How To Protect Yourself BEFORE A Car Wreck

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Jim Leach, LC – Unhappy Golfing

When you’re in a car wreck, life can change fast.  What you do to protect yourself before a car wreck is just as important as what you do after – the common misconception is that if someone hurts you, the great money tree will sprout from the ground and rain down enough cash to wipe out all your medical bills, right all your wrongs, and transport you directly to a life of cocktails in the Carribean, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When you “only buy the coverage you need,” you’re only protecting yourself from your own mistakes, not from others’. Here’s how it works: you’re carefully driving little Timmy to socially-distant soccer practice, obeying all the rules of the road, mindfully managing your speed & safety.  Behind you is Reckless Robert, whose Instagram story just hit 30 views and who’s checked his phone six times since the start of this paragraph.  You see the traffic light in front of you change from yellow to red.  Robert sees his notification bell turn red.  You stop.  Robert doesn’t.

One neck surgery and hundreds of phone calls later, you’re stuck with a throbbing headache, a mountain of medical bills and a big, fat settlement check in the amount of $0.00.  Turns out, only buying the coverage you needed didn’t get you any underinsured or medpay coverage, and Reckless Robert?  He had a state minimum liability policy of $25,000, and since you opted out of the optional coverage, that’s it.  That’s the only money available.  There’s no money tree, there’s no additional source of recovery, and there’s a horde of collection agencies fighting over that $25,000 like a sea of Black Friday shoppers wrestling for the last $50 flatscreen at Target. Your health insurance company is wanting paid back for that $60,000 surgery, your doctor is wanting $3,000 for that treatment they didn’t bill to your insurance, and your credit card bill hasn’t stopped snowballing since the wreck put you off work. 

Add all this up, subtract it from the $25,000 that’s available, and you’re not left with much beyond a pile of debt and a stress headache the size of Texas, all because you dared to get injured in a car wreck you didn’t cause. 

This situation might sound like a worst-case scenario, but it’s the unfortunate reality that a huge number of injured people find themselves in.  Our job as your advocate is to make the best of your difficult circumstances; we will only take your case if we can put you in a better position, but we can’t fight for you if there’s nothing to fight for.  Never up, never in, you know.  The number one reason we can’t help someone is due to a lack of coverage.  Which is why it’s crucial that you take steps to protect yourself before it’s too late – after a car wreck is not the time to find out you don’t have enough coverage.

According to a 2017 study, roughly 1 out of every 8 drivers on the road is uninsured, and even more than that carry state minimum coverage.  Don’t rely on the people you share the road with to protect you – make sure you carry enough underinsured and medpay coverage to protect yourself.  How much that means is ultimately your decision, but generally, we recommend at least $10,000 of medpay and at least $100,000 of underinsured coverage.

At the end of the day, a car wreck is never a fast track to those Carribean cocktails and nobody actually wants to be Tom Smykowski – a car wreck, especially one that gets to your underinsured coverage, is a traumatic event that no amount of money will ever ‘make right.’ But nobody wants to be the person from the beginning of this post either, and every time you leave your house without sufficient coverage you’re risking that exact situation. The insurance company is going to fight you either way, but if you’ve taken the steps to protect yourself, you’ll at least have a fighting chance to come out the other end with something to show for it.

“Only buy the coverage you need” sounds great until you don’t have the coverage you need. Make sure you’re protecting yourself while you still can.