Change Your Clocks & Check Your Insurance Coverages
By Susan D’Alonzo Ament
With spring just around the corner, we’re reminded to turn our clocks ahead, and to check the batteries in our smoke detectors. Many of us take advantage of milder weather to clean out the garage or to attack the overgrown hedges in the back yard with that new chain saw we received in December. But when a rainy spring Saturday rolls around and your weekend tasks are temporarily postponed, I’d like to suggest another, very important activity to add to your seasonal “To Do” list: set aside the time to review your automobile insurance policy to be sure it is adequate and up to date.
I can hear a chorus of groans at the above advice, and I can even visualize eyeballs rolling as I write this. But – as a personal injury attorney with decades of experience dealing with insurance companies in court and around the settlement table, and as someone who has had to handle the consequences of inadequate or outdated insurance coverages on behalf of clients – I can assure you, a policy review is well worth your time.
Insurance Policies Are Legal Contracts
Insurance policies are contracts that should be reviewed and amended with your agent when your life circumstances warrant a change.
Many events can occur in a person’s life in the course of a year, and some of them can even translate into saving you money. Here are a few items to keep in mind as you examine your automobile insurance policy to determine if your coverage is adequate:
Is the Minimum Enough?
Like most states, Delaware has established minimum liability coverage requirements to pay costs related to injury or damages in an accident. By law, Delaware drivers must also maintain minimum limit requirements ($15,000 per person; $30,000 per accident) for personal injury protection insurance (“PIP” or “no-fault” car insurance), to cover medical costs and possible funeral expenses, regardless of who caused the accident.
It is important to realize these minimum requirements keep you legal to drive, but are not designed to fully protect the average individual driver. By carrying only the minimum state-required insurance, in the event of an accident, you will be legally responsible for all other uncovered costs. You will have to pay out-of-pocket for any hospital or medical bills, and funeral expenses not covered by insurance. Any assets you have, including your home and your savings, may be at risk.
Therefore, evaluate the amount of automobile insurance you carry in light of several factors, including your assets, the age, depreciation and make of your car, your age and driving habits and those of others on your policy, the distance of your commute, and even your personal health insurance, among other considerations. Determine what financial impact out-of-pocket expenses might have in non-accident related incidents, such as, if your vehicle is stolen or vandalized, and the added expense of a rental car if yours needs repair. Depending on your circumstances and your insurance carrier, the costs to provide this extra protection may be minimal.
How You Can Save Money
Surprisingly, a review might uncover ways to save money, too. For example, you might be able to decrease your premium for collision insurance, depending on the age and condition of your car. If you have changed jobs and your commute is shorter, lessening the annual number of miles you drive should result in a savings as well. If you have married or moved, these life changes might translate into lowered premiums. Additionally, you may qualify for a discount through some insurers if a young driver under your policy is attending college away from home and does not have access to your car during the academic year.
The Bottom Line
The purpose of car insurance is to protect you, your loved ones, and your assets from a disaster that could have devastating implications both in the short and long term. Because so many factors influence the amount of coverage necessary for you individually, it is important to discuss your specific needs with your agent and/or a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. Given what is at stake, don’t you want to get it right?
Download our phone app, available for iPhone and Android users, that provides access to the tools and information you will need in the event of an accident. The app features a Live Chat component, allowing you immediate contact with a live person 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Locate our app by searching “Morris James” in iTunes or Google Play.
Contact us for a complimentary copy of our book, Anatomy of a Personal Injury Claim.
Susan D’Alonzo Ament is a partner with Morris James LLP and has practiced for 30 years representing personal injury victims. Over the years, Mrs. Ament has found that some women don’t understand the crucial need to have adequate automobile insurance coverage in the event of a serious accident. Susan Ament educates women on these needs every day in her practice and in seminars that she presents throughout the year.