Missouri Auto Insurance-Do You Have Enough and the Right Kind of Coverage?
Posted on June 27th, 2018 by Zane Cagle
Auto Insurance: Not a Sexy Topic
Few people really like to talk about auto insurance except maybe those who sell insurance. No one brings up “insurance” as a fun conversation starter at cocktail parties unless you want to be left alone at a table.
When I think about ways to spend my money, buying insurance is not one of those fun things for which I enjoy shopping, but it’s a necessity.
Following a car crash is worst time to find out you have too little insurance. Of course, that is like finding out your house is NOT insured AFTER it burns. It is too little and too late.
Let me be clear–I’m not an insurance salesman. Due to my work, I’m constantly reviewing policies while negotiating and litigating with insurance companies. So, my experience is practical– I know that you MUST have auto insurance and you must have the right amount!
How Do I Know What Insurance I Have or Should Have?
In order to be on the road and “legal”, you have to have at least the state minimum of auto insurance in Missouri which includes minimal amounts of liability coverage of $25K for bodily injury per person, $50K for total bodily injury total (multiple occupants) and $10K for total property damage. If there is not a lien note on your car, you may qualify for liability only. But you should understand some important differences in coverage.
Too often I talk with someone who has an older model car, it was paid for and ran great–but they only had liability. They were in a crash and now they are left with nothing. No cash, no car–not a good place. If you are hurt, then it is a different tough story. You may think it is jinxing yourself to be prepared for a car crash, but no one thinks a fire drill is jinxing your house to catch on fire! For you and your family’s sake, be prepared.
What Does Liability-only Insurance Really Cover?
If you carry liability only insurance ($25K in MO) on your vehicle and you are in a crash, the insurance company only pays for damage you cause to the property of others. Therefore, it won’t cover your car if the crash was your fault or the other driver doesn’t have insurance. Many people call me upset because they still owe on their car, yet they only have liability and wonder why the insurance company won’t pay for their property damage. In most scenarios, the lending company for your car requires that you have “full coverage” or otherwise known as “comprehensive coverage” so that if you are in a crash, then the property damage will be covered whether it is your fault or not. If your car is not paid for or you cannot accommodate the 100% loss of your car, then you should carry more comprehensive coverage other than minimum liability.
I understand liability is cheap and we’re all looking to save some dough, but sometimes carrying more coverage may be the difference between having wheels and reimbursement for some medical treatment or simply suffering the total loss. Suffering a total loss of a vehicle can be really difficult, but suffering medical bills that you cannot pay can be catastrophic.
I Have Full Coverage-So All of My Medical Bills and Property Damage Should be Covered, Right?
In theory maybe, but in reality it does not always work that way. There is no car insurance that goes by the name of “full coverage” even though that may be the language that your insurance representative uses with you. When they say “full coverage” they are talking about combining the following: state-required liability or no-fault insurance coverage to cover bodily injury and property damages to others in an accident you cause. “Full coverage” refers to liability, collision and comprehensive coverage, but remember–every insurance company has a slightly different definition.
You should get an actual copy of your policy and see what it covers. If you are in a crash, you will want your attorney to look at your policy and not just rely on what an adjuster says to you over the phone.
I Don’t have to worry about liability because the crash will never be my fault, right?
Wrong. You may have a stellar driving record but you cannot predict the future. If you can, call me and we will play the lottery together! Assuming you might never make a driving error is a dangerously false assumption. You may not purposely crash your car into another (which would generally be considered criminal if it was purposeful and your auto insurance wouldn’t cover it anyway), but you cannot predict that you may or may not make a poor driving decision that results in a crash. Coverage is the difference between an injured person making a claim against your insurance company or going after you personally.
Uninsured Motorist vs. Underinsured Motorist Coverage
So many people I talk to think these are the same, but they are very, very different. Uninsured motorist coverage addresses if the other driver does not have auto insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage addresses if the person who hit you only has the minimum or another low amount of coverage. Increasing your “underinsured” motorist coverage is generally pretty cheap to do and your insurance agent may not suggest it. There will be a small amount included possibly if you have “comprehensive” coverage. Personally, I buy a lot of underinsured coverage because I deal in car collisions every day. I see the limited amount of coverage people have and I know if I’m in a collision–no matter fault, I will need coverage.
What are the Odds that I Will Ever Be in a Car Crash?
The odds are higher than you would think. According to the car insurance industry in an article by Forbes, you will file a claim for a collision about once every 17.9 years if you are an average driver. So whether or not you classify yourself as an “average driver”, you are likely to be involved in some kind of accident by age 34 at the latest. Over the course of a lifetime, you may be involved in a total of three to four accidents. Hopefully, these incidents will be just minor fender benders. Chances are good your crash won’t be deadly but the odds are good that you will be involved in some type of crash and there is always a chance that you will be injured, even if it is minor.
The odds are more likely you will be in a car crash than the odds of your house burning, yet everyone always plans an escape route out of their home in case there is a fire. Using that same logic, you should know your coverage and have a plan if you are in a car crash. It is safe, preventative planning. And, having a plan in place certainly helps with the mass confusion after a crash.
Don’t Assume the Medical Portion of Your Auto Insurance Will Substitute for Health Insurance
When I go digging in victim’s policies, it is common to discover that they have only $1-5K in medical payments in their policy. And, if you are hurt, that is a small amount to even begin to try to pay medical bills. Everyone needs health insurance. You use your health insurance after a car crash so that (1) medical providers beyond the ER will agree to see you, and (2) you are able to stay out of collections while you are treating as your treatment may require weeks and months. Auto insurance carriers very rarely pay-as-you go for your medical treatment regardless of what the adjuster says to you over the phone.
What if the Person that Hits Me Does Not have Insurance?
You would be surprised how many people are driving around with no insurance or the bare minimum of liability. In some scenarios, they may not have auto insurance at all. If you are hurt, then the state minimum insurance of $25,000 in Missouri doesn’t go very far for medical bills. Thus, you will want to be certain that you have the appropriate coverage called “uninsured motorists insurance”. While they may get a citation for not having insurance, that won’t help you with your medical bills. You may be mad that the person that hit you doesn’t have insurance and you may want to “go after them and sue them”, but that is often a fruitless endeavor. If someone can’t afford to have auto insurance on their vehicle, the odds are that they do not own a bunch of stuff. Thus, if they don’t have a lot of assets, you won’t be successful in collecting.
For that very reason, you need to be sure that you have enough insurance coverage. You are the only one looking out for you and your family!
What If I’m Hurt in a Crash?
If you are hurt in a motor vehicle crash, you will need an expert car accident attorney. So many people call me and tell me they have been talking to the insurance company for months and have not gotten anywhere with their medical claims and they are frustrated. Therein lies the problem—don’t talk to the auto insurance company about your injuries. Nine out of 10 people do not know the full extent of their injuries until quite some time after the crash and they certainly do not know how they are going to heal. So, don’t start signing medical authorizations for insurance companies as they will not pay-as-you-go through your medical treatment.
Why would you allow the auto insurance company to have all of your medical records and bills as you go so that they can make a judgment about your injuries before you and your doctor know the full extent of your injuries or your recovery?
Consult with an Attorney Sooner than Later….
Unlike the commercial jingles that remain in your head “We’ve seen a thing or two because we’ve covered a thing or two…” Or, “You’re in good hands”–you will want to contact an attorney BEFORE you start describing your injuries to any insurance adjuster.
If you’ve been hurt, seek a free consultation from an expert car crash attorney. We are more than happy to inform you about the major mistakes people commonly make that torpedo their claim. If you recover quickly, we can walk you through taking care of the claim on your own. However, if you require much medical treatment, then you will need legal help. Insurance companies do not offer up quick payment for medical bills and they do not go through your policy and really explain coverage you have. The more uninformed you are, the better for the claims adjuster.
We look at your actual policy as well as find out the coverage of the other driver’s insurance to determine what kind of coverage there is. Additionally, it is important to keep track of your health insurance payments and understand subrogation.
Again, “insurance”, “underinsured motorist coverage”, “uninsured motorist coverage”, “subrogation”–not fun topics. Call us for information if you have question.