Our law firm deals with auto insurers on a daily basis. A large part of what we do involves helping clients recover compensation from other peoples insurance or their own insurance. We often have to delve into a client’s policy to determine their coverage for liability, underinsurance, uninsurance, medical payments, excess coverage, property coverage, and other forms of coverage, in order to help our clients obtain the fair compensation they are owed as a result of their accident. Here are some tips from our office to help you make sure that you’re getting the most out of your North Carolina auto insurance policy, based on my experience as an Asheville personal injury lawyer.
North Carolina’s minimum coverage isn’t enough
Clients often assume that they have “full coverage” on their auto policy, only to discover that they only have the minimum coverage allowed by NC. North Carolina law states that the bare minimum coverage is $30,000 in liability, per person, $60,000 in liability, per accident, and $25,000 for property damage per accident. That may seem like plenty of coverage, but consider this: It is very easy to rack up more than those amounts in medical bills, for even a minor injury. If you hit someone and surgery is necessary, it is likely that the bills will quickly exceed $30,000. If you are only covered for $30,000 in liability, the other party can pursue your assets as a way to obtain additional compensation. if the injured party wins a lawsuit against you, the judgement can stay with you until you pay it off.
Get “Medical Payments” (Medpay) Coverage
Medical Payments is an optional coverage offered by almost all insurers as an add-on for your policy. It will pay for your medical bills related to your car accident, regardless of who was at fault. It will cover anyone in the vehicle separately, up the the amount your contract allows. The single best thing about Medpay is that it is very affordable. I pay about $40 a year, for $25,000 in Medical Payments. I would have more coverage, as I feel it is a very inexpensive way to cover myself against large medical bills, but my insurance only offers up to $25,000. FYI, you can get medpay on your homeowners policy as well, in case someone is injured at your home.
Get coverage for “Underinsurance.”
In the event that you are in an accident that is not your fault, involving a driver that has minimum coverage, your underinsurance will cover any bills in excess of $30,000. Even if you have $50,000 in bills for an accident that clearly their fault, their insurance will only pay $30,000, leaving you in the lurch for the remaining balance. Without underinsurance coverage, you’re counting on the at-fault driver to have sufficient coverage to take care of your medical bills, which is not a safe bet. (This is not to be confused with Uninsurance – which covers your bills when the at-fault driver has no insurance at all).
Be wary of the big insurance companies you see on TV
While not a hard and fast rule, it has been my experience that the larger and more market savvy the insurance company, the less they do their actual job of fairly and reasonably paying for peoples injuries and losses. Some of these larger companies that boast statements such as “like a good neighbor”, “you’re in good hands”, and “On your side”, don’t live up to those slogans when the rubber meets the road. Some of these companies are much more concerned with getting new clients than they are with taking care of their existing ones. Here’s an example: I once handled a claim with a large insurance company that insisted that a client’s dentist bill was not “reasonable” because the bill was, in their eyes, “too high”. When pressed for evidence to support their position they said they had none, but nonetheless tried in vain to refuse to pay the bill anyway.
Most people aren’t too concerned about their auto insurance coverage, until they get in an accident, at which point it’s too late to up your policy. Consider that you’re sharing the road with drunk drivers, drivers that are distracted by their cell phones, their GPS, or their lunch. It is easy to see how accidents occur when they otherwise shouldn’t. When I speak to clients in the aftermath of a crash, those with good insurance coverage are ALWAYS thankful that they took the time and money to ensure that they had sufficient coverage to be financially protected. It’s important to protect yourself so that if and when the time comes to use your policy, you are not taken advantage of.
If you have been in an accident and are having a difficult time finding the coverage necessary to pay your medical bills, you may have a case that an experienced personal injury lawyer can help you with. A good lawyer can help find additional coverage that you can collect from, and we’d be happy to talk to you about upgrading your insurance policy or carrier. Call or email our office today to speak with someone who can help.