadequate. If within your budget, you should consider limits of at least “100/300,” which means $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident, or even $500,000 as a single limit coverage per accident.
- For Uninsured Motorist benefits (UM) used when the other at-fault driver does not have insurance and for Under-Insured Motorist benefits (UIM) used when the other at-fault driver does not have sufficient insurance coverage, choose the most coverage available to protect yourself, your household members, and occupants in your vehicles. If possible, match the same level of coverage you have selected for third-party coverage. If you selected 100/300 coverage, choose 100/300 UM and UIM coverage as well. If you can afford the premiums, do not sign down to lower UIM and UM limits to save a few dollars. Again, we recommend against signing a form for lower limits than your third-party limits. Also, again, as stated above, you should stack UIM/UM coverage if you have multiple vehicles. Do not sign a waiver of stacking form! And, again, do not waive UM or UIM coverage. Do not sign a waiver of UIM or waiver of UM form!
- For Property Damage coverage, to indemnify you if an accident is your fault, choose at least $50,000 if not $100,000 or more. The state minimum is $5,000, and it does not cover much if you cause damage to another vehicle, truck, bus, or even a house. If you strike a brand-new luxury sedan, hit a telephone pole, knock off someone’s porch, or smash a sewer utility pump alongside the road for instance, then the repair or replacement costs can be overwhelming, and you may remain responsible to pay any difference that your carrier was unable to cover if you exhausted your limit. The more property damage coverage, the better.
- You should consider “Comp” (Comprehensive Coverage) and “Collision” coverage on your own vehicles, which helps even if it is not your fault whether you are struck by another driver or by a deer. Consider the appropriate level of the deductible for your budget — $500 is quite common. It is especially important to have coverage on any new vehicle, and, in which case, you should also have obtained Gap insurance if you bought new or leased from a dealer. Even if the other driver is at fault for damage to your car, it is easier to go through your own insurance company who must cooperate and act fairly in good faith to you, rather than trying to chase down the other driver or the other driver’s insurance carrier and obtain a fair amount for your property damage.
- For medical benefits, your carrier is required to offer at least $5,000 in medical benefits to pay for your injuries regardless of fault. Even if the other driver is negligent, you must use your own medical benefits under your own policy first. Sometimes these benefits are referred to as “no-fault benefits” or “PIP” benefits for “personal injury protection” benefits. You must ask how much it is to increase to $10,000 in medical benefits or more. It is important to consider more than the state minimum because you may need an expensive helicopter life flight to a hospital and any emergency Level One care is billed at the full rate. Plus, if you are injured out of state, then the out-of-state health care providers can bill and be paid the full amount, which can use up your medical benefits quickly. If you have private medical insurance plan benefits, then the private health care plan will pick up any excess above your PIP. However, any co-pays or deductibles would apply. Some of these plans require you to pay back any benefits the plan pays on your behalf if you pursue a personal injury action through reimbursement and subrogation clauses in the health care plan or by law. Again, if you can afford the coverage, to protect yourself and your household members, extraordinary medical benefits of $100,000 or up to $1 million can be chosen by you. Of course, if the car accident is not your fault, you can pursue medical expenses in excess of your PIP level against the other driver so long as there is coverage. In which case, if there is not, you should hopefully have selected ample UM and UIM coverage under your own policy.
- If you are employed and even if you do not work but someone driving your vehicle or in your household does work, you should consider wage loss benefits. It can even help in other situations such as if you struck a working pedestrian who does not have auto insurance of their own and is unable to work because of the accident, your income loss benefits may help the injured party and could reduce the amount of a claim against you for negligence. The same can be said for medical benefits.
- Other coverages you may wish to consider that are generally affordable under most policies include:
- Death benefits (this coverage is generally relatively inexpensive)
- Rental (you can generally choose a daily dollar limit for up to 30 days)
- Towing (especially if you do not have towing coverage under your dealership or a AAA program)
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If you have any questions regarding any of these suggestions for auto insurance coverage options you should consider, please do not hesitate to contact our law office. The Law Offices of Anthony Urban, P.C. is always happy to assist however we can.