About Auto Insurance Policies As you may have noticed, insurance policies are not easy to understand. Even the best policies, which claim to be written in "easy to read" format, can be confusing and sometimes downright unintelligible. Often the parties to an insurance dispute have to let the court determine what a policy really means. However, the basic concepts behind an auto insurance policy are not complicated. Frankly, everyone who drives a vehicle or owns an insurance policy should have at least a general familiarity with what is inside that lengthy document. The following summary, while very general, should help. Most auto insurance policies have two general coverage parts. Part One includes Liability Insurance, and Part Two includes Coverage for your Vehicle. PART ONE - LIABILITY COVERAGE Liability to Others In Oregon, Washington and Idaho, as in most states, every driver is required to have liability coverage. This coverage provides that if you are at fault in causing injury to another person or damage to someone else's property, your insurance company will pay for that injury or damage. How much the insurance company must pay depends upon how much coverage you purchase. Naturally, higher limits of coverage cost more money. The amount of coverage will show on the front page of your policy (called the "declarations page") and can be written as either single limit coverage or split limit coverage. Each state has a minimum amount of liability coverage that is required, but you always have the option to purchase more, and it is frequently a very good idea to do so. Single limit coverage will be in one dollar amount, such as $50,000. That figure represents the total amount of money the insurance company will pay for any combination of bodily injury to others damage to the property of others caused in an accident which is your fault. Split limit coverage will look something like this: $25,000/$50,000/$10,000. The first number represents the maximum the company will pay for injury to ANY ONE PERSON in an accident which is your fault. The second number represents the total amount the company will pay for bodily injury to ALL PERSONS in the accident (there could be two or thirty people injured). The last number represents a separate amount for damage to the property of others in the accident. Let's look at two examples, comparing a $50,000 single limit policy to a $25,000/$50,000/$10,000 split limit policy, to see how each type of coverage would pay. Assume in each example that the accident is your fault. Example One: You hit a Honda Accord and injure the driver. The Honda sustains $8,000 damage, and the driver's injuries have a settlement value of $40,000. The single limit policy will pay $48,000 (since the total damage is under $50,000) and the split limit policy will pay $33,000 (the maximum for one injury is $25,000, plus the property damage). Example Two: You hit a Mercedes Benz and injure the driver and two passengers. The Mercedes sustains $12,000 damage, and each of the individuals has $16,000 in injuries. (Total of $60,000) The single limit policy will pay $50,000 (its policy limit). The split limit policy will pay $58,000 ($16,000 to each of the three individuals and the policy limit maximum of $10,000 property damage for the Mercedes). Another very important feature of your liability policy is that if you cause an accident and the other driver brings a lawsuit, your insurance company will hire a lawyer to represent you at no cost to you. The amount the company pays to the lawyer will be in addition to the amount of coverage you have for payment of damages, as shown on your declarations page. Personal Injury Protection and Med Pay Your liability coverage may include Personal Injury Protection ("PIP") or Medical Payments ("Med Pay") benefits. Some states, such as Oregon and Washington, require PIP coverage in a policy unless you specifically reject it. Other states do not require or offer such coverage, but make available Med Pay for an additional charge. Idaho offers Med Pay coverage, but you may have to ask your agent for it. PIP provides a source of payment for YOUR medical bills and some of YOUR wage loss following an auto accident. Similarly, Med Pay provides some coverage for YOUR medical bills. These are called "no fault" coverages because they pay even if the accident is your fault. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage Some states, again Oregon and Washington, for example, require that auto insurance policies have Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage unless you specifically reject it. In Idaho and many states, this coverage is not required but it is available. You may have to ask your agent for it. Uninsured motorist coverage protects YOU in the event you are injured through the fault of someone else and they do not have any insurance. For example, if you are rearended by someone who is uninsured, you can bring a claim against your own insurance company under your uninsured motorist coverage and you are entitled to collect the same recovery as if the at-fault driver had insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage is similar. Assume that the at-fault driver had a $50,000 single limit policy but your injuries have a reasonable settlement value of $80,000. If you have $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage, then you will collect the $50,000 from the at-fault driver's insurance company and the additional $30,000 from your own company. In our opinion, purchasing adequate amounts of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is one of the best ways you can protect yourself and your family. Talk to your insurance agent about it. PART TWO - COVERAGE FOR DAMAGE TO YOUR CAR The second part of an auto policy covers your car in the event it is damaged or destroyed in a collision or otherwise. There are two types of coverage you can purchase, called collision and comprehensive. You are not required to purchase these coverages. However, if you take out a loan to purchase a car, or you are leasing a vehicle, the lender will require that you purchase these coverages on the car to protect the lender in case the car is damaged or stolen. Collision Coverage If you purchase collision coverage, the insurance company will pay to repair your car if it is damaged in a collision, regardless who caused the accident. If the repairs would exceed the value of the car, they may consider the vehicle a total loss and pay you the fair market value of your vehicle. Collision coverage will have a deductible, which is a portion of the repairs which you must pay. For example, if the cost to repair your vehicle is $3,000 and you have a $500 deductible, you will pay $500 and the insurance company will pay $2,500. Comprehensive Coverage If you purchase comprehensive coverage, the insurance company will pay to repair your car if it is damaged other than in a collision, or if it is stolen. Examples of when comprehensive coverage would apply are: Fire Theft of the vehicle Hail damage Vandalism Broken windshield Comprehensive coverage usually has a deductible also, and the coverage is less expensive than collision. Generally you may purchase comprehensive only and not collision (but not the other way around). Insurance agents often recommend keeping comprehensive coverage on an older vehicle, even after it is no longer cost effective to keep collision coverage. A GENERAL WARNING!!! As we said, insurance policies are complicated. The above outline will give you a general idea how coverage works. However, many fact situations arise that raise complicated questions. For example, you are driving a rented car, or a friend's car. Or you are a passenger in someone's car, or you are a pedestrian, or your son is hit on a bicycle. You will need to determine: Who is covered? What is the limit of coverage? Are there exclusions which would allow the insurance company to deny coverage? Are there other insurance policies that may provide coverage? (Sometimes the answer may not be obvious.) In these more complex situations, you need to seek expert advice. You will want to talk to your insurance agent. You should seek the advice of an attorney.
Pages to are hidden for
"About Auto Insurance Policies"Please download to view full document