If you’re like many people, there are probably three things you think about when it comes to auto insurance: 1) Do I have the state required minimum coverage? 2) Will I be able to recover the cost of my car? 3) How much is it going to cost me per month? Unfortunately, if you carry only the required minimum coverage you may not have enough insurance to cover your medical treatment, lost wages, and other damages that could result if you’re in a car, truck, or motorcycle crash. What most people don’t realize is that you can better protect yourself, your passengers, and other drivers on the road often at a cost of only a few more dollars a month.
This leads to the question, “How much insurance do I really need?” To answer that question, we need to look at the purpose of auto insurance. Obviously, auto insurance protects other people from mistakes you make behind the wheel of your vehicle. But, auto insurance also protects you and your family. Auto insurance protects your assets in the event you are sued. If you have enough insurance to cover any damages you cause, the injured party will have no reason to go after your personal assets or garnish your wages or bank accounts. Auto insurance can also protect you in the event that you are injured by someone who either doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance.
The following a brief description of some of the different types of auto insurance coverage available:
Liability Coverage – Both Kansas and Missouri require drivers to carry $25,000/$50,000 bodily injury liability coverage. That coverage breaks down to $25,000 per person maximum, with a total recovery per accident (in the case of multiple injured parties) of $50,000.00. This helps pays the costs of injury damages suffered by another individual if you cause a car accident. If you have ever had the misfortune of spending time in a hospital, you know that $25,000.00 doesn’t go very far. This is why we generally recommend that people carry more than the minimum limits.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage – Both Kansas and Missouri require drivers and vehicle owners to carry $25,000/$50,000 uninsured motorist coverage. As the name implies, this provides you with insurance coverage in the event you suffer injuries in an accident caused by the negligence of an uninsured driver. As mentioned above, $25,000.00 doesn’t go very far when there are serious injuries. We recommend people carry more than the minimum limits here as well.
Under-insured Motorist Coverage – Kansas requires drivers and vehicle owners to carry under-insured vehicle coverage at the same level as the Uninsured Motorist Coverage. This coverage is optional in Missouri. This coverage is similar to uninsured motorist coverage, but it kicks in if you are injured by someone who has insurance, but their insurance is not sufficient to cover your losses. We recommend people carry under-insured motorist coverage to protect against other drivers who carry only low liability limits on their personal policy.
PIP (Personal Injury Protection) – PIP insurance is required in Kansas, and provides minimal coverage for injuries, lost wages, and other damages you suffer in an automobile collision regardless of who is at fault for the accident. The minimum required for medical costs is $4,500, and $900 per month for 1 year for disability and loss of income. Missouri drivers and vehicle owners have a similar coverage available called Medical Payments Coverage, often referred to as MedPay. Unlike Kansas, this coverage is optional in Missouri.
How can having or not having all of these coverage types affect you? Here are a few examples that will help illustrate the importance of adequate insurance coverage.
Example #1 – John Doe is riding his motorcycle in Independence, MO when he is rear-ended by a car driven by Jane Smith. John suffers a broken arm, concussion, and a neck injury. As a result of the crash, John incurs economic damages (medical expenses including ambulance transport, emergency room treatment, inpatient hospital care, surgery, and physical therapy, and lost wages) in excess of $75,000.00.
Jane Smith is a Missouri resident and carries liability insurance at the state minimum of $25,000.00. This amount does not begin to cover John’s economic damages and also does not provide any recovery for the pain and suffering John has, and will continue to endure. IF John carried under-insured motorist coverage in the amount of $100,000, his insurance would pick up where Jane Doe’s left off, meaning John could potentially recover $25,000 from Jane Doe’s liability policy, and $75,000 from his under-insured policy for a total recovery of $100,000. $100,000 may seem like a lot of money, but in John’s case this wouldn’t cover all of past and future damages. In this example, John probably needed $200,000.00 or more of underinsured motorist coverage to cover all of his losses. Unfortunately, John did not elect the optional under-insured motorist coverage and he either needs to hope that Jane Doe has a large bank account or he needs to count on the assistance of friends, family or the government to recover from his loss.
Example #2 – John Doe lives in Overland Park, Kansas and runs a red light in Kansas City, Kansas causing a three car intersection collision that destroys all three cars and sends both of the other drivers to the hospital. If John has minimum limits, he will have two individuals trying to recover his insurance limits and then looking to John, his bank account and his other assets to pay the rest of the damages. If John has $500,000 in insurance coverage, his insurance company may be able to take care of all of the damages without John’s personal assets being exposed to attachment.
When purchasing insurance, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- How much liability coverage do I need to protect others and to protect my assets in case I make a mistake and hurt someone while I am driving?
- How much uninsured/under-insured motorist coverage do I need to protect me from the negligence of other drivers who not only drive badly, but don’t carry much insurance?
We encourage you to carefully evaluate whether to increase your coverage. The time to do that is before you need it.