The Unforeseen Road Hazard: Uninsured & Under Insured Motorists
Unlike potholes, construction zones, and rainy weather, unseen hazards roam our streets and highways causing problems for responsible drivers: the Uninsured and Underinsured motorists. Uninsured motorist drives their vehicles with no liability coverage. The underinsured motorists have some liability insurance, but not enough to pay for the damage they cause.
Auto liability insurance is divided into two, distinct categories: (1) bodily injury and (2) property damage. Currently, under Arizona law, a motor vehicle is required to have minimum liability insurance: for bodily injury, only $15,000.00 per person, $30,000.00 per accident; for property damage, only $10,000.00.
Effective for policies purchased on or renewed after July 1, 2020, the minimum bodily injury liability limits are required to be $25,000 per person, $50,000 per crash. The required property damage liability limits likewise go up to $15,000.
Obviously, with always rising medical care costs and new car prices and repair costs, the mandated minimums are not always enough to pay for the medical bills, pain and suffering and property damage caused by a crash. Liability coverage applies when you are at fault for the crash – it does not cover you when someone else is at fault while driving their vehicle.
Arizona law does not require auto policies to have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Instead, auto insurance companies must simply offer both coverages in writing, but you are free to decline one or both coverages. Sometimes even drivers that do have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage do not enough. More often, drivers think they have “full coverage” only to find out – after a crash – that they have no uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
Arizona law also does not require auto policies to have collision coverage, nor are insurance companies required to offer it. If you have collision coverage, your insurance company will pay for the repairs to or compensate you for the total loss of your vehicle, after you pay your deductible. Collision coverage covers your vehicle damage, regardless of who is at fault for the crash.
Comprehensive insurance, also known as “other than collision” in some states, covers damage to your vehicle caused by events that are out of your control. It usually covers events like theft, vandalism, glass and windshield damage, fire, accidents with animals, and weather/acts of nature. Comprehensive is an optional coverage. Some auto policies cover glass and windshield repair or replacement if you have separate glass coverage.
What you pay for collision coverage depends on the value of your vehicle: the newer and more expensive it is, the more collision coverage costs. For most vehicles, the older it becomes, the less collision coverage costs.
The probability of a crash being caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist is very high, as those drivers generally are not very responsible. If you are in a crash with one of those drivers, how do you get your vehicle repaired or replaced? How do you pay for a rental car? Can you recover for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering? What if the driver has insurance, but is underinsured?
The answer to each of these questions is, unfortunately, this: either you have to use your own auto insurance, or you pay for those costs yourself. If you are in a crash caused by an uninsured motorist, and if you have collision coverage, that coverage will repair or replace your vehicle regardless of who caused the crash. If you have no collision coverage, you will have to pay for the repairs yourself or, if your car is a total loss, you will have to replace your car on your own. If the crash was caused by an underinsured motorist, then your collision coverage would cover the difference between that driver’s insurance and your vehicle’s repair or replacement amount. If you have no collision coverage, you would be paying the difference yourself.
After a crash caused by an uninsured driver, rental car expenses are covered only if you have rental car coverage. Rental car coverage is not included in collision or comprehensive coverage. If you want rental coverage, you have to ask your insurance agent and pay for it. Without it, you must pay for the rental car yourself, or go without a vehicle while yours is being fixed. If the crash was caused by an underinsured driver, their policy will cover your rental car subject to the terms of that policy.
Next, if you are injured in the crash caused by an uninsured motorist, and you have no uninsured motorist coverage, you will have to pay for your medical bills with your health insurance, auto “med-pay” coverage or your own money. Med-pay, sometimes known as “medical payments” or “medical expense,” is like no-fault health insurance that you may purchase to cover everyone in your car injured in a crash. Med-pay coverage is optional per Arizona law, and not everyone has it. Med-pay only pays for your crash-caused medical bills and nothing more. It does not pay for your pain and suffering or lost wages caused by the crash. Like rental coverage, if you want it, you must buy it.
If the crash was caused by an underinsured motorist, and that driver’s policy is not enough to pay for your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering, then your underinsured motorist coverage should step in to take care of the uncovered amount. If you do not have underinsured motorist coverage, your unpaid medical bills would have to be paid by your health insurance, med-pay or you.
Protect yourself against these unseen road hazards by making sure you have uninsured and underinsured motorist, collision, and rental car coverage. Yes, you will likely pay more for auto insurance, but you will have the coverage you need and probably sleep a little better.
If you have any questions about a car crash, your auto insurance policy, or any other personal injury matter, call Kevin Chapman or his team at (480) 833-1113.
If you have any questions about a car accident or any other personal injury matter, Please all me at (480) 833-1113.
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