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Understanding Your Auto Insurance Policy

Nobody ever wakes up and says, “I think I’ll get into a car accidenttoday!” Yet that’s exactly what happened when a band of heavysnow moved through South Denver recently. Drivers on northbound I-25 werenot prepared and in just a 2-mile stretch of the highway, 104 vehicleswere involved in a massive pile-up as an intense burst of snow hit thearea. There was 1 fatality from this massive crash, and 30 more peoplewere hospitalized. According to the Denver Post, Darrell Barber, who hadbeen driving in his Chevy Tahoe, remembers being one of the few who couldactually 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 damagedvehicles-we couldn’t help but think, “Wow, we hope these peoplehave a good auto insurance policy.” This is an interesting statementbecause 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 thiswhere 104 vehicles are involved in a single accident and liability maybe hard to establish? With more insurance companies beginning to offermore affordable auto insurance, how does anyone decide on the right coverage for them?

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

While insurance may feel confusing and overwhelming, there are a few simplepieces of information that will help to better understand your auto insurancepolicy. Most auto insurance policies contain three major parts: liabilityinsurance 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 (medicalexpenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) if the accident was causedby your negligence.

Property Damage Liability

Property damage liability insurance helps to pay for damage you cause toanother’s property, such as their vehicle, a fence or mailbox, oreven 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 pileupon I-25. While there are fines and penalties in place for driving without first obtaining auto insurance, this doesn’t negatethe fact that for every 20 drivers you see on the road, at least threeof them do not have insurance. For this fact alone, having uninsured motoristcoverage is a good idea.

Uninsured motorist coverage provides protection if you are involved ina 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 liabilityinsurance to cover the damage they caused in an accident. This coveragetypically pays for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and sufferingfrom any injuries sustained from the accident. It’s important to notethat vehicle repairs and damage to personal items that were in your vehicleat the time of the accident are typically only covered if your uninsuredmotorist coverage includes uninsured motorist property damage coverage.

Medical Payment Coverage (MedPay)

While auto insurance protects your vehicle, medical payment coverage helpsto protect the passengers inside your vehicle. In order to waiver thisoptional coverage, per Colorado law, your insurance carrier must offeryou the opportunity to “opt out” in writing (or by whatevermeans you applied). Med Pay helps to pay for the medical and funeral expensesfor you and for others who were riding in your vehicle at the time ofthe accident, regardless of who was at fault. It can also extend to pedestrianswho are struck by a vehicle. Expenses that are typically covered by medicalpayment coverage include: surgical, chiropractic, hospital, ambulancefees and funeral expenses.

One of the great things about MedPay is that this coverage travels withyou, whether you are a pedestrian, riding with a friend, and even on publictransportation. If you’re involved in an accident that was causedby the negligence of another, it can take months for their auto insurancepolicy to pay your medical bills. Your MedPay coverage will kick in immediatelyto 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, forhow much coverage you have on your policy, per incident. The first numberis the liability coverage per individual, per incident. The second numberis 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 ensurethat you fully understand what it covers-and what it doesn’t cover.Be sure to carefully read through your policy, and don’t be afraidto ask your insurance agent questions for clarification. And maybe, now’sthe time to update your insurance policy…before you get into acar crash.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a motor vehicle accident, youprobably have a some questions. The compassionate car crash 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.

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