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“ONLY PAY FOR WHAT YOU NEED!”: What does that even mean within the context of purchasing auto insurance?

If you, like me, are in the habit of watching television on a fairly regular basis, no doubt you have been bombarded with commercials for automobile insurance. One of those carriers seems to have fallen into a particularly successful ad campaign that always concludes with the catch phrase “Only pay for what you need.”  The clear implication here being that if you are a customer of one of their competitors, you are paying for some insurance benefits that you don’t “need,” and wasting your hard-earned money.

So, if we dig into what it means to “Only Pay for What You Need”, it seems that the word “need” is important and yet ambiguous. Are they saying that you should only pay for the minimum amount of auto insurance required by the laws in your particular state? In Pennsylvania, that would mean you would “need” to purchase only $15,000 in liability coverage, and $5,000 in medical benefits for your own medical bills, and $5,000 in property damage coverage. Surely, purchasing only the minimum amount of insurance required by law will save you money, but does it really provide all the coverage you “need” to adequately protect you, your family, your assets, and your passengers in case you have an accident for which you are faulted? Unless you somehow know the future, and it’s accident-free, it’s hard to imagine that any insurance professional would recommend the legal minimum as providing all the coverage that you “need.”

So, how do we know which auto insurance we need, or how much coverage we “need”? The truth is that don’t know and can’t know what coverages we need because that would require us to know what’s going to happen in the future. The very nature of insurance is to protect us from what might happen in the future, which is, of course, unknowable. So, unless this particular insurance carrier has developed a method of looking into the future to assess what people’s insurance needs will be, this tag line of “only pay for what you need” is really just so much meaningless gibberish.

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A recent case that illustrates the importance of having adequate insurance coverage involved a client who was travelling home after finishing work. He found himself on the freeway approaching his exit when a drunk driver came out of nowhere, driving against traffic, and hit him head on at a high rate of speed. As a result of this accident he sustained several serious injuries, some of which required surgical repair, and he was unable to work for an extended period of time. As it turned out, the offending driver only had $15,000 in liability coverage, the minimum amount of liability coverage required in Pennsylvania. Because our client planned ahead, in case this type of situation would occur, he had $300,000 of underinsured motorist coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage pays you when the at fault driver doesn’t have enough coverage to fully compensate you for your injuries and losses (remember, they are only required to have a minimum of  $15,000 to cover your injuries and losses under Pennsylvania law). We collected all $300,000 in UIM coverage in addition to the coverage from the other driver, who was intoxicated at the time of the accident. This case clearly demonstrates that although we have no idea how much insurance coverage we may “need” in the future, it’s best to protect yourself as best you can. You never know how much uninsured/underinsured insurance coverage you’ll need because you don’t know how much liability coverage the person who drives recklessly and puts you in the hospital will have. So, purchase enough uninsured/underinsured motorist’s coverage so that you and your family are protected if a reckless driver hits you! As they say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The personal injury attorneys here at May Herr & Grosh LLP recommend that all drivers registered in Pennsylvania purchase at least $50,000 in liability coverage and at least $50,000 in underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage on your automobile insurance policy. This will protect you in case you are injured by an uninsured driver, or a driver with insufficient coverage to pay the full value of an injury claim you may have. We also recommend that all drivers registered in Pennsylvania choose the “full tort” option, as this preserves your right to pursue an injury claim if you are injured in an automobile accident caused by another person. 

This blog is being published for educational purposes only as well as to provide general information and a basic understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By entering this site you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. This site should never be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

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