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Law Offices of Ronald W. Rutz
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August 2, 2003: Understanding Auto Insurance

First, if you were at fault, then you would be responsible for all property damage and injuries. For bodily injury to others, the mandatory required liability coverage is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. But in this day and age, with medical expenses being what they are, the recommended coverage is $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. Remember if the amount awarded exceeds the insurance limits, then you are responsible for the balance.

Of course, you would be responsible for your own medical bills. It is necessary for you to review what your medical insurance would in fact cover. If there are gaps or if you do not have medical insurance, then optional coverage could be obtained by paying for the Medical Payments Coverage (MPC). It would also cover passengers.

For property damage, it is required that you carry $15,000 to reimburse others for not only damage to their vehicle or vehicles, but also for damage to "other" property that could be involved in the accident such as buildings, fences, poles, etc. Realistically, $15,000 will not stretch very far so it might be wise to buy more protection then the minimum coverage. Otherwise, the balance not covered by insurance comes out of your pocket.

With everything going on out there on the roads and even if you consider yourself a safe driver, the unexpected happens when you don't expect it (I always wanted to use that Yogi Berra quote). Also, remember that at trial fault is not really what in fact happened, but what a judge or a jury says happened. So you could be held responsible for an accident and need to seriously consider the amount of protection you wish to put in place.

Secondly, what if there is an accident and you are not responsible? If the other driver has adequate coverage, then all of your bills are paid through his or her insurance company. If the insurance does not pay for everything, it would be necessary to sue for any deficiency.

But if the other driver did not have insurance, or in lieu of suing for any amounts not covered by the other's insurance, then it is possible that your health insurance will pick up the costs of your injuries, or you might want to pay for the optional MPC coverage previously mentioned if you have no health insurance or if your policy does not cover everything.

To receive reimbursement for property damage if the other driver who is at fault has no insurance coverage, you can always carry the optional collision coverage also mentioned above. But if the above medical and property damage coverage is too confusing, you can just purchase the uninsured motorist coverage for either medical expenses or property damage, or both.

Third and finally, besides protecting yourself if there is a collision as in points one and two, comprehensive coverage can also be purchased to cover non-collision matters such as theft, hail, or in my case a tree limb hitting my car (breaking after a snow storm).

Well, have I totally fogged up everything? But in retrospect, maybe looking at things from a different perspective is not always helpful. I hope that this attempt was not like moving to the front row of a movie theatre.

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