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Auto Insurance: "Full Coverage" Does Not Mean You Are Protected

One of the first things we obtain following a car crash is a copy of our client's automobile insurance policy. People frequently tell us that they have "full coverage" despite not having critical protections for their family. The misconception begins with Ohio law and insurance agents.

Ohio law

In Ohio, a person has enough coverage to be legal with a liability limit of $25,000. Liability limits apply to other people that could be injured as a result of your own mistakes. Most insurance companies believe that people are likely to become customers if they have the cheapest legal insurance available. As a result they do not aggressively sell coverages that are necessary but not required under Ohio law. 

Uninsured and underinsured drivers

The number of uninsured drivers on our roads is high. Some estimates are as high as one in every four drivers is without insurance. Part of the problem, is that the BMV does not require proof of automobile insurance when drivers renew their tags or when drivers renew their license. The BMV simply requires an affidavit signed by the driver stating that insurance exists, but does not ask to see proof of insurance.

True meaning of full coverage

A high uninsured (UM) and underinsured (UIM) insurance policy is necessary to protect your family and you. People who carry liability insurance but no UM / UIM coverage are betting on the fact that all other drivers will have the same courtesy and have automobile liability insurance. We know that the number of uninsured drivers is high, so UM coverage is necessary.

A high UM / UIM policy will also protect you in the event a person with only $25,000 worth of coverage hurts you. In serious injury cases, lost wages and medical expenses often exceed $100,000. A $25,000 liability policy will go entirely to a treatment provider if you do not have UM / UIM coverage. UM / UIM coverage will start after the underlying at-fault party's policy is exhausted but cannot be "stacked" or added to the at-fault driver's policy. We recommend checking the declarations page of your automobile policy and have at least $250,000 of UM / UIM coverage.

Exclusions

Be aware of a number of exclusions in your automobile policy. One of the most heart-breaking exclusions is the intra-family exclusion that is found in most automobile policies. The intra-family exclusion prevents a family member from getting insurance money when another family member was driving the vehicle and at-fault for the crash. Even lost wages and medical bills will not be covered by the automobile policy.

In 2013, Ohio prohibited the intra-family exclusion in wrongful death cases under ORC 3937.46. Unfortunately, the prohibition does not include serious injury cases.

Please check the declarations page of your automobile policy today and call your insurance agent to get pricing for full coverage that will protect your family in the event of a serious injury or death. 

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