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Understanding Your Auto Insurance Policy

Nobody ever wakes up and says, “I think I’ll get into a car accident today!” Yet that’s exactly what happened when a band of heavy snow moved through South Denver recently. Drivers on northbound I-25 were not prepared and in just a 2-mile stretch of the highway, 104 vehicles were involved in a massive pile-up as an intense burst of snow hit the area. There was 1 fatality from this massive crash, and 30 more people were hospitalized. According to the Denver Post, Darrell Barber, who had been driving in his Chevy Tahoe, remembers being one of the few who could actually come to a stop, before being slammed into by multiple different vehicles.”People in front of me started bouncing off each other and crashing, “Barber said, recounting the initial wrecks near the Logan Street Bridge.

After seeing images of the crash-and realizing the massive pile-up of damaged vehicles-we couldn’t help but think, “Wow, we hope these people have a good auto insurance policy.” This is an interesting statement because every Colorado driver is required to have car insurance.

But, what makes an insurance policy a good insurance policy? What do the terms like Med Pay and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage actually mean, and how do they apply in a situation like this where 104 vehicles are involved in a single accident and liability may be hard to establish? With more insurance companies beginning to offer more affordable auto insurance, how does anyone decide on the right coverage for them?

The saying “knowledge is power” is especially true when it comes to understanding your auto insurance policy, because the more you know, the better equipped you’ll be at selecting future policies, updating your existing policy, and the easier it will be for you to file a claim if you ever in a car crash. You are your number one advocate when filing an insurance claim, so understanding your policy is crucial.

While insurance may feel confusing and overwhelming, there are a few simple pieces of information that will help to better understand your auto insurance policy. Most auto insurance policies contain three major parts: liability insurance for bodily injury, liability insurance for property damage, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Bodily Injury Liability

This part of your policy doesn’t actually protect you or your car directly. Instead, it protects you from other driver’s claims for damages (medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) if the accident was caused by your negligence.

Property Damage Liability

Property damage liability insurance helps to pay for damage you cause to another’s property, such as their vehicle, a fence or mailbox, or even a tree.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM)

An estimated 14% of drivers nationally are uninsured, which would translate to nearly 15 uninsured drivers in the recent pileup on I-25. While there are fines and penalties in place for driving without first obtaining auto insurance, this doesn’t negate the fact that for every 20 drivers you see on the road, at least three of them do not have insurance. For this fact alone, having uninsured motorist coverage is a good idea.

Uninsured motorist coverage provides protection if you are involved in a crash that was caused by an uninsured driver, as well as hit-and-run accidents. An underinsured motorist is a driver that does not have enough liability insurance to cover the damage they caused in an accident. This coverage typically pays for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering from any injuries sustained from the accident. It’s important to note that vehicle repairs and damage to personal items that were in your vehicle at the time of the accident are typically only covered if your uninsured motorist coverage includes uninsured motorist property damage coverage.

Medical Payment Coverage (MedPay)

While auto insurance protects your vehicle, medical payment coverage helps to protect the passengers inside your vehicle. In order to waiver this optional coverage, per Colorado law, your insurance carrier must offer you the opportunity to “opt-out” in writing (or by whatever means you applied). Med Pay helps to pay for the medical and funeral expenses for you and for others who were riding in your vehicle at the time of the accident, regardless of who was at fault. It can also extend to pedestrians who are struck by a vehicle. Expenses that are typically covered by medical payment coverage include surgical, chiropractic, hospital, ambulance fees, and funeral expenses.

One of the great things about MedPay is that this coverage travels with you, whether you are a pedestrian, riding with a friend, and even on public transportation. If you’re involved in an accident that was caused by the negligence of another, it can take months for their auto insurance policy to pay your medical bills. Your MedPay coverage will kick in immediately to help pay for medical bills, deductibles, and co-pay expenses.

Understanding The Numbers

When you look at your car insurance policy you should see numbers like25/50/25, or 100/300/50. This is the dollar amount, in thousands, for how much coverage you have on your policy, per incident. The first number is the liability coverage per individual, per incident. The second number is the total limit for all individuals involved in an accident, per incident. The third number is the total property damage liability coverage, per incident.

The most important thing about your auto insurance policy is to ensure that you fully understand what it covers and what it doesn’t cover. Be sure to carefully read through your policy, and don’t be afraid to ask your insurance agent questions for clarification. And maybe, now’s the time to update your insurance policy…before you get into a car crash.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, you probably have some questions. The compassionate Denver car accident attorneys at the Bendinelli Law Firm have the experience to help you get the help you need. Contact us today for your free and confidential initial consultation.