Most drivers take the prudent step of getting auto insurance in case they are involved in an accident. In the unfortunate event that a car accident does happen, you probably want to know about what your insurance will cover. This question is not always easily answered and may depend on the specific language of your policy, but there are certain key concepts with which you should be familiar.
First, your auto insurance is meant to protect you from claims based on car accidents that are caused by negligence. It also may protect you in situations involving car accidents that are caused by reckless driving, although not every state and insurer covers reckless driving. It does not cover intentional or criminal conduct, and it does not cover people who are using a car without authorization, such as when the car is stolen.
Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Coverage
When you are involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, you can resort to the uninsured or underinsured driver coverage in your policy. Most insurers provide a certain amount of coverage for these situations, and you can buy additional coverage if you choose. Thus, if the other driver has no insurance to cover your injuries or does not have enough insurance, you would bring a first-party claim against your own insurer for all or the remainder of your costs and losses. (In theory, you could sue the uninsured motorist personally, but people who do not buy auto insurance rarely have enough personal assets to satisfy a judgment.)
Sometimes a certain complexity arises regarding underinsured motorist claims. The underinsured coverage needs to exceed the policy limits of the underinsured driver who was at fault for a victim to make a claim against the underinsured coverage. Perhaps your claim is worth $150,000, and the at-fault driver has $50,000 in coverage. You would need to have underinsured coverage with a limit of more than $50,000 to make a claim. You could not just combine $50,000 from the at-fault driver’s coverage with $50,000 from your underinsured coverage. This is one reason why you may want to consider getting a substantial amount of underinsured coverage to protect yourself in the event of catastrophic injuries.
Limits on Coverage
One relatively straightforward point is that you cannot make a claim for more than the limit of your policy. There are no exceptions to the limit, regardless of how severe your injuries may be, and insurers do not have an obligation to go beyond the limits of their policies. Correspondingly, you cannot have more coverage in uninsured or underinsured coverage than you have in your standard liability coverage. If you have purchased $100,000 in your liability coverage, for example, you would not be able to purchase more than $100,000 in uninsured or underinsured coverage.
Getting Another Driver’s Insurance Information
Drivers who have been involved in an accident are required to stop at the scene and exchange insurance information, among other things. The police may be able to assist you with this process if the other driver is uncooperative, assuming that the police come to the scene. If the driver flees the scene in a hit and run or refuses to provide their information, you can take down their license number and notify the police. They likely can identify the vehicle and driver, which will give you information about your insurance options. In the event that the vehicle and driver are never found, you can proceed with an uninsured motorist claim against your insurer.