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Auto Insurance Smarts

Is your car insurance coverage adequate? Now is a good time to talk to your agent about protecting yourself by increasing your coverage levels — it’ll cost less than you think!

Photo: Branislav Cerven / Shutterstock.com

by Kat Ikonomidis, Intake Specialist, Burnett & Williams

It’s everyone’s worst nightmare: Mike was driving home from a friend’s house late on a Saturday evening, while at the same time a patron of a local bar who had been drinking heavily was heading home in the opposite direction. The drunk driver — who, Mike would later learn, was not covered by insurance — crossed the center line and hit Mike head-on at high speed. Police responded to the scene and both drivers were transported to the local emergency room with serious injuries. Mike had multiple lacerations, extensive bruising, a broken right hand, and a fractured bone in his arm that required surgery.

The drunk driver who hit him had no insurance at all.

As Mike began a lengthy recovery, reality set in about the amount of insurance coverage he and the other driver had. Initially, Mike thought he had plenty of coverage, even though he had purchased only the minimum amount required by Virginia law: $25,000/$50,000. This meant there was $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident available to Mike through his insurance after his car accident — this sounded like a lot of coverage before Mike was faced with high medical bills and other costs associated with being so badly hurt in a car accident. In reality, this minimum coverage was not nearly enough to compensate for his medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. When Mike talked to his insurance agent after the accident, he couldn’t believe how much more coverage he could have had for just a few extra dollars every month.

To make Mike’s situation worse, the drunk driver who hit him had no insurance at all. She pled guilty to the DUI charge, along with the charge for not having auto insurance. Because of this, Mike had to turn to his own insurance for Uninsured Motorist (or U/M) coverage — required by law in VA to protect people with insurance from drivers with no insurance or inadequate insurance — but regrettably his was the same $25,000/$50,000 minimum.

Insurance policy declaration sheet, Illustration: Burnett & Williams

The total insurance available from Mike’s own company was just $25,000, while the bills after his 2 surgeries, and the extensive physical therapy his recovery required, exceeded $65,000.

To further complicate matters, Mike’s health insurance plan was through his federal employer, Homeland Security. Under federal law, the plan has the right to be reimbursed for its payment of medical expenses resulting from the accident. Mike’s healthcare lien was larger than the amount he was able to recover from his own auto insurance. In the end, Mike ended up being victimized once by the car accident and again by inadequate insurance coverage for his medical bills, not to mention he was not adequately compensated for lost wages, a permanent disability to his dominant hand, or his pain & suffering.

Many of us think that we need only the minimum amount of insurance coverage because we are good and safe drivers, and we reason that something like what happened to Mike could never happen to us. Meanwhile, many insurance companies want you to buy the minimum amount of insurance coverage required by law because it will limit the amount they have to pay in the case of serious injury. In fact, they actively advertise it: for example, “Save 15% or more on your car insurance” (Geico) and “Only pay for what you need” (Liberty Mutual). But serious accidents can happen in a blink of an eye, even if you are an attentive and responsible driver. The truth of the matter is that one in ten drivers in Virginia have no coverage, and many more have only minimum coverage, so it is up to YOU to ensure that you are adequately protected should you ever be in a car accident. Call your insurance agent to talk about increasing your coverage; it’s a move that shouldn’t increase your premiums by much, but will give you peace of mind knowing that if you’re ever in a bad auto accident you will be well-protected financially.

Here at Burnett & Williams we are committed to helping our clients recover from difficult situations. If you’ve been in an auto accident and need help or advice, don’t hesitate to give us a call: at (703) 777-1650, or contact us on the web here.


Get a Personal Injury Lawyer’s advice about car insurance coverage. We see far too many good people in bad situations where their coverage is woefully inadequate for the damages incurred. If a group that you represent is interested in learning about selecting adequate coverage, please contact our Leesburg office to schedule a presentation, (703) 777-1650