Under Ohio law, you must carry car insurance. The limits are pretty low though; a person need only carry $25,000 in bodily injury coverage per person and $50,000 per event. You often hear this called 25/50. It means if you get into an auto accident and hurt someone, the insurance company will step into your shoes, so to speak, and pay up to $25,000 to compensate that person for his or her injuries and up to $50,000 total for all injured people in the accident. This ensures you are not personally liable and avoids you having to pay out of your own pocket. But when you really think about the cost of medical treatment in 2017, is $25,000 really enough to cover a serious injury? And what if you are injured? How are you compensated? How much is enough? These are questions only you can answer; however, there are several key things you should consider when making your decision.
How Much Are Common Injuries?
In today’s healthcare landscape, medical care is not cheap. Consider the estimated medical costs by procedure in the Cleveland area. These figures are based on Fairhealthconsumer.org annual estimates:
- One person airlifted by helicopter for serious injuries: $58,000.00
- Non-surgical repair of a fracture: $1,500.00
- Anesthesia for simple fracture repair: $816.00
- Back surgery for herniated disc or minor fracture: $11,900.00
These estimates are based on averages for these procedures, so you can bet a serious car accident would result in multiple injuries. One person airlifted for back surgery, and you could be facing close to $75,000 in medical bills or more. If you are at fault in the accident, that person has a legal right to make you pay for it, not to mention his or her loss of wages, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and mobility, and other related damages. If you don’t have that kind of money laying around, you should consider getting more than minimum coverage.
What If You Are Injured?
So, we know what happens if you hurt someone else, but what about your injuries? Some people believe their health insurance will cover all of their care, but this is not always true. If someone else is responsible for the accident, your health insurance may seek to be reimbursed by the at fault driver’s insurance policy. After all, why should your health insurance be responsible for costs the other person created? So, say the other person has a minimum liability insurance policy of $25,000. You are airlifted and receive emergency treatment in the hospital. Within weeks of getting home to begin your recovery, you will no doubt begin receiving large medical bills. This means large coinsurance amounts and no doubt you will have to meet your deductible before insurance kicks in. If, like many people, you have a $3,000 – $4,000 deductible, where will you get that money, especially if out of work or in intensive care? This is where medical payments come in.
What is “Med Pay” or “PIP?”
You may have heard the term PIP or “personal injury protection.” Likewise, your insurance agent may refer to it as medical payments or “med pay” for short. This type of insurance is not based on fault. In other words, if you are hurt, you are paid. Limits can range from as little as $500 to as much as you are willing to pay and your insurance company is willing to offer. Some companies offer as much as $100,000, but this is uncommonly high. The usual recommended amount is between $5,000 and $25,000.
When you are airlifted for care and you begin racking up large medical bills, medical payments are made right away, usually much faster than a traditional bodily injury claim. This helps you, the injured person, pay those deductibles and keep from being turned over to collections that could destroy your credit score. You should still hire a Cleveland auto accident lawyer to represent you in obtaining as much as possible from the at fault driver’s insurance company, despite your insurance. In some cases, your health insurance company will demand you pursue the other driver before it will pay out on care.
Should I Carry Uninsured Motorist, and How Much?
The answer is a resounding YES. Ohio does not require you to carry UM/UIM or Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. However, consider what would happen if a drunk driver runs a stop sign and T-bones you and your family. You and your family all suffer severe injuries, but the other driver is uninsured. Certainly, you can sue the driver for his negligence, but in most cases, a person who is uninsured is also financially incapable of paying a judgment. Therefore, you suffer without compensation and have a hard time paying your medical bills.
What if, on the other hand, that drunk driver has a minimum liability policy of $25,000? But your injuries are way more than that? Well, even if his insurance pays the max, you are still left without adequate compensation. Underinsured Motorist coverage allows you to make up the difference. To understand this better, let’s look closer. In this example, assuming you receive the limit of $25,000 from the at fault driver, and you have the same minimum policy of $25,000, then you can collect no more. In other words, you have received the limit. But if you carry $50,000, you could receive another $25,000 from your insurance in order to make up the difference. There are a few caveats and exceptions, which is another reason to hire a Cleveland car accident lawyer.
How Common is Uninsured Driving?
Very! Based on an independent insurance study performed in 2014, about 12.6 percent of motorists in America, were uninsured. Ohio is ranked 17th in the country for most uninsured drivers, with a whopping 13.5 percent of all Ohio drivers. That’s almost one in seven Ohio drivers! This means you have a high chance of being hit by someone who is not insured. Further, this does not even account for those with insufficient coverage. Also, consider that people who operate without insurance are far more likely be those drivers who are intoxicated, using unregistered or stolen vehicles, or simply have no financial means to pay if they hurt someone. So, having UM/UIM coverage is essential to protecting yourself.
What if I Am Injured in an Accident?
While it is good to carry sufficient insurance to protect yourself, this does not mean your insurance company will want to pay. Insurance companies are notorious for refusing to pay valid claims, offering “lowball” settlements that do not even cover the medical bills or simply making the claims process so difficult that people give up. Often, they look for ways to avoid paying or contrive ways to say the policyholder breached the contract in some way. Likewise, without an attorney you may inadvertently resolve your case for far less than if you had an attorney. So, if you get hurt in a car accident in the Cleveland area, make sure you contact an experienced and aggressive auto accident lawyer right away. The sooner you have an attorney, the better your chances of being compensated. There are strict time limits on protecting your rights, so call an experienced & dedicated Cleveland accident attorney today.