Being in this line of work (helping people recover from serious personal
injuries), we see our fair share of car wrecks. Bad wrecks. Wrecks caused
by drunk drivers. Wrecks caused by people fleeing a crime scene. Wrecks
caused by kids sneaking off with their parents' car. Wrecks caused
by uninsured drivers.
Wrecks causing serious, debilitating, life-altering, life-taking injuries.
Unfortunately, the most careless among us tend to have the least to lose
and are often
grossly underinsured. Georgia law only requires that a driver have $25,000.00 in liability
insurance. That's it. If you are seriously injured, that won't
even cover an overnight visit to the hospital. Plus, there are more drivers
on the road than you care to know that HAVE NO ACTIVE INSURANCE AT ALL.
How to protect yourself? First, don't settle for a cheap policy. And
if you think you are saving some money, make sure to compare apples to apples.
THERE IS NO ONE DEFINITION OF “FULL COVERAGE.” Full Coverage means something different depending on the agent/insurer
selling you the policy. Make sure you understand specifics of what you
are getting. Below outlines the basic coverages that most working Georgians need.
Liability - It's the law. You have to have at least $25,000.00 in coverage in
case you cause a wreck that hurts someone else. But if you own a house,
make a decent living, and/or have assets that total more than $25,000.00,
you need more liability coverage.
A LOT MORE. Consider at least $250,000.00 and if you have significant assets, get
an Umbrella policy of $1,000,000.00 on top of that. It is less expensive
than you think, and you will sleep much better at night.
Collision - Even if you are driving an old beat up Dodge, it makes sense to have
collision. This way if you are in a wreck, your insurer will take care
of the damage to your car, regardless of who is at fault. Fault is disputed
(even in cases in which it is clear that the other party caused the wreck).
Even when it is not disputed, it can take weeks sometimes months for the
other insurer to complete their "investigation." In the meantime,
you are without a car. Do not put yourself in that position. Pay the extra
a month to have collision coverage.
Rental -- For the same reason that you need collision, unless you have an extra
vehicle lying around, you need rental coverage so you can have access
to transportation while yours is getting repaired and/or totaled out.
GAP Coverage -- If you have financed your car, this is a MUST. An insurer is only required
to compensate you for the fair market value of your car immediately prior
to the wreck. In many, many cases, this is LESS than what you owe on the
car. Do not be put in the unenviable position of being in a wreck that
you did not cause and owe $5,000.00 or more to your finance company.
Medical Payments (MedPay) -- Insurers and their agents do not do a good job of informing people
about this coverage. Do not get into a car without it. Medical Payments
(or MedPay) will pay medical bills you incur regardless of who is at fault
for the wreck. Unlike health insurance, there is no deductible or copay
with Georgia MedPay. Also, even though health insurance can and should
be used to pay medical bills for injuries resulting from wrecks, health
insurers like to tell you they do not have to pay, and are slow to pay
the bills. Moreover, some providers will not bill Health Insurance if
it is "auto related." Protect yourself and get MedPay. Most
insurers offer up to $50,000.00 of MedPay. I would recommend having
at least $10,000.00.
Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM) - Get as much UM as you have in liability. (The law will not allow you
to purchase more UM than you have liability). DO NOT ASSUME THAT YOU HAVE
AS MUCH UM AS YOU HAVE IN LIABILITY. Check. It will only be a few dollars
more a month. That way if you are injured by an uninsured or underinsured
driver, you will be able to recover from your car insurer.
There are two types of UM. Add-on and Reduced-by or Set-Off. You want Add-on
as your limits will be Added On to whatever insurance the other driver
had. Otherwise, limits of the at-fault driver will be deducted from your
UM limits, leaving you with less protection.
Hope this helps. Now that you have the basics, please take five minutes
to check the Declarations Page of your automobile insurance policy (that
contains a summary of the coverages that you have) and then call your
agent or insurer and up your coverage!! You will sleep better for having done so.