“How much car insurance do I really need?” This question is one that we have all asked ourselves at one point or another in our licensed driving career. Raise the deductible here, lower the coverage maximum there – all to custom tailor a policy that doesn’t break the bank. But what happens when we don’t have the insurance coverage we need when an accident happens?
There are uninsured drivers on the road right now. These drivers look exactly like insured drivers, so there is no way to know who has and does not have insurance on their car until it is too late. What can you do to ensure that you have the coverage to protect you no matter what another driver has covering them?
What Makes an Insurance Policy?
An insurance policy is made of different coverages that protect you, your car, and your passengers in the event of an accident. Each state has minimum coverage requirements. The exception is Virginia and New Hampshire, which do not require it. There are six primary types of coverage that can be bundled in a traditional car insurance policy.
1. Bodily Injury and Property Damage Liability
Liability coverage is required in most states. This coverage is what makes up the state minimum requirements to drive a vehicle on the road legally. Bodily injury and property damage liability is coverage that applies to injuries that YOU cause to someone else in an accident.
In California, the minimum requirements are:
- $15,000 per person
- $30,000 per accident (maximum)
- $5,000 property damage
These coverages might be expressed on a policy as 15/30/5. The first number is the per person number, the second is per accident, and the last is the amount paid out for property damage (all in thousands).
2. Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist
The reality is that there are drivers on the road who do not have insurance coverage, or their insurance coverage is not enough to cover everything in the event of an accident. The uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages fill the gap where the at-fault driver’s insurance (or lack thereof) left off. The bodily injury coverage is the same as your bodily injury liability limits. The maximum in California for property damage is $3,500.
3. Comprehensive Coverage
Comprehensive coverage may help cover your car in the event of vandalism, theft, hail, or fire. If your car receives damages from a peril covered within your policy, the coverage may help pay for the repair or replacement of your vehicle. Comprehensive coverage requires the payment of a deductible before the insurance company will cover the claim. Leaseholders and lenders often require this coverage.
4. Collision Coverage
Collision coverage covers your car if you are involved in an accident. The accident can be with another vehicle or an inanimate object such as a fence or shopping cart. Collision coverage may help to pay for the repair or replacement after the deductible has been paid. Leaseholders and lenders often require this coverage.
5. Medical Payments Coverage
If you, your passengers, or any other family members driving the insured car are injured in an accident, the medical payments coverage may help pay for any costs from the injuries. The typical types of covered expenses are hospital visits, X-rays, surgery, and more. Medical payments coverage may be required in some states.
6. Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Personal injury protection, also called PIP, is only available in certain states and may be required in others. Like the medical payments coverage, PIP may help pay for your medical expenses after an accident. PIP may also help cover other expenses incurred due to your injuries.
Additional Coverage Options
You might be able to add to your car insurance policy in an “a la carte” manner. These coverages are often optional, meaning that they aren’t required by law.
- GAP coverage
- Rental reimbursement
- New car replacement
- Towing and labor expenses
- Sound system coverage
- Rideshare policy
- Classic car coverage
Car Insurance Covers Beyond the Car
One benefit of having car insurance with all the bells and whistles (uninsured and underinsured motorist and medical payments coverage) is that they may cover you outside of the car, too. If you are walking down the street and you are hit by a car and the driver is not insured, you can file a claim with your insurance company to have your medical bills covered.
The same applies to riding a bicycle. If you are hit on your bicycle, and the driver is uninsured or underinsured, your auto insurance coverage will cover it – if you opted for those specific coverages. You may consider these types of scenarios when shopping for insurance coverage. Can you afford to go without any coverage at all?
The Risks of Driving Uninsured
Driving a vehicle without car insurance is illegal in all but Virginia and New Hampshire. Since most of the states have set minimum coverage, you can face serious legal and monetary implications as a result if you are driving without it.
The most common penalties that one might encounter when they don’t have car insurance includes:
- Points assessed against your driving record
- Excessive fines ranging from $75 to $5,000 and reinstatement fees
- License and registration suspension
- Impounding of your car
- Jail time
- Community service
- High-risk auto insurance coverage for a set period in the future
The SR22 is not a type of insurance coverage but a document that is attached to your policy that states you hold the minimum coverage in the state you live in. The requirement for an SR-22 indicates that you have broken some type of law or have a history of at-fault accidents. The addition of an SR-22 is often not voluntary but mandatory by the state. The SR-22 on your insurance won’t last forever, but if you lapse coverage during that time, you may have to start the required time all over again.
Possible reasons for needing the SR-22 include:
- DUI or DWI charges
- Reckless or negligent driving charges
- Multiple traffic offenses in a short period
- Caught driving without insurance coverage
- Involved in an accident without insurance coverage
- Pulled over while not carrying insurance in your registered vehicle
- May be required for a probationary license
- May be required for license reinstatement after a suspension
Your insurance agent will be the one to fill out the necessary SR-22 paperwork and file it with the state. There will be an additional fee, but the process is simple. Even if you do not have a car at present, you can opt for the non-owner SR-22, which will keep you up-to-date with your requirement.
California Proposition 213
California Proposition 213, also known as Prop 213, is a law that went into effect on November 6, 1996. The purpose of the law is to prevent those driving without insurance or who are engaged in or fleeing from a felony from collecting non-economic damages in the event of a car accident. The current legislation can be found under California Civil Code 3333.4.
Types of Compensation Affected by Prop 213
There are two types of compensation in a personal injury case that lawyers pursue for clients – economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are the monetary losses that have a quantifiable amount. These include medical expenses, lost wages, the cost for rehabilitative services to return to work, property damage, etc.
Prop 213 affects the non-economic damages of a driver who is uninsured at the time of the accident. The law restricts the compensation of losses incurred for pain and suffering, disfigurement, emotional distress, mental distress, and more. The pertains to uninsured drivers who are the victim or the cause – there is no differentiation if they are uninsured.
Exceptions to Prop 213
There are a few narrow exceptions to the Prop 213 rule in which a driver (even uninsured) may be able to collect full compensation in the event of an accident. These exceptions can apply even if the driver is uninsured or the vehicle they were driving was not insured at the time of the accident.
- If you drive a vehicle for an employer and that vehicle is not insured, the driver can still seek non-economic damages sustained in the accident.
- If an accident occurs on private property, it may be possible to collect all damages. The state law requires insurance to drive on public roadways, whereas it is not required to drive on private property.
- If the vehicle owner does not have insurance on the car, but you have insurance on another vehicle, you are exempt from Prop 213.
Should I Pursue Damages if I Am Uninsured?
Even if Prop 213 applies to your case, you are still entitled to receive compensation for your economic damages, like your medical expenses. The best way to ensure that you get the fair compensation that you deserve is to hire a car accident attorney who can help file the claim on your behalf. Even if you were uninsured at the time, you are still entitled to compensation.
How Much Insurance Do You Really Need?
In a perfect world, the answer would be “all of it.” We both know that this is not a feasible option for most people, so picking and choosing which coverages are most important are often necessary. The first step when shopping for insurance is to look at all the discount options you might be entitled to. You may be able to save enough on your insurance that you can afford the additional coverage options.
Finding Discounts for Auto Insurance
There is almost no end to the factors that come into play when figuring your car insurance premium. When you speak with an insurance agent, you will need to make sure they know if any of the following scenarios apply to you. These could impact the amount of the premium you pay.
- If you are married
- If you use your car for both business and pleasure
- If you travel outside of the state frequently
- If you have a teen driver and if that teen driver gets good grades or has completed a driver’s education course
- The number of drivers that you want to be listed on your policy
- If your car is leased or if you are making payments to a lender
- If you own your home or rent
- Your occupation, the occupation of anyone else on your policy, and if anyone has been in the military or is currently serving
- If you have a college degree
- If you park in the garage, street, or off-street parking arrangement
- Any anti-theft devices your vehicle is equipped with
- If you want paperless statements
- If anyone in your household should be excluded from your policy
Choosing Coverages That Meet or Exceed Your Needs
As a society, we don’t want to pay more than we have to for car insurance – it’s just a natural response. With that said, you have to look at what you need versus what you want. You need to have coverage that will cover any possible scenario. You want to pay as little as possible for your coverage. The whole process becomes a balancing act. If you are in an accident, how much can you afford to pay? If you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage and only have state minimum coverage, who will pay for your car or injuries?
These are the types of questions you have to consider when you create a car insurance policy. What can you afford to pay in a worst-case scenario situation? Is an extra $50 per month that big of an inconvenience if you are left trying to replace a car?
Making Sure Your Insurance is Sufficient
As lawyers who handle cases every day, we know the cost of driving without insurance or without the proper coverage. As your life situations change, your insurance policy should reflect this. For example, if you have the state minimum car insurance for your hand-me-down car but turn around and buy a new vehicle – you need to change your policy. You wouldn’t only carry state minimum on this car. You would make sure you have comprehensive and collision coverage, not just because the lender makes you, but to cover if something were to damage it.
If you find that you are in an accident with someone who doesn’t have sufficient car insurance coverage or find yourself facing Prop 213 because you were uninsured – you need a lawyer. TorkLaw has offices in multiple California locations to better serve you. Call us anytime at 888.845.9696 or reach out through our online contact form for your free case consultation.