The Basics of Auto Insurance Policies

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If you’ve been in an accident, you will find yourself fielding calls, letters, and bills from multiple insurance companies. You may get confused, talking to the other driver’s insurance company, thinking it’s your own. It’s easy to make mistakes, and feel overwhelmed. We hope that laying out the different types of insurance will help you stay organized.

Commonly, there is your automobile insurance, the automobile insurance for the driver who hit you, and your health insurance. There may be workers’ compensation insurance, or disability insurance as well. When a person died from an accident, life insurance may come into play. Sometimes Medicare, Medicaid, or the Oregon Health Plan applies. Things can get complicated fast.

We will cover the basics of the most common types of insurance an accident victim typically has to confront after a collision.

You have car insurance—or should. It provides liability insurance, personal injury protection, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Liability insurance means that if you hit someone else, and it is your fault, your insurance will provide a lawyer to defend you. They will pay any settlement or judgment up to $25,000 or more if you have paid higher premiums to get additional coverage. If you were in a crash that was someone else’s fault, then you will be negotiating with their liability insurance.

Personal injury protection (PIP) means your auto insurance will pay all of your medical bills for one year up to $15,000 or more, if you have paid higher premiums to get additional coverage, as long as the medical care is for an injury you received while using a car.

Underinsured Motorist coverage (UIM) is designed to provide money for you and your family if the person who hit you does not have any insurance, or does not have enough insurance to pay for all you injuries.

Umbrella policies mean that sometimes the person who hit you will have low auto insurance policy limits but will have the umbrella policy that will pay additional amounts. Umbrella policies are usually large, often over $1 million. Before you ever take a settlement for the “policy limit” of a person’s auto insurance, make sure to find out whether an umbrella or other policy may apply.

If you have been in a car accident, you will generally have at least two insurance companies to contend with, your own and the other person involved in the accident. The PIP department is supposed to be one your side, but this isn’t always the case. If you have been paying your premiums, they should pay all of your medical bills up to $15,000 without much trouble. You will have to cooperate with them, which includes filling out some forms and giving them permission to see your medical records. This is so they know what they are paying for.

The insurance company of the person who hit you, on the other hand, is not on your side. The insurance adjuster should make a fair offer, pay it, and let you go on your way. Unfortunately, many of them act as if their job is to hold onto that money with the tightest fist they can manage.

Other types of insurance that may apply are:

  • Medicaid/Oregon Health Plan
  • Medicare
  • Social Security
  • Disability insurance
  • Workers’ Compensation

If you are covered by workers’ compensation for the injury you received, it may take some clever maneuvering to maximize your compensation. Often, with workers’ compensation, you will be severely limited in the amount of compensation you can receive for your injuries.

In the case of disability or Medicaid, you could lose your coverage by surpassing their income guidelines. This can often be avoided by careful planning, but is must be done correctly.