When I meet with a potential client who's been involved in a car crash, I always ask them about their own auto insurance coverage. Specifically, the coverages I'm most curious about are Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”) and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (“UIM”). You can find helpful explanations of these coverages here, and here. In short, PIP is no-fault (meaning it applies regardless of who is at fault) medical and income loss coverage that follows the car or the named insured. UIM pays you, up to the policy limits you purchased, the difference between the at-fault driver's liability policy limits and the value of your claim, when your claim is worth more than what the at-fault driver had for limits.
You may ask, why are my own insurance coverages even an issue when it wasn't my fault? The reality is that in many cases the at-fault driver is not going to have enough insurance to cover your damages, and the at-fault driver's insurer isn't going to/doesn't have to pay a dime for your medical expenses or wage loss until the entire claim is resolved, so this coverage tides you over (to some degree at least) in the interim period when those medical bills are due and you are losing income. You have likely been paying for these coverages for years and not using them; when a collision occurs, this is what they are there for.
Some potential clients who come into my office don't know what coverages they have, nor what coverage amounts they have purchased. A great many tell me they have “full coverage.” That's a phrase that doesn't help me or the potential client a lot, because what it usually refers to is that for property damage claims they have collision and comprehensive coverage. Property damage claims are a related, but separate topic I won't be going into here. When someone comes to see me about an injury claim, I want to know about PIP and UIM so I can help get them the maximum benefit they have paid for.
If you want to answer the question for yourself about what coverages you carry and how much, you need to look to your declarations page. Your “dec” page will almost surely be available to you online, and it will likely also be mailed to you every six months with your new auto insurance cards. Different companies' dec pages vary in appearance, but the one below from State Farm is pretty typical. I've redacted identifying information for this driver/policy/agent in green. The yellow highlights are what you should focus on.
The symbols highlighted vertically down the left side are important in a lot of policies because the dec pages don't spell out the coverage names, they just use the symbols. This State Farm policy uses both, so it's a bit easier to read. Notice the amount of the PIP coverage is not listed on this dec page- this is pretty typical. In Washington the minimum PIP amount is $10,000 per person per collision, but higher limits are also sold. If your dec sheet doesn't list your PIP amount on the face, you'll need to page further into the policy documents to find the endorsement that shows the PIP amount you've purchased. If you have affirmatively rejected PIP coverage at some point prior, than it won't be on your policy.
On this policy the UIM limits are listed at $250,000 each person, $500,000 each accident. Sometimes that is simply written as 250/500. This coverage has minimum limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident (or “25/50”) and can also be affirmatively rejected by the insured. The coverage can be purchased in a variety of other amounts. Using this example of 250/500, this means the most any one covered individual can collect from the policy, regardless of how high the damages are, is $250,000. The most that can be paid out to any amount of insured people who are involved in one accident is $500,000. So, in the horrible case where there's three or more individuals in the car who are injured badly and have claims each worth more than the at-fault driver's liability limits plus $250,000, no injured person can receive more than $250,000, and the most that's available to pay all their claims is $500,000.
If you've been involved in an auto collision and want help understanding your coverages, or anything else about how the process needs to work, please contact us for a free consultation.
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