Not many pleasures can match the euphoria of driving on the open roads of our nation. Feeling the rhythm of the engine and the vibration of the wheels is just as much music to our ears as the songs playing on the radio. It is a good day when one has enjoyed the scenery and the pleasant conversations experienced while on the way to a faraway destination or returning home from that destination.
Social and Moral Responsibility
With that euphoria comes a social as well as a moral responsibility to cover the expenses brought by an unfortunate lapse in judgment or some unforeseen accident. How could a person have a clear conscience in knowing their vehicle activity caused another person to be permanently injured or scarred if they didn’t somehow help to at least financially compensate the injured party? It just seems morally wrong not to do so.
In what appears to this author as a meager feeble attempt to address this issue, every state in the nation except New Hampshire and Virginia requires some form of liability insurance or bond to be carried by operators of motor vehicles. The reason I call it a meager feeble attempt is due to the minimum requirements a person has to meet in order to qualify for being in adherence with the law. Most states only require a $25,000 per person, $50,000 per occurrence coverage for medical protection and $20,000 for property damage per occurrence.
Extent of Problem
In 2019,according to https://auto.free-insurance-quotes.us, the average bodily injury claim was $18,417 thus leaving little to attend to those claims over the average. Even if a person making a minimum wage of $15 is permanently injured, there is no way those minimum requirements can salve the conscience of the offending party. It is one thing to be a participating consenting party which caused an accident to occur, but if you are just an unknowing party, why should you have to bear the financial burden of someone else’s poor judgment?
According to https://valuepenquin.com/bodily-injury-car-insurance-coverage, even though it is required by law, people driving without insurance range from a high in Florida of 26.7% to a low in Maine where 4.5% circumvent the law. In Florida approximately 1 in 8 drivers on the highway creates a justifiable concern on your behalf as to how to deal with that scenario if you are the unfortunate victim of their law breaking.
What can law-abiding drivers do to protect themselves against those who choose to either go without insurance or purchase just enough coverage to meet the requirements of the law?
The first option is your insurance company taking the lead in attempting to collect payments made on your behalf. They may determine it just isn’t economically feasible for them to pursue the offending party if they feel they have little hope of recouping their expenses. Keep in mind the insurance company’s first obligation is to collect its expenses and then as a “courtesy” try to collect your losses along with theirs. They are not legally bound to act as your legal representative for damages you incur, so once they have reached the limits on the policy they have completed their obligation to you.
A second option is for you to take legal action against the offending party. This takes time and requires resources you may not have. The legal practitioners may be willing to wait for payment for their services, but those who provide medical care may not be so patient. They also run the risk you may not be able to collect even if the litigation ends in your favor.
This brings the third option you can consider– purchase coverages available under your automobile insurance:
- Medical Coverage. This coverage normally is intended to cover your medical expenses in the event you are at fault in the accident. Even if an adjuster were to allow this coverage to be used it normally is for a very minimal amount perhaps up to $25,000. Highly unlikely this coverage could be pressed into use unless it could be determined you were partially at fault then maybe.
- Uninsured Motorist Medical. This coverage provides an amount of money for covering your medical expenses if the offending party has no insurance. Again, most states make this mandatory to go along with the liability coverage but only requires a minimal amount, usually $25,000.
- Underinsured Motorist Medical. This coverage comes into play once the offending party’s insurance coverage is exhausted. For example, you purchase a benefit under your policy of $300,000. A wreck occurs and you end up with a bill of $280,000. The offending party has coverage up to $100,000 and when that is exhausted, your policy will pick up the expense starting at $101,000. If the other party had no insurance, your underinsured benefit would have paid the full $280,000.
- A final option is the major medical health plan you may have in force. Suffice it to say, the benefits available will be controlled by the plan you have. It is also worth noting, most states make automobile insurers the primary care provider; and if a private health insurance plan does get involved, they have the right to be reimbursed by the automobile policy.
A Point of Caution
It is not a given that your insurance company will pick up the full tab. They will determine if the expenses are justifiable and reasonable before they will incur that total expense.
Most insurance companies don’t have the mindset of being Santa Claus just waiting to cover medical expenses gleefully. They will do their “due diligence” and will look for any way to have someone else bear a portion of the expense.
Your insurance policy language places a very interesting requirement on you as the insured. The language states something to this effect, “If any insured fails to cooperate with us or send us legal papers as required, we have the right to refuse any further coverage for the occurrence or loss.” You need to pay attention to the circumstances surrounding the claim so you can be sure to meet all the requirements for uninterrupted claim settlement.
The insurance company also has subrogation rights which affects your ability to recoup expenses you may incur. For example, the insurance company pays for your medical expenses but you, having become permanently disabled, pursue through the legal system reimbursement for future expenses and collect. The insurance company has the right under the policy to be reimbursed by you to the extent of their payment. So whatever payment you may receive, it is highly likely not all of it will stay with you.
Since we live in a society where individuals get to make choices as to how they relate to others around them, it is a comfort to know we can do some things on our own which are not controlled by someone else. Some may be completely at ease meeting just the minimum requirements of the law in their social encounters and that may be just fine for them, while others feel the moral and ethical duty to cover their actions which may economically affect another adversely. Taking advantage of the options listed above can give us some solace if we encounter someone on the road who has no brains or brakes.