Understanding Car Insurance Requirements

February 13, 2013

480202_broken_car.jpgDe-coding car insurance terms and policies can be daunting. Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins would like to highlight a recent article by Fox Business that outlines state's minimum car insurance requirements and what they mean for American drivers.

Even the most cautious drivers are at risk - the odds are, within the next six years, most drivers will be involved in at least one accident. For this reason, most states require drivers to have at least some car insurance and have established mandated minimums. The article by Fox Business provides a comprehensive list of these minimums by state.

There are three numbers in each insurance minimum: for bodily injury liability per individual, bodily injury liability per accident, and property damage liability per vehicle. For example, in Illinois, the minimum coverage per driver is 20/40/15. This means the liability limits are $20,000 for any injuries to one person, $40,000 for all injuries resulting from the accident, and $15,000 for any property damage. Illinois' rates are typical, but minimums can range from a low of 10/20/10 (Florida), to a high of 50/100/25 (Maine, Alaska).

Bodily injury liability protects injured third parties harmed by an accident, and is only applicable if you are at fault. It does not cover any injuries suffered by the driver at fault or their passengers. Property damage liability pays for any damage done to another vehicle or property. This does not protect the driver who caused the accident's car. To protect your own car, you would have to purchase collision coverage.

Most drivers purchase more insurance coverage than the required minimum, and the Insurance Information Institute recommends that drivers carry at least $300,000 of bodily injury protection per accident and $100,000 per person (100/300). Some may wonder what would happen if a driver purchased the minimum coverage in Florida and gets in an accident in Maine, which has a significantly higher required minimum. Fortunately for that driver, most insurance companies will automatically increase coverage to meet that state's minimum.

Twelve states and Puerto Rico have no-fault insurance laws. These laws require all drivers involved in an accident to notify their insurance companies, regardless of who caused the accident. Residents of these dozen states are required to buy personal injury protection. This protection covers medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages, and other benefits for the drivers and passengers involved in the accident. The required amount of personal injury protection varies by state.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 2.2 million people are injured in vehicle traffic accidents per year, and 12 million accidents occur every year. The most dangerous place for fatal car crashes is Washington D.C., with 3.2 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people, and safest is Hawaii, with only 1.9 deaths per year.

Traffic accidents can be traumatic and life-changing, particularly because they happen so suddenly. Drivers often forget that vehicles are extraordinarily dangerous, and that even minor accidents can cause permanent disability or death. Individual trauma from a car accident can result in a number of life-altering occurrences, including emotional distress, lost wages, property damage, and medical expenses. Victims suffering from serious injuries are often entitled to compensation.

Most auto accident claims are paid by the at-fault driver's insurance company. Car accident lawyers at Pintas & Mullins urge anyone seriously injured in a traffic crash to seek legal guidance as soon as possible.