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It’s a New Year: What Should You Ask Your Auto Insurance Agent?

Posted by William K. Thayer | Jan 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

Pick up the phone and call your insurance agent. Ask him or her these questions about your auto insurance policy/coverage:

  • Do I have PIP coverage?
  • What are my PIP policy limits?
  • Do I have UM/UIM coverage?
  • How much are my UIM policy limits?

Write down the answers you get. Follow that up with these questions:

  • How much extra per six month period or per year would it cost to increase my PIP coverage to a $35,000 limit?
  • How much to a $100,000 limit?
  • How much extra per six month period or per year would it cost to increase my UM/UIM coverage to a $100,000 limit?
  • To a $250,000 limit?
  • To a million dollar limit?

Write down all the answers you get. Finally, ask about an umbrella or excess policy. Learn what it is, what it does to protect you, and get a quote for such a policy. Make sure that the insurance company is offering an excess layer of UIM coverage too, not just an extra layer of liability coverage, as part of the excess policy quote. If they won't, check with different auto carriers until you find one that will.

Now, why should you care? Well, come in and visit with me. Should you wish to discuss the wisdom of increasing your PIP and UIM policy limits, I'll be happy to meet with you for a half hour or so at no charge. [Click here to read our earlier blog post about UM/UIM and PIP coverages.]

Let me tell you some horror stories about friends, family and clients hit by drunk, reckless, or just careless uninsured and underinsured drivers who have no assets, who are “judgment-proof”. You can't protect yourself against that after you've been injured in a collision, after the texting driver blows the red light at the intersection and takes you out. If you don't have good auto insurance coverage before the collision occurs, it's too late.

When my wife called to increase our own UIM limits, we were surprised to learn it really wasn't that expensive to get higher limits and an umbrella policy, even an excess policy that includes an extra layer of $1,000,000 in additional UIM coverage. Family, friends, and other clients that I have suggested call their agent for quotes have done so and reported back to me that it didn't cost them that much to increase their PIP and UIM limits, or for an excess policy. I had a client walk in today who has a $100,000 PIP coverage limit. Outstanding. You don't see that often, but it is great to have if you are given a reasonable enough quote and you decide you can afford it.

One quick example of the why: A friend has a young man in the approaching car fail to yield right of way and turn left in front of him. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. Causes my friend pretty catastrophic injuries, and over $250,000 in medical bills before it's all said and done. The young man who caused the crash had no assets, and just a minimal liability policy – $25,000. My friend at least had some UIM coverage, $50,000, but no PIP coverage. He was in between health insurance coverages, so there was no relief from that source. Even after collecting all the insurance monies available – the party at fault's $25,000 in liability coverage + the $50,000 in UIM benefits (total of $75,000) – my friend still had over $180,000 in uncovered medical bills. He was temporarily disabled by his severe injuries and unable to work for an extended period of time. Mired in medical debt not of his own making, and no way out. He obviously also got nothing for all of his tremendous pain and suffering, being stuck for the rest of his life with crippling residuals, etc. Basically, an awful situation–not just the usual physical and emotional tragedy from such an event, but the additional sick recognition that he had to also dig out from over one hundred and eighty thousand dollars of debt that wouldn't go away.

Hopefully nothing like this will ever happen to you. But, we buy insurance to protect ourselves, just in case. And there are a lot of people out there with minimal policy limits, if they even have any auto insurance. And it seems like everybody nowadays is driving around with one hand on a cell phone. Recipe for disaster.

So, to sum this all up – if you are going to insure against being the next casualty, you need to ask your auto insurance agent the right questions, make sure you get the right coverages, and get as high of PIP and UM/UIM policy limits as your budget will allow you to buy.

Then, as always, drive carefully and defensively, and best of luck to you and your family members and passengers that you are attempting to protect with the auto insurance policy that you have purchased.

About the Author

William K. Thayer

Bill Thayer is one of the founding partners of the Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Staples & Edwards law firm. Bill is licensed in both Oregon and Washington, and has been practicing law since 1980. Bill advises and represents clients in personal injury and wrongful death claims and litigation, including automobile collision, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian injury and death cases, dog bite cases, construction site injury claims, and a myriad of other types of injury and death claims. While many claims are settled through negotiation or mediation, Mr. Thayer has litigated, arbitrated and/or tried to verdict many cases for his clients. He is also frequently appointed by courts and other lawyers to serve as an arbitrator of tort claims. Bill enjoys writing as one of his varied recreational interests when he is not working.

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