West Virginia Auto Insurance Coverages
Published to: 000111, 000115, 000116, 000117, A Small Town Lawyer's Perspective, Perspectives of a Small Town Lawyer, West Virginia Lawyer - Tips and Techniques
on March 29, 2010 8:30 pm
The people of WV very much need a better understanding of auto insurance coverages. One of the most irresponsible ads on television is by Progressive Insurance. The gal with the “price gun” says, “Name your price, and we will sell you that policy.” So much for, “You get what you pay for.” The cheaper the policy, generally, the less coverage you get. I shall try to be concise.
1. Liability coverage: personal injury and property damage. This is the coverage you carry for injuries, to person and property, that you may accidentally cause. Selfishly, you want to carry enough coverage that the injured person will take it rather than force you into bankruptcy, or attach a lien to your house, or your paycheck! More generously, if you negligently injure another person and perhaps devastate his life, it will be nice to know he got a decent settlement so he and his family can “pick up the pieces”. If you are driving around with $20,000 per person $40,000 per occurrence, you are risking everything and NOT being responsible to others.
2. Med Pay (Medical payments or “family” coverage): This is coverage that will pay your medical bills, up to a certain figure ($1000, $5000, or even $25,000) promptly without regard to fault. This is paid by your carrier and can be a true “godsend”. Such payments are subject to “subrogation claims” which I shall discuss below.
3. Uninsured Coverage: Or “U.M.”, is coverage you carry in case the “other guy” is uninsured; that is, has NO personal injury liability coverage. The “state minimum” is $20,000 which is “chicken feed” if your injuries are anything more than minor.
4. Underinsured Coverage: Or “U.I.M.”, is coverage you carry in case “the other guy” has minimal or inadequate liability insurance coverage. Even if the other guy has $100,000, per person, liability coverage, you could have a $250,000 injury. Remember, your P.I. claim includes you medical bills, lost wages, future surgery and “meds”, permanent injury/disfigurement, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life; also your spouse’s “loss of consortium (services)” claim. Sadly, you can waive ALL U.I.M. coverage. If your insurance company can produce a signed waiver, known as a “Bias Waiver”, you are out of luck. If they lost it, you can get at least $20,000 coverage under current law.
5. Subrogation Claims: If your auto “med pay” or group medical insurance pays your medical bills and you later collect from the “at fault” party’s liability insurance carrier, you have an obligation to reimburse your “innocent” carrier. Subrogation can be thought of as “substitution”. The carrier “stands in your shoes” for the value of its “subrogation claim”. Since WV follows the “made whole doctrine”, often you can compromise such claims. That is where a good lawyer comes in handy!
6. Personal and Commercial Umbrella’s: You can get much larger coverages which serve as an “umbrella” over your other coverages. To qualify, you must meet your carrier’s “minimum coverage requirements” for your various policies. Once you do that, you easily have $1,000,000 of liability, U.I.M and U.M. coverage, or more. In one recent case of mine, that coverage made the difference between financial recovery and financial ruin for my clients, small business owners. But, getting the “umbrella” for U.I.M and U.M. coverages, personal or commercial, requires great care. Again, that’s where a good attorney can help.
Call me or write with any of your insurance coverage questions BEFORE you have your wreck, or AFTER! Sometimes we can even help AFTER the statute of limitations runs; otherwise, “The saddest words your insurance adjustor can say is, “The statute ran the other day.”
This post was written by Burton Hunter