What Kind of Automobile Insurance Coverage Should I Have?

Thousands of people are injured or killed in car accidents in the United States every year. No matter how safely you drive, you may still find yourself involved in a vehicle collision caused by an inattentive or distracted driver or by someone driving under the influence of drugs or medication. This is why we all seat-buckle ourselves and loved ones, try to drive defensively, and carry automobile insurance. Unfortunately, most people do not know how to purchase the right kind of automobile insurance coverage to fully protect themselves, their family, and their other passengers.

There is no such thing as “full coverage”

If you tell an insurance agent you want to buy “full coverage” on your automobile, you have just told the insurance agent that you do not know what kind of coverage you want and you are trusting the insurance agent to select that coverage for you. Most insurance agents will try to provide you with the barest coverage required by law so that they can quote you the lowest premium for your insurance and get your business. You need to know what kind of automobile insurance coverages there are and select those coverages that you most need and can afford.

The state of Georgia has minimum automobile insurance coverages that must be sold by any insurance agent (or online) to any Georgia resident purchasing insurance for their vehicle. All Georgia policies must have liability coverage and collision coverage of at least $25,000.00.

What is liability coverage?

Liability coverage is insurance you purchase to protect you - - or anyone else driving your vehicle - - whenever you are at fault in causing an accident that injures someone else. When the injured person makes a claim against you for their medical expenses, lost wages, and general pain and suffering, your insurance will either pay the injured person money in settlement to compensate them or will pay for a lawyer to protect you against a lawsuit when your insurance company is unable to settle the claim.

What is collision coverage?

Collision coverage is like liability coverage, except collision coverage pays to repair the property of someone else - - usually their car - - if you are at fault in causing a collision that causes property damage.

What is comprehensive coverage?

Comprehensive coverage is protection for you if your vehicle is damaged by some event other than a collision. If your car catches on fire, is damaged in an act of vandalism, is stolen, damaged when you strike an animal, or if it is damaged by a fallen tree or a flood, you file a claim on your policy’s comprehensive coverage.

If you drive an older model car that isn’t worth very much, you may not wish to purchase comprehensive coverage. However, if you have just purchased a brand new vehicle, you may wish to protect your new purchase by carrying enough comprehensive coverage to pay for the repair of your vehicle when it is damaged or its replacement if it is damaged beyond repair. 


What other kinds of insurance should I consider purchasing?

Liability coverage, collision coverage, and comprehensive coverage are the most common coverages purchased by vehicle owners. Liability and collision coverage have to be purchased because the law requires it. There are two other kinds of insurance coverage you should consider purchasing: medical payments coverage and UM coverage. 


What is medical payments coverage?

Medical payments coverage is usually pretty inexpensive. It can be purchased to protect you and anyone in your car in the event that they are injured in any kind of an accident, whether your fault or the fault of someone else. Medical payments coverage is bought in increments of $1,000.00 up to $50,000.00, and sometimes higher.

Let’s say that you purchased medical payments coverage of $5,000.00. If you have an accident and you and three passengers are all injured, medical payments coverage will pay up to $5,000.00 of medical bills for each person in the vehicle who was injured. There are no deductibles or copays. Even if you have health insurance, most people with health insurance today have very high deductibles, often $2,500.00 to $5,000.00, which you have to pay out of your own pocket to receive medical care. If you have medical payments coverage, it can be used to pay the deductible on your health insurance. If you are covered by Medicaid or Medicare and hurt in a car accident, federal and state laws require that you repay Medicare and Medicaid for any of the medical bills they have covered for you. Medical payments coverage can be used to repay Medicaid and Medicare.

What's is UM coverage?

UM is an abbreviation for uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you are hurt in an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn’t carry liability insurance - - unfortunately a still a common occurrence even though illegal. Underinsured motorist coverage, on the other hand, will protect you if you are involved in an accident with an at-fault driver who has liability coverage, but too low to cover the injuries and expenses suffered by you. UM coverage covers both personal injury claims and property damage claims that you might make against another driver who’s insurance is inadequate to fairly compensate you for your losses.

Here is an example of how UM coverage works: let’s say that you were involved in an automobile accident with a driver who carries only $25,000.00 in liability coverage as required by Georgia law. Unfortunately, your medical expenses and lost wages add up to roughly that same amount. Unless you have UM coverage, you will not be fully compensated, because the other driver does not have enough
liability coverage to pay all your bills plus compensate for all the mental and physical pain you have had to endure. You can then turn to your own automobile insurer to collect additional money under your UM coverage.

One of the most common instances in which you might make a claim under your UM coverage is if you are the victim of a hit-and-run driver where the at-fault driver gets away and cannot be found. An unknown hit-and-run driver is considered the same thing as an uninsured driver.

Whenever you purchase UM coverage in Georgia you are automatically purchasing both uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage. Even so, there are still two different kinds of UM coverage in Georgia: traditional UM coverage and  add-on coverage. The better coverage, the one you should purchase, is add-on UM coverage.

Traditional UM coverage is reduced in amount by the coverage you may collect from the at-fault driver’s liability insurance coverage. If you have $25,000.00 in UM coverage and the at-fault driver has $25,000.00 in liability coverage, the most you can collect for any injury or property damage is $25,000.00. Your UM coverage is canceled out by the equal amount of liability coverage that the at-fault driver carries. Add-on UM coverage provides better protection for you because your coverage is not canceled but added on to any liability coverage: if the at-fault driver has $25,000.00 worth of liability coverage and you have $25,000.00 of add-on UM coverage, there is $50,000.00 that you can collect by making a claim on both policies.

The final thing you should do to protect yourself in the event of a vehicle accident.

Call an attorney if you or a loved one are hurt in an automobile accident.

Even if you are involved in an accident where the at-fault driver has insurance and you have yourself purchased adequate insurance coverage, automobile accident claims can be complicated. Insurance companies will contact you and try to take a recorded statement as soon as they can after an accident. This is not to help you file your claim; this is to help the insurance company find a reason to deny your
claim. Insurance companies love to receive your premium payments but hate to issue you a check whenever you get injured. You need a lawyer who can properly represent you against insurance companies on the other side and help you resolve any reimbursement claims that may be made by your personal health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.

Seek legal advice as soon as possible even if you decide not to use an attorney. Most attorneys offer free consultations. If you decide to hire an attorney, the attorney will usually work on a contingency fee contract which means that the attorney will not charge you any money unless the attorney wins your case. If you have a UM claim, or a claim against a city or state government, you often have to provide immediate notice of the claim or it can never be brought. For instance, many insurance companies require a UM claim to be made “as soon as possible.” If the claim is not made quickly enough, your coverage disappears.

At the Law Office of Paul R. Bennett we have many years of experience in helping people injured in automobile accidents. Consultations are free and you pay no attorney’s fees unless we win your case. Call us so we can help.

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