Understanding Your Insurance Coverage After an Accident | Kisling, Nestico & Redick
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Understanding your auto coverage is not just essential for peace of mind. It also helps ensure you receive everything to which you're entitled.
Written by
KNR Legal
Date posted
October 20, 2023

The moments following a car accident can be a whirlwind. Whether you’re responsible or the other driver was at fault, you’ll probably ask, “What does my insurance cover?” Ultimately, the answer can significantly impact your finances and ability to recover from damages.

A Guide to Your Insurance Policy after a Car Accident

At KNR, our Ohio car accident lawyers want you to have the information and tools to make the insurance process easier. Here’s a comprehensive guide to your insurance policy after a car crash.

Gather Your Policy Documents

First things first: you need to review your policy. If you don’t have a copy, don’t worry. Most modern insurance providers offer easy access to policy documents via their websites or mobile apps.

If not, a quick call to your insurance agent should help you obtain a copy. This document should outline your coverages, limits, and deductibles.

Review the Declarations Page

Often, the first page of your policy (the Declarations Page) summarizes your insurance coverage. It should detail your coverage types, the limits for each, and your deductibles. Like a table of contents, it can be a helpful guide to the details in the following pages.

Dive into Your Coverage Details

Insurance policies are divided into sections based on the coverage type. Here’s what to look for:

Liability Coverage

Liability insurance is mandatory in most states and protects you if you are at fault. It comprises:

  • Bodily Injury Liability: Covers medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses for the other party.
  • Property Damage Liability: Covers damages to the other party’s vehicle or property.

Comprehensive & Collision

These optional insurance coverages protect your vehicle.

  • Comprehensive: Covers damages not caused by collisions—like theft, vandalism, or natural disasters.
  • Collision: Covers damages to your vehicle when you collide with another car or object.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance

If the other driver is at fault but doesn’t have adequate insurance, UIM coverage can be a lifesaver.

  • Uninsured Motorist: Pays for your losses if the other driver has no insurance.
  • Underinsured Motorist: Helps if the other driver’s insurance can’t cover all your expenses.

Personal Injury Protection & MedPay

Both PIP and MedPay can provide relief from medical bills following an auto accident. Reviewing your specific policy details to understand the extent of your coverage is essential.

  • Personal Injury Protection: PIP covers medical expenses regardless of who’s at fault. In extreme cases, PIP can cover medical treatment, rehab, and funeral expenses. Some PIP policies also offer compensation for services you may be unable to perform due to injuries, such as household cleaning.
  • Medical Payments (MedPay): An optional coverage that pays for medical or funeral expenses for you or your passengers. Unlike PIP, MedPay strictly covers medical costs and does not extend to lost wages or other damages. It can be used for medical expenses such as hospital bills, surgeries, X-rays, etc. MedPay can be a supplementary coverage to your health insurance or PIP insurance for copays or deductibles.

Policy Limits & Deductibles

Your policy will outline the maximum your insurer will pay for claims. These are your policy limits. Likewise, the deductible is what you’ll pay out of pocket before insurance kicks in.

Insurance Policy Limits

Every insurance policy has limits. For instance, your policy might have the following limitations:

  • Bodily Injury Liability: $50,000 per person / $100,000 per accident
  • Property Damage Liability: $25,000
  • Uninsured Motorist: $40,000
  • Comprehensive and Collision: $30,000

So, if you are at fault and the other party’s bills amount to $60,000, your insurance will cover up to $50,000. The remaining $10,000 would be your responsibility. Similarly, if you have a property damage limit of $25,000 and cause $30,000 worth of damage, you must pay $5,000.

Auto Insurance Deductibles

Regarding deductibles, if you have a collision deductible of $500 and incur $5,000 in damages, you must pay the first $500. From there, your insurance will cover the remaining $4,500.

Deductibles vary between coverages. You might have a $500 deductible for collision but a $1,000 deductible for comprehensive claims. Knowing these figures is crucial because they directly affect how much money you’ll have to pay in the event of an accident.

Why Do Deductibles & Limits Matter?

Knowing your policy limits and deductibles helps you understand your financial exposure. If your limits are too low, you risk paying a lot out-of-pocket. This could lead to financial hardship. On the other hand, higher limits and lower deductibles likely have higher premiums. It’s a balancing act that requires careful consideration.

Exclusions & Special Clauses

Every insurance policy has exclusions. These are situations or items that aren’t covered. Be aware of these so you don’t encounter any surprises during the claims process. Also, look out for special clauses, like ‘Actual Cash Value’ vs. ‘Replacement Cost’ for your vehicle, as these can significantly impact your claim amount.

Auto Insurance Exclusions

Most people think of Acts of God,” like floods or storms, and “intended use” exclusions. But exclusions can even come into play when another driver is at fault for the accident.

Imagine you lend your car to a friend not listed on your insurance policy. While driving your vehicle, your friend gets into an accident that is the other driver’s fault. You might assume that the other driver’s insurance will cover the damages or that your insurance would step in.

However, upon reviewing your policy, you discover an exclusion stating that damages incurred while an “unauthorized driver” is operating the vehicle are not covered. In this case, you must seek compensation directly from the at-fault driver or their insurance. Alternatively, you’d have to cover the costs out-of-pocket.

Special Clauses: ‘Actual Cash Value’ vs. ‘Replacement Cost’

Now, suppose your car is relatively new, and it gets severely damaged in an accident. The repair costs are so high that your insurance company deems the vehicle a “total loss.” Now, whether your policy pays out the “Actual Cash Value” (ACV) or the “Replacement Cost” can make a big difference in your settlement.

  • Actual Cash Value (ACV): This considers depreciation. If your car was worth $20,000 when new and has depreciated to $15,000 at the time of the accident, you’ll get $15,000 (minus any applicable deductible).
  • Replacement Cost: This would pay you the current market value of a new car like your totaled one. So, if a new model of your car costs $20,000 today, you would get that amount (again, minus any applicable deductible).

Consult Your Insurance Company

Once you’ve reviewed your policy, it’s time to contact your insurance company. Be sure to look for any stipulations about time limits for filing claims or submitting documentation, like police reports, photos, and medical records. The company will assign a claims adjuster to assess the damage and determine your benefits.

If another driver is to blame, their claims adjuster may try to contact you, but it’s best not to make a statement until you’ve spoken to a lawyer. In many cases, the other driver’s insurance company will try to reduce what they owe and often make lowball offers designed to make valid claims go away fast.

Also, keep meticulous records of all interactions with your insurance company and the other driver’s insurer, including dates, names, and what was discussed.

Seek Professional Legal Help

Suppose your situation is complicated, and you’re unsure of whose insurance should pay for an injury-causing accident. In that case, it might be wise to consult a lawyer with experience in auto accident cases. A personal injury lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of insurance claims, handle the documentation, and advocate for your interests.

Understanding your insurance coverage might seem overwhelming after a car crash. However, familiarizing yourself with your policy lets you avoid insurance surprises so you can proceed confidently through the claims process.

KNR Can Help after a Car Accident

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, contact Kisling, Nestico & Redick. As one of Ohio’s largest and most successful personal injury law firms, we have been helping people through the insurance claim process and securing maximum compensation for over 15 years.

Call 1-800-HURT-NOW for a free, no-risk consultation. We’ll explain the law, the insurance process, and what you can expect.