After a car crash, one of the first things people do is exchange auto insurance information. This allows you, or your Utah Personal Injury attorney, to make a claim with the insurance companies to repair your car and pay your medical expenses. What most people don’t realize is that their own insurance policy can be equally as helpful to their personal injury case, even when they are not at fault for the crash.
Why Does Your Own Insurance Matter:
Our clients are sometimes hesitant to get their own insurance involved when they weren’t at fault for the collision. They are concerned about an increase in their monthly premiums, or that their insurance will penalize them in some way for even alerting them about the case. If you are not at fault for the crash, your insurance will not increase your premium. Utah Code 31A-19a-212.
Often your insurance is going to be quicker to act to protect your interests than the at fault driver’s insurance who is usually looking to avoid paying for the collision. However, it’s important to know that, your own insurance probably has a policy requiring you to notify them of any incident that could result in an insurance claim, so you or your Utah Personal Injury Attorney should always notify your insurance of the crash.
In Utah, auto insurance policies are required to have this type of “no-fault” coverage available on every policy. The minimum amount of PIP coverage required is $3,000.00, although many insurance companies allow you to select a higher PIP coverage amount.
PIP policies will pay your medical expenses directly to providers up to your coverage limit. If another person is at fault for the accident, your auto insurance will seek reimbursement of this $3,000.00 paid on your behalf from the responsible party’s insurance.
This allows you to get treatment immediately, without having to wait for the other driver’s insurance to accept responsibility.
While most policies are required to have PIP benefits, the exception to this is motorcycle policies. Oftentimes motorcycle policies will not include PIP benefits, or the PIP benefits will be significantly limited. It’s important to talk to your insurance provider about what benefits will be available to you in the event you’re injured on a motorcycle.
Utah State Insurance Policy Minimums are Insufficient:
In Utah, your auto insurance policies are policy is only required to cover a minimum of $25,000 of medical expenses for an individual, or $65,000.00 per accident, regardless of how many people were injured.
For example, imagine 10 people in a large van were t-boned by someone running a red light. Everyone in the van experienced significant injuries and hospitalization, with each person’s medical expenses exceeding $25,000.
If the driver responsible for the collision only has the Utah state minimum insurance policy requirements, their insurance will only pay out $65,000.00 to the injured parties collectively, no matter how much the medical expenses are of everyone involved. This can be very disappointing when your medical expenses are significant, or multiple people were injured.
The good news is, if the responsible driver’s insurance company pays the maximum amount allowed by the policy, also known as the “policy limits,” this can trigger a benefit within your own insurance policy.
Under Insured Motorist Claims in Utah:
If you receive the policy limits from the responsible driver, this allows you to make a UIM claim with your own auto insurance policy. UIM stands for “Underinsured Motorist Coverage.” By Utah law, if the responsible driver’s insurance pays out their policy limit, your claim is considered “underinsured”.
This means that there is not enough insurance money under the at-fault driver’s insurance to fully compensate you for your injuries. This then allows you to pursue a benefit you have paid for on your own auto insurance policy, UIM coverage. Utilizing this benefit under your policy cannot raise your premium rates, and does not count adversely against your claim file.
Now is when the policy limits you have selected and have been paying for are important. If your auto insurance also has the state policy minimums, that means that no matter what your medical expenses are, your insurance will not pay more than $25,000.00 per person or $65,000.00 per accident. Using our example above with the 10 injured people, that could mean that there is only $130,000.00 to cover everyone’s medical expenses and compensate them for pain and suffering.
In rare and unfortunate cases, clients may have been severely injured, and require expensive surgery in order to feel like themselves again; however, if both you and the at-fault driver only have the minimum auto insurance policies, that limits the amount you can collect to $50,000.00 for your injuries and expenses.
With severe injuries, this generally isn’t enough to pay for that needed surgery. We highly recommend reviewing the coverage under your policy with your insurance provider to make sure you will be taken care of if someone else is underinsured.
Although it is possible to decline the policy limit offer from the responsible driver’s insurance, and instead choose to sue the person directly, we would usually advise against it. Unless a person is extremely wealthy (think professional athlete), it’s unlikely you would ever be able to collect a judgment against them, as most people would prefer to declare bankruptcy as opposed to having a large judgment against them they will never be able to pay.
With the risk of bankruptcy possibly eliminating a judgment, it’s almost always better to accept the guaranteed money being offered by the insurance companies.
If the driver that caused the collision is uninsured or left the scene without exchanging information, that may feel like salt in an open wound. Often clients are confused about how they will be made whole in this type of situation.
Having UM coverage, or “Uninsured Motorist Coverage”, on your own insurance is the only option to get your medical expenses paid, and compensation for your pain and suffering in this type of situation.
Again, this is a benefit you have paid for in making your monthly premium payments, so don’t hesitate to open this claim if that is your situation. However, as with UIM claims, your policy limits will dictate the amount of money available to pay your medical expenses and your in-pocket compensation. This is another reason why your own insurance matters to your personal injury claim.
What Can You Do? Increase Your Policy Limits!
The Utah Personal Injury Attorneys at Johnson Livingston would always recommend you evaluate your own auto insurance policy limits before getting into a crash. If you have the state policy minimums of $25,000/$65,000, you should contact your insurance agent and ask about the cost to increase your policy limits.
Most insurers offer various tiers of coverage, including $100,000 per person/$ 300,000 per accident, or $250,000 per person/$ 500,000 per accident. It’s not uncommon for the difference in monthly premiums between these different levels of coverage to be only a few dollars per month.
Increasing your own policy to the highest policy limit you can afford is always going to be the best way to protect yourself, even when you’re injured due to someone else’s negligence. You cannot assume that the insurance of the other individual will be sufficient to adequately compensate you.
To verify your own insurance policy limits, and ask about increasing them, contact your local insurance agent. To be protected and have someone fight to get you the most money possible regardless of whether you have a claim against another driver, or a UM/UIM claim against your own insurance, contact the Utah Personal Injury Attorneys at Johnson Livingston at 801-948-9670. Don’t forget, we don’t get paid unless you do.