Automobile Insurance Coverage – Protect Yourself
Here in Illinois, there are approximately 12,720,000 residents (2018) with 4,477,763 registered automobiles, or one automobile for every 2.8 residents, including children! That means there are a lot of cars being driven by a lot of people, every hour of every day.
The State of Illinois requires that to lawfully operate a motor vehicle, you must have auto liability insurance. “Liability insurance” refers to insurance to protect you in case you cause injury or property damage to another person. Although there are various coverages and amounts of coverage available, many people choose to purchase insurance policies with smaller amounts of coverage in order to pay lower premiums. Some people even still drive without any coverage, in violation of the law. In Illinois, the law requires that drivers maintain liability coverage of at least $25,000.00 per person/$50,000.00 per occurrence. This can be most easily understood as follows: an insured driver with $25,000/$50,000.00 coverage limits causing an injury to one other person is protected up to $25,000.00 for this event; if there is more than one person injured in the collision, the insured driver can be provided with total coverage up to $50,000.00 (with no one person getting anything more than the $25,000.00).
So, looking at it from the other perspective, if you are the one injured in a motor vehicle collision due to another person’s negligent driving, you may be limited in your recovery to the amount of insurance coverage carried by the driver who caused the collision – even if your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and/or disability substantially exceed that amount. This seems unfair, since you did not cause the collision or your own injuries. This is an argument for increasing the mandatory minimum insurance limit, especially since just an ambulance trip and visit to the ER can cost thousands.
Fortunately, if you have planned ahead, there may be another option. If you have purchased your own insurance coverage with limits above the limits of the driver who caused the collision, then you may be able to recover under our own automobile policy. This is a good reminder that we need to purchase sufficient automobile insurance coverage for ourselves and our family members, including coverage for uninsured and underinsured accidents. These coverages (for protection against drivers who are uninsured and drivers who don’t have enough insurance, respectively) generally have the same limits as the liability portion of the policy, so keep that in mind when deciding what coverage amounts you are willing to pay for. One can even purchase excess or umbrella coverage for $1,000,000.00 or more. Although adding coverage will result in higher premiums, it offers greater protection in case you accidentally cause injury to another person or if you are severely injured by someone else.
When you or a member of your family is injured by someone without insurance or without sufficient insurance to reimburse you for your injuries and medical care, your uninsured or underinsured insurance coverage comes into play and generally works in the following manner: 1) your attorney works to obtain an offer in the amount of the $25,000.00 limit from the negligent driver’s insurance company and then 2) moves forward with a claim against your own insurance company for any applicable coverage above that amount. It is therefore the wisest course to protect ourselves and loved ones with sufficient insurance before suffering the unanticipated accident. You can never know in advance how much insurance the other driver carries, but you should always know how much you have; there is peace of mind in knowing that no matter who is out there on the road, you are prepared for any contingency.