Buying Car Insurance

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1 Buying Car Insurance We blame the insurance companies And their agents for not thoroughly explaining And urging you to buy The most important auto insurance protection available They won t tell you, so we will! The ultimate guide to protecting your family from irresponsible drivers Brought to you by: The Law Offices of James R. Carroll, Jr. 501 South Main Street Athens, PA Phone:

2 Read this booklet to see how you can protect you family against uninsured drivers Learn: Drivers may not have car insurance, even if the law requires them to. Why, if you file and win an auto accident lawsuit, your health insurance company may want to take all of the money you deserve and leave you with nothing. Why you probably will not hear the details of this report from your insurance agent. How you can protect yourself through your own car insurance policy, even if the other driver has no insurance. Why it is so important that you read and understand your car insurance policy. Most people cannot answer five simple questions about their own policies. What exactly you must ask your agent for to improve your family protection.

3 Who is behind this report? and Why should I listen to you? Our firm wants to first thank you for requesting this booklet. We think that the information it contains will help you better understand the basiscs of your automobile insurance policy. The purpose of the booklet is to give you and other consumers good, solid information that will help protect everyone against irresponsible drivers. After meeting with numerous potential clients and asking them what they knew about their won car insurance policies, we have discovered that the insurance industry has done a very poor job of educating its customers. As you will see, it is our opinion that this is not simple oversight on the part of the insurance industry. Rather, there appears to be a deliberate attempt to keep consumers in the dark about the most important car insurance protection they can buy. Attorneys don t sell insurance, so our firm has no financial interest in the auto insurance policies our clients and friends purchase. As lawyers, we represent victims who have been injured by negligent drivers. Unfortunately, over the years, we have learned harsh lessons about car insurance from our clients experiences. Consider the accident case outlined in this booklet. Our hope is that after you read and understand the information in this booklet, you will never have to learn about car insurance the hard way.

4 Most drivers carry shockingly Low car insurance coverage An accident victim s story A wife received a terrible phone call her husband had been seriously injured in a car wreck. He had been hit head-on by a drunk teenage driver. She went to the hospital and found her husband in a coma with serious brain injuries. He had a grotesquely broken arm, which doctors wanted to amputate. Nights she spent with her husband at the hospital were long and tense, but his prognosis was positive. He would eventually come out of the coma. When he awakened, their real work began. An ambulance transported him to a rehabilitation center to relearn skills he lost because of the brain injuries and amputation. It will be years before he can hope to seek employment again. This patient s health-care and rehab costs were astounding: $18, for every day of his recovery in intensive care. $8, for the remainder of his stay in the hospital. $2, for every day he spent at the rehabilitation center. $xxxx to-be-determined cost for the lost ability to work, which may be significant. $xxxx to-be-determined amounts for future medical care, depending upon his speed and level of recovery.

5 Community Hospital Admission Report The accident victim s patient history A 45-year-old man, the father of three young children, was in a car that was hit head-on by a teenage drunk driver. The patient was thrown through the windshield of the car. The patient was unconscious and was intubated. The patient had an obvious open radius and ulnar fracture of the right arm with bone sticking out. Physician s examination The patient has traumatic brain injury with a frontal-lobe contusion. He intermittently follows commands. He also has a horrible grade-3 open fracture of his right radius and ulna that needs to be amputated tonight. Because of his frontal-lobe contusion and the fact that he is going under anesthesia, neurosurgery has been consulted, and doctors will put a monitor in his head to keep an eye on intracranial pressure durin his procedure. He is aware of the risk of further brain injury. The patient also has a laceration to his head and other contusions on his back and arm. Recovery plan As mentioned, he is going to have his arm amputated tonight. Neurosurgery has been involved. He will need extensive hospital care and will everntually be transferred to a long-term rehabilitation ability He will likely never return to his prior job Total medical bills: $476,987.23

6 Medical bills There s one thing this accident victim s family didn t think it needed to worry about: how to pay their astronomical medical bills. His wife asked, Surely, we can sue the drunk driver. He is required to have auto insurance isn t he? The medical bills and lost wages would be paid out of a claim made against the teenager s car insurance policy, right? Wrong! This nightmare was just beginning for our clients. We told the husband and wife that most states require drivers to buy auto insurance. But, not all people act responsibly and comply with the law. This was a drunk driver, after all. And, even if he at one time had insurance, he may have let it lapse. Or, he may be from one of the few states that do not require car insurance. We ll need to check on how much insurance the drunk driver had before we can help you with you case, we advised. We did some research and discovered bad news: The drunk driver had no insurance. But that wasn t all. More bad news! The family s medical bills were paid by an insurance plan from the husband s employer. This was a fairly new type of plan, which says, If we pay you medical bills for an accident and the accident was someone else s fault, we want to be repaid for every penny we spent before you collect a dime for yourself. In other words, even if we get any money out the drunk driver, the health insurance company wants to take it all!

7 What about suing the drunk driver? Sure, we can do that, we told them. But what assets does he own? He s only a teenager. He s not employed, and we learned that he is now in jail. And, even if we sue and win, he may be able to file for bankruptcy protection and never have to pay you. The often unasked question Then we asked the question that almost none of our clients can answer: How much uninsured motorist insurance coverage did you buy from you own car insurance company? The all-too-often response The answer was: We have no idea what you are talking about. We asked them to bring their car insurance policy in and let us review it. When we looked it over, we found even more bad news. Unfortunately for the family, no one ever explained to them the importance of buying lots of uninsured motorist coverage.

8 Who s to blame for this insurance predicament? We hold insurance companies and their agents fully accountable for not thoroughly explaining and urging drivers to buy the best and most important insurance protections available. They won t tell you, so we will! What is auto insurance? When drivers buy insurance, they enter a contract between the insurance company and themselves. The policyholders pay the premiums, and companies protect them even from uninsured drunk drivers. Why are auto insurance policies so long and complicated? We can t blame the companies for producing policies that no one understands. Most of the wording of a car insurance policy is required by law. Insurance policies do not vary much from company to company. Understanding auto insurance policies There are two major parts of your policy: Liability coverage Liability insurance protects your assets if you cause a car wreck and hurt others. Your liability coverage will protect you home, cars, and other property from claims for damages by people you may have injured. Your insurance company will defend you including hiring an attorney for you if they are sued and pay those you injured up to the limits of the liability coverage you bought.

9 Uninsured motorist coverage Say you purchase motorist (UM) insurance protection and then another driver who has no insurance hurts you. Your own insurer will pay up to the limits of UM coverage you bought. Since the other driver is uninsured, you company pays you. You shouldn t feel badly about that. That s how it works. You paid for this protection. UM coverage is also very important for another reason. If you are the victim of a hit-and-run accident and the other driver is never caught, you UM coverage will still protect you. Experts suspect that up to half of all drivers are uninsured or carry minimal insurance. Finally, UM coverage will also protect you if the other party had less insurance coverage than you did. If you are injured by someone who bought a low amount of insurance, say $100,000 or less, your own policy will provide you protection right up to the amount that you bought for yourself. Why didn t you insurance agent tell you about that? Insurance coverage Just what does $50,000/$100,000 Mean anyway? Whenever auto insurance coverage is expressed as $50,000/$100,000 or $300,000/$500,000, for example, the policy tells you how much coverage is available per person injured in the accident, and what total coverage is available for any one accident. This is called split limits. So, if you have $50,000/$100,000 coverage, each injured person would be covered up to $50,000, but the total coverage available for the accident is only $100,000. If five people are hurt in the accident, the most any one

10 person would be paid is $50,000, but all five people would have to share the total of $100,000. In this situation, if any one person s damages exceed $50,000, or if the entire claim of all people in the accident exceeds $100,000, you would be personally responsible for what the policy did not pay. How much uninsured motorist coverage should you buy? Buy as much UM coverage as your insurance company will sell you. It s as plain and simple as that. Your insurance company may be required to sell of offer UM coverage to you. However, many insurance agents fail to tell clients how important it is. Since your agents fail to tell clients how important it is. Since your agent may not explain the important reasons why you should buy adequate UM coverage, you may have thought the agent was just trying to up-sell you something you didn t need. Buy the highest limits you can afford. But if I buy ten times as much insurance, won t it cost ten times as much? Maybe you think if you have $25,000 in liability coverage and you want $250,000, your premiums will be ten times as much. Wrong! Read the next page and see why.

11 Insurance premium Comparisons It can be difficult to get all the information you need to make an informed decision about how much insurance coverage you can afford. So we prepared a sample cost comparison of premiums charged by five large insurance companies. Here s what we found: Insurance company Annual premium difference Between $50,000 and $500,000 coverage Additional premium cost per month GEICO $350 $29.17 Allstate $500 $41.67 Progressive $400 $33.33 State Farm $400 $33.33 Nationwide $100 $8.33 We found these sample premiums at each company s Web site. We priced premiums in the summer of 2004 for a married couple in their mid-20 s with good driving records. Every insurance customer is different. We included these results to show the power of a few extra dollars and the importance of increasing UM coverage. If you call your own insurance company about buying more coverage, you might find that the increase in your premium is not the same as our research showed. However, you may be surprised that the increase is nowhere near five or ten times what you presently pay. In fact, if you make adjustment in some of the less important coverages, your premium may actually turn out to be lower.

12 And now the big quandary Question Why don t insurance companies issue a report and recommendation to their policyholders to purchase higher levels of liability and UM insurance? Answer Because it s a great deal for you and a rotten deal for them! Just do the math! You pay a little more money for a lot more protection. And although the insurance company can find out a lot about you and price you liability coverage correctly i.e., it can refuse to sell to you if you have a bad driving history it cant do anything about the drunks driving around without insurance! The following page will tell you what steps you should probably take next. What you should do now? Review the Declarations Page of you auto insurance policy. It s the one that shows what coverages you have and what you pay for them. If it s anything less than $1,000,000 yes, one million dollars then call your agent and ask this question: What would it cost me to upgrade my insurance to $1,000,000 of liability and $1,000,000 of UM/UIM coverage? It may be the law that the UM coverage must equal but cannot exceed the liability coverage. Your agent will probably suggest you don t need that much coverage, or recommend that you buy an umbrella policy. Don t accept these suggestions. Just get you agent to price the coverage. Then, ask your agent to price the coverage downward. For example, get him or her to price $500,000, $250,000, and so forth. Very few umbrella policies provide UM coverage. When our firm investigated coverage from one insurer, three

13 different sales representatives told us over the phone that their umbrella policy was the best choice because it provided UM coverage. It did not! Our prediction is that you will be shocked at how little it will cost you to greatly increase limits. Then, make a choice and buy as much additional coverage as you can afford. If you have any questions, please call us. The Law Offices of James R. Carroll, Jr. 501 South Main Street Athens, PA Phone:

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