It is tempting to choose the most inexpensive insurer possible when selecting auto insurance. No one intends to actually use the coverage; many people would not even carry it if it wasn't required by law.
Selecting the right insurer and coverage may end up being one of the most important decisions you make. Some insurers routinely violate their duties to their insureds, and fail to comply with state laws that protect consumers.
Whether you are on the receiving or giving side of a collision, the resulting impact on your life will be largely dictated by how your insurer handles the claim.
For example, if you are in a collision and have PIP (Personal Injury Protection) insurance - regardless of fault, you are entitled to reasonable medical treatment that is related to your injuries from the collision. How your insurer determines what is “reasonable” and “related” however, varies from carrier to carrier. USAA, for example, outsources the administration of its PIP coverage to a company called “Auto Injury Solutions.” I have found that PIP coverage is routinely cut off without reason, and well before the coverage limit is reached with USAA. This frequently causes insureds to delay treatment that is necessary both for their recovery, and to prove their damages in a case against a third party driver’s insurance coverage. Insureds frequently have to threaten or file a lawsuit against their own carrier, just to obtain the benefits to which they are legally entitled!
Another example arises when you are either the at fault or non fault driver, and a claim is filed for property and injury damages resulting from a collision. If you were at fault (hey, these things happen – doesn’t mean you’re a bad person), your interests are served when your insurer settles with the person you have injured in a timely and fair manner. Even though you have paid your insurance premiums, your insurer can choose not to settle, thus exposing you to additional liability. You also may be subpoenaed to produce documents and evidence, be deposed, and testify at trial – just to save the insurer money that should go for the damages caused. Meanwhile, the harm that you have caused to the injured person is compounded over time – justice delayed is justice denied. Some insurers are more notorious than others at making unreasonably low offers and denying resolution of claims.
What if you are not at fault? While you are suffering the debilitating effects of the collision, the opposing insurance company is focused on finding ways to delay and deny the compensation to which you are entitled. Your (justifiable) anger is increasing, and you feel victimized all over again for an incident that wasn’t your fault in the first place!
What can you do as a responsible insurance consumer?
1. Be selective about the carrier you choose.
Do not just pick the cheapest carrier. Sometimes the least expensive carrier will be the right choice – but not always. For example, I would not have Geico coverage if it were half the cost of the next option, because you are paying for future headache. Our office has had good results with Progressive in third party liability cases.
Ask your friends and neighbors what their experience has been – especially if they have actually had to resolve a claim of some kind.
2. Opt to carry both PIP and UIM coverage.
PIP is important even if you have health insurance, because you will likely have to pay less out of your own recovery for subrogation interests. UIM is equally important because 1) many people drive without insurance, even though it is against the law, and 2) even if the other driver has minimum liability limits, the minimum limit is not nearly enough to compensate for most damages arising out of even relatively minor collisions.
3. Be informed, and be assertive.
If you are the at fault driver in a collision, be proactive with your insurance company. Be skeptical if they downplay the other side’s alleged damages. Cooperate entirely, but make sure that they are aware that you want them to settle for policy limits so that the insured person is made whole, and so that you can go on living your life. Your premium is likely to go up regardless – delaying in order to settle for less only benefits the insurer, not you.
If you are not the at fault driver, do not give any statements to the third party insurer. Contact an attorney as soon as practicable; experienced counsel will guide you through the process, and take the stress of dealing with insurance companies off of you. Have patience: Sometimes it can take years to reach a settlement or verdict, but each time someone accepts a less than reasonable settlement, it just makes it harder to obtain justice for others.
If you have been in a collision, or are having a dispute with your insurance company, call us for a free consultation to discuss your legal options.
Upcoming blog posts will cover:
1.Navigating Insurance terms: UIM, PIP, First Party, Third Party
2. Subrogation, Auto Collisions, and Personal Injury Protection
Do you have any questions about insurance law or personal injury claims? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment suggesting topics for future posts!
Breckan Law PLLC