Since driving a car is so commonplace in the United States and all states require a minimum level of liability insurance, it's important to understand how to work with an insurer after a car accident. FindLaw's Car Accidents and Insurance section cover the basics of insurance coverage as well as in-depth resources on state insurance coverage laws. This section also includes an article on collision insurance (which reimburses you for damage to your vehicle regardless of fault), a thorough explanation of underinsured motorist coverage and whether you need it, and what to do if the other party's insurer denies your claim.
What should my car insurance policy cover?
At a minimum, motorists are required to purchase liability insurance in order to compensate for injuries or vehicle damage to other motorists (which depends on who's liable). State insurance laws set minimum liability coverage amounts for bodily injury and property damage to others. Common insurance policy coverage areas include the following:
- Bodily injury (liability): This is what your insurer will pay when others are injured (medical expenses) or killed (payment to the deceased's family) when you are at fault for the accident.
- Property damage (liability): When the insured is at fault, the insurer will pay for damage to the property (typically vehicles) of others.
- Personal injury protection (PIP): The insurer pays for injury claims and other damages claimed by passengers.
- Collision coverage: Even if the insured is at fault, the insurer will pay for any vehicle damage, sometimes extending to other property.
- Comprehensive coverage: This covers much more than just accidents and typically includes damage from fire, theft, vandalism, or other such acts; often required for new cars that are financed through a third party.
What is uninsured motorist coverage?
Assuming that some motorists are going to either have inadequate liability insurance coverage or will flaunt the law entirely, uninsured motorist coverage helps fill in the gaps. Without it, you may be unable to be compensated for injuries or vehicle damage following an accident where an uninsured (or underinsured) driver is at fault. Some states require uninsured motorist coverage, but others offer it as an add-on to basic policies. Uninsured motorist coverage can reimburse claimants for medical expenses, lost wages, injuries to passengers, and vehicle damage.
State Car Insurance Laws: At a Glance
State automobile insurance laws generally set minimums for liability coverage of bodily injury (per person and per incident) and property damage. Some states also require a minimum amount of coverage for uninsured and underinsured motorists as well. These limits range from roughly $20,000 to $100,000 per accident for injury liability and generally less per accident for property damage liability.
For instance, Florida law requires at least $10,000 in property damage liability per accident and $10,000 in personal injury liability coverage, which is toward the low end of the scale. Illinois, which is somewhere near the average, requires at least $25,000 in bodily injury per person and $20,000 in property damage liability coverage; while also requiring at least $50,000 in uninsured motorist coverage per accident.
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