Understanding Your Car Insurance Coverage

car insurance

When you buy auto insurance, you probably won’t be provided any explanation from the auto insurance company other than a thick pamphlet full of legalese and tiny font. Although it is important that you understand it, so you know what sort of coverage protections you should be given if you’re ever in a car accident, there’s no guarantee that it will be easy, even if you commit yourself to studying the policy front to back.

At The Law Office of Joshua W. Branch, LLC in Athens, Georgia, we believe it’s only right for everyone to get a fair chance to understand the auto insurance policy that they purchase and pay for each month. We hope that by providing a review of basic at-fault auto insurance concepts, you’ll feel more confident about what to do, just in case you one day find yourself in a car accident.

Basics of Car Insurance

Car insurance is a contract between a vehicle owner and an insurance company, wherein the insurer agrees to cover financial losses resulting from accidents, theft, or other incidents in exchange for the payment of premiums. The primary purpose of car insurance is to provide financial protection against physical damage or bodily injury resulting from traffic collisions and against liability that could also arise from incidents in a vehicle.

Three of the most important and basic terms about auto insurance are:

  • Premium: The amount you pay to the insurance company, typically on a monthly or annual basis, for your coverage.
  • Deductible: The portion of a claim that you, the policyholder, must pay out-of-pocket before the insurance company covers the remaining costs.
  • Coverage limit: The maximum amount your insurance company will pay for a covered loss under your policy.

At-Fault Insurance Policies

At-fault auto insurance systems require the driver who caused the accident to be financially responsible for the damages and injuries resulting from the collision. The idea behind this is that the at-fault party purchases insurance so as to protect his/her assets if she/he were to cause a collision, especially one with injuries. This system necessitates the determination of fault to allocate liability, and the at-fault driver's insurance typically covers medical expenses, property damage, and other related costs for the victims including pain and suffering. In contrast, no-fault insurance systems state that each driver's own insurance company covers their medical bills and other accident-related expenses, regardless of who caused the accident, unless severe injuries have been suffered by another party.

Different Types of Coverage in At-Fault Policies

An average at-fault auto insurance policy includes various types of coverage designed to protect drivers from different risks and liabilities associated with car accidents. Understanding these coverages is necessary to know that you're adequately protected.

Different types of coverage that can be found in an average at-fault auto insurance policy are:

  • Liability: Bodily injury liability covers medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and legal fees if you are at fault and cause injuries to others. Property damage liability pays for damage you cause to another person's property, typically their vehicle.
  • Collision: Collision coverage pays for repairs or replacement of your own vehicle after a collision, regardless of who is at fault. It can be applicable in accidents involving another vehicle or a stationary object like a tree or guardrail.
  • Comprehensive: Different from collision coverage, comprehensive coverage applies to non-collision-related incidents, such as theft, vandalism, natural disasters, hitting an animal, and certain “acts of God.”
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: Often shortened to UM/UIM insurance, uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance protects you if you're involved in an accident with a driver who has insufficient or no insurance. When the at-fault driver lacks adequate coverage to pay for your injuries or damages, this insurance may let you file a first-party claim (against your own auto insurance provider) for coverage. We cannot stress the importance of maintaining as much UM/UIM insurance coverage as you can afford. We continually see cases with serious injuries wherein the client doesn’t have adequate insurance coverage to pursue. Often clients wonder why we can’t pursue the at-fault party’s assets directly, and the truth is, we can; however, seldom if ever does the at-fault party have assets that exceed their liability insurance so THE ONLY WAY TO PROTECT YOURSELF IS TO HAVE AS MUCH UM/UIM INSURANCE COVERAGE AS YOU CAN AFFORD. (make sure you get ‘add-on’ coverage and not reduced by)
  • Medical payments: Medical payments insurance covers medical bills for you and your passengers, regardless of who is at fault, providing immediate financial relief for medical expenses after an accident. Not all insurance carriers offer this form of insurance in a standard at-fault policy.

How Do You File a Claim?

Filing an auto insurance claim after a car accident should be done carefully so you need to contact The Law Office of Joshua W. Branch, LLC if you have been seriously injured after a car accident that wasn’t your fault to ensure that things are handled appropriately from the very outset of the incident. By doing this from the start, you can avoid missteps and delays that you might have made on your own due to a lack of legal knowledge and experience.

When filing a claim, you will likely need to provide:

  • Your insurance policy number
  • Details about the accident (date, time, location, etc.)
  • Contact and insurance information of the other driver(s)
  • Police report number and reporting officer’s name (if available)
  • Photos of the accident scene and vehicle damages (if available)
  • Medical records if there were injuries

The basic claims process involves notifying your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident, which you can ask an attorney to handle for you. An insurance adjuster will then be assigned to your case to investigate the incident, which includes reviewing the provided information, assessing vehicle damage, and determining fault. The adjuster will communicate with you or your attorney throughout the process to reach a settlement, which may involve covering repair costs, medical expenses, and other related damages, depending on your coverage and the specifics of the accident.

If a settlement cannot be reached, the case may need to move to legal action with the help of your car accident lawyer. This process has many more steps, like gathering further evidence of liability, negotiating with insurance company attorneys representing the other driver, and possibly going to trial.

Disputes & Denials

Common reasons for auto insurance claim denials are:

  • Policy lapses: The insurance policy was not active at the time of the accident due to non-payment or expiration.
  • Coverage exclusions: The specific incident is not covered under the terms of your insurance policy.
  • Insufficient evidence: Lack of adequate documentation or evidence to support the claim makes it unviable.
  • Fraudulent claims: The insurance company suspects that the claim is fraudulent or exaggerated.

If your auto insurance claim is denied, the first step is to carefully review the denial letter to understand the specific reason provided by the insurance company. You should gather all relevant documentation and evidence to address any discrepancies or omissions noted in the denial before contacting a car accident attorney for counsel and guidance. An attorney can help you understand your policy's details, negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, and, if necessary, represent you in legal proceedings that follow a denial.

Tips for Reviewing & Adjusting Your Coverage

You should regularly review your auto insurance policy, at least once a year, to check that your coverage is adequate and that you are not overpaying for it. Whenever you experience significant changes in your day-to-day circumstances, such as a change in income, purchasing a new vehicle, or allowing a new person to drive your vehicle, you should also conduct a complete review of your auto insurance policy. By periodically assessing your coverage, you can adjust your policy to better fit your current situation, potentially save money, and stay protected against potential financial risks.

Need Help After a Crash? Call Now

If you've been involved in a car accident in Georgia and sustained serious injuries from a car crash that wasn’t your fault, don't hesitate to contact The Law Office of Joshua W. Branch, LLC, headquartered in Athens. Our experienced team focuses on car accident cases involving serious or life-changing injuries, and we have a long history of remarkable case results that show what we’re capable of achieving for clients in need. Let us handle all communications and negotiations with the insurance companies on your behalf, so you can focus on your recovery.

Get more information about our legal counsel now. Dial (706) 760-9220 or fill out an online contact form to begin.

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