How Much Car Insurance Coverage is Enough?

In December of 2016, we wrote about the various types of car insurance.  Today, we are focusing on why it’s important to make sure you have enough insurance.

The amount of your policy limits under your liability insurance is the maximum amount of money your insurance company will pay on your behalf if someone files a claim against you for personal injury.  This can be a claim that never goes to suit or it can be a lawsuit that has been filed.

Maryland requires you to carry liability insurance of at least $30,000.00 per person and $60,000.00 per incident ($30,000/$60,000).  Your options for liability insurance can range from the minimum, up to $250,000/500,000.  These limits can vary depending on the insurance carrier.  The per person limits are the most that any single person can recover from the accident and the per incident amount is the most your policy will pay out in total.  So, if an accident injures 4 people and you have policy limits of $250,000/$500,000, the total amount of money that can be paid out is $500,000.00, but no matter how serious any single person’s injuries are, they cannot recover more than $250,000.00 from your policy.

So, how much is enough?  Even relatively minor accidents where the injured party only receives conservative treatment can involve thousands of dollars in medical bills. The law allows an injured party to recover all of their economic damages, (usually medical bills and lost wages).  Additionally, they can recover non-economic damages too (pain and suffering).  A policy with limits of $30,000/$60,000 can be exhausted very quickly.

What happens if you find out after a claim has been filed against you, that you don’t have enough insurance?  You will not be able to purchase a policy that will retroactively apply.  Assume you have a policy with limits of $30,000/$60,000, the case goes to trial and a verdict is returned in favor of the injured party for $50,000.00.  How is the extra $20,000.00 paid?  There are a couple of possibilities.  If the injured party has enough underinsured motorist coverage, their policy will pay it.  However, their insurance company has the right to sue you to recover any money they pay to their insured.  Another possibility is that the injured party can enforce the excess verdict against you personally.  They can garnish your wages, attach a lien on your property and utilize any number of procedural tools to enforce the judgment.  This may also force you into filing for bankruptcy.

Your policy limits can also impact the amount of coverage available to you and your family if you are injured by someone who is uninsured or underinsured.  We’ll discuss this in more detail in our next blog post.

In addition to increasing your policy limits, it may also be worthwhile to purchase an umbrella policy as well.  This is a policy that kicks in additional coverage when your primary coverage is exhausted.  Call your insurance company or agent to discuss what policy limits are appropriate for you.

 

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Can an Attorney Help Me Get More Money for My Injuries?

If you’ve ever been home sick on a Wednesday morning and spent some time watching the TV, you’ve seen the commercials – “Have you or someone you love been hurt in a car accident?” and the tag line is that “If you don’t get paid, we don’t get paid.”

Remove the cheesy and sometimes slimy nature of some of these commercials and you’ll see the message is that if you have been injured through no fault of your own, you should get a lawyer.  It’s also true that for the vast majority of personal injury cases, attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means they get paid a percentage of what they recover on your behalf.

Retaining an attorney will usually lead to a higher recovery on your personal injury case. There are several reasons for this, but here are a few primary ones:

1.  An attorney can assess the strength of your case and potential value.

2.  Hiring an attorney lets the insurance company know you’re not afraid to take your case to trial.  If you negotiate the claim yourself, the insurance adjuster knows you likely don’t want to go to trial.

3.  Hiring an attorney allows the attorney to become involved in communicating with the insurance adjuster earlier on in the process.  This can help you avoid any potential missteps in what you say to the insurance company or what personal information you authorize the insurance company to obtain about you.

4.  An attorney can advise you on ensuring that your medical records and treatment notes are properly documented to assist you in maximizing your recovery.

Consulting with an attorney for a personal injury case is almost always free with no risk to you. Trust your gut – if you feel uncomfortable with the attorney you’ve consulted with, speak to another attorney or firm.  Do your research and find attorneys that get consistently good reviews online (i.e., Yelp, Google and Facebook).

I’ve Been in a Car Accident – Now What?

Getting into a car accident can be very stressful, especially if it wasn’t your fault.  One of the things we get asked the most is what to do after you’ve been in a car accident.  Here is a quick list of some of the things to do and remember.  This list contains some pointers, but by no means should be considered an exhaustive list that covers all situations and scenarios that can surround a car accident:

  1. CALL 911:  If anyone is injured, immediately called 911 and ask for an ambulance, as well as the police.
  2.  EXCHANGE INFORMATION: Make sure you exchange information with the other driver, including your names, phone numbers, addresses, make and model of the vehicles, including license plate numbers, and insurance information from any drivers involved.  An easy way to store some of this information is to take pictures of driver’s licenses, license plates and insurance cards.  If there are passengers in any vehicles or witnesses that identify themselves, try to obtain their information as well.
  3. TAKE PICTURES:  Take pictures of any damage to vehicles involved in the accident, the accident scene, or anything that may have contributed to the accident (i.e., road construction, objects in the road, icy patches, etc.).
  4. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY:  It’s completely appropriate to check on drivers and passengers in the other car(s) and see if they need medical attention or help. However, never admit fault for the accident, not even to the police.  Even if you think you were at fault, it may not be immediately clear who was actually at fault or contributed to the accident.  DO NOT allow the other driver’s insurance company to take a recorded statement from you.  If you have any suspicions that the other driver(s) may try to blame you for the accident, you do not have to speak with their insurance company at all.
  5. CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY: Contact your insurance company as soon as it’s practical.  While you should answer any questions about the accident truthfully, be mindful of what you say, especially if the insurance company is taking a recorded statement.
  6. IF YOU’RE INJURED, SEE YOUR DOCTOR:  Delaying your medical treatment can impact your medical diagnosis and recovery time as well as have an effect on how your case is evaluated for settlement by the other driver’s insurance company.
  7. DON’T SETTLE TOO QUICKLY:  Some insurance companies will offer you a quick payment in exchange for a settlement of your case and a release of all claims.  In the state of Maryland, as a general rule, you have 3 years from the date of the car accident to file a lawsuit, so before settling your case, it’s important to make sure all of your injuries have been diagnosed and if possible, treated.  Once you settle your case, you cannot come back for more money.
  8. IF IN DOUBT, CONTACT A LAWYER: If you’re unsure of your options, including what costs and expenses you can recover and what your case is worth, contact an attorney.  Consultations for these types of cases are almost always free.