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Are you covered? – Article by Paul Chant

January 27, 2021

I have been representing people injured in accidents for over 30 years.  The single biggest category are motor vehicle accidents, cars, trucks and motorcycles.   Every year, sometimes more than once a year, I encounter this situation.  Good people, with assets, have failed to protect themselves when they have caused an accident or when they have been injured by another driver.

So, how do you protect yourself?  The answer is to carry appropriate, reasonable levels of coverage.  On TV these days, companies advertise that they are the cheapest, and that you “only get the coverage you need.”   You follow up to their corporate website that presents low cost, low coverage policies.  You never speak with a human being about what coverage you need to protect yourself if:  1.  You cause an accident and injure one or more parties; or 2.  Someone causes an accident in which you sustain injuries.

First, you need to know that New Hampshire does not require mandatory automobile insurance for all drivers, and almost 10% of New Hampshire drivers carry no coverage.    Many people also carry pitiful, small levels of coverage.  The minimum limits of purchase you can purchase in New Hampshire for auto or motorcycle insurance, pursuant to R.S.A. 259:61 is “at least $25,000 on account of injury or death of any one person, and . . . at least $50,000 on account of any one accident resulting in injury to or death of more than one person . . . These statutory minimum limits have remained unchanged by the Legislature for 40 years!

Think for a moment of your health insurance premiums over the last 40 years.  Those costs have exploded.  Similarly, medical costs following auto accidents have grown substantially over the years. Think of your income over the last 40 years.  Hopefully, it, too grew substantially.  Yet, in many cases people carry the same limits they carried 10, 20, even 30 years ago.  Why?  Because no one told them to change their limits to protect themselves.

The two most common scenarios I see are the following:  First, we get calls from people who have received letters from their insurer following an accident they have caused telling them that they may have insufficient limits to cover a claim against them.  Those people fear for their houses and other assets.  We have even advised bankruptcy in these cases before.

The second scenario is the person or couple or family injured in an accident.  The driver carries low limits, and they do to.  In this case, there is no path for any reasonable financial recovery no matter how extensive the injuries, medical bills, or lost income. There is nothing we can do for these folks.  I represented a large family in an accident years ago in which 5 or more family members were injured.  They carried low limits.  The recovery was nominal.  I have had numerous death cases where $100,000 or less existed in total available coverage.  That is not enough for death or serious injury.

So, how do you protect yourself? The answer is simple.  Buy more coverage.  A local agent I spoke to told me that his office requires a waiver for any individual who insists on buying coverage of less than $250,000 per person, and $500,000 per accident.  The reason:  People need at least that much coverage to protect their assets in the events they hurt others, and at least that much to protect themselves if someone else injures them.

I have looked at the difference in costs for increased coverage. The difference between $50,000 per person/ $100,000 per accident coverage and $250,000/$500,000 coverage is often as little as $100 to $150 per year if you have a relatively clean driving record.  Isn’t protecting yourself worth that additional cost?  Finally, an easy way to cover the cost of increased liability and uninsured motorist coverage is to simply increase your deductible for your collision and/or comprehensive coverage.  Increasing your deductible from$250 per claim to $500 per claim might alone cover the cost of increased liability insurance. Be smart.  Buy enough coverage.

Stay safe and be well.

Paul W. Chant, Esq.
[email protected]
603-356-5439