Friday, November 28, 2014

My Lawyer Hat: Time to Check Your Auto Insurance Coverage

In my other job, I practice law for a living, including personal injury, wrongful death and medical malpractice. 

I posted this article below on my law firm blog which is generally applicable to anyone who owns a car. 
Time to Check Your Auto Insurance Coverage
This weekend, I received  a text message from GEICO regarding my policy renewal so I thought I would take a minute to check out my coverages.  Surprisingly, they were not what I thought they were.

The number one problem I see when people come to see me when they are injured is a lack of coverage.  Frequently, the worst drivers on the road are either uninsured or have bare bones minimum policies.
I have settled countless cases for extremely low values simply because there is not enough coverage and the person who injured my client had no assets.  Most people do not realize that you can protect yourself and your family against these kinds of situations. 

Virginia Auto Insurance Primer
When you purchase auto insurance coverage in Virginia, you actually buy several different kinds of insurance.  Some insurance is mandatory and some is not. 

“Liability” coverage will protect you if you make a mistake that injures someone else.  Uninsured Motorist (“UM”) coverage protects you if you, someone in your household, or someone in your car is hurt by a driver who has no coverage.  Underinsured Motorist (UIM) protects you, someone in your household, or someone in your car is hurt by a driver who does not have enough coverage given the size of the injuries.
 “Collision” coverage will pay for damage to your car if it is damaged whether it is your fault or not.  It is not required and if you have car that is not valuable, you may not want to have that coverage.

“Medical Payments” coverage will pay for the medical bills for you, someone in your household, or someone in your car who is hurt while in the vehicle.  It will also reimburse your bills even if you have medical insurance. 
Many insurance companies also offer other kinds of coverage such as roadside assistance plans or coverage for rental cars if your car is being repaired (due to your mistake). 

How do you protect yourself?
First, by Virginia Law, Liability, UM and UIM coverage is set at the same levels (so you can't buy a bunch of insurance to protect yourself, but very little if you injure someone else).  Therefore, if you set your liability coverage at $500,000, then your family will be protected up to $500,000 if they are injured by someone else. 

Typically, increasing your Liability, UM and UIM coverage does not increase the total amount of your insurance significantly.  The most expensive part of the coverage is the first $25,000. 
For example, when I checked my insurance, I noticed that my limits were set at $500,000 and that GEICO offered $1,000,000.  So how much did it cost me to double my coverage from $500,000 to $1,000,000 in a household with two adult drivers and three cars?

A whopping $32.00 Per Year
Second, you should purchase as much Medical Expense Coverage as possible.  Medical Expense Coverage also “stacks” – meaning that it increases for each car you own so because we own three cars, our $10,000 in coverage will cover up to $30,000 of medical bills.  Again, in Virginia, Medical Expense Coverage pays even if you have medical insurance so if you are injured and incur $30,000 of medical bills, your insurance company will send you a check for $30,000 before you begin to fight with the bad guy’s insurance company.

Third, it is always a good idea to purchase an “Umbrella” policy.  I have an umbrella policy that provides and additional $1,000,000 of coverage over and above my auto insurance policy.   
In addition to auto accidents, umbrella policies often provides coverage for other kinds of lawsuits like defamation cases or people who might claim an injury covered by my homeowners insurance policy.  My $1,000,000 umbrella policy costs me $222 per year. 
Also, some umbrella policies will also increase your uninsured or underinsured policies by a similar amount.
Most people make the mistake of thinking they need to purchase insurance in case someone sues them.  However, if you are a careful person, it is much more likely that you will be hurt by someone else through no fault of your own.  It is important to have as much insurance as possible to protect you and your family against someone hurting you. 

Go check your policy limits today and purchase as much as you can. 


  1. Most helpful--thank you!

  2. Thanks for posting this. It is something that always seems to slip my mind and I am either cleaning out my car and find my expired insurance or I get pulled over and my insurance is expired. I have actually now started putting the date of expiry on my calendar so I can keep much better track of the expense.

    Joshua Duncan @ Focus Insurance Atlanta