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Montana Law FirmspacerTips on Car Insurance [cont'd]

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Assume again that the student that caused Paula's damages did have insurance, but only in the amount required by law: 25/50. Again, that means that the student's insurance would pay a maximum of $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident. That means the most Paul would get from the student's insurance would be $25,000. Clearly, Paula's injuries are far in excess of $25,000. If Paula had Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection, she would be entitled to proceed against her own insurance company for the amount of her injuries, up to the amount of her own UM/UIM policy limits, and after deducting the amount of insurance received from the student.

As further explanation, assume that Paula was insured herself for $300,000/$500,000. That means that in the event of her fault, persons injured by her negligence could recover up to $300,000 per person, with a maximum payout of $500,000 per accident. Of course, liability insurance does not help Paula here; it only protects others. But Paula was smart, and when she purchased her liability policy, she also paid for Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection, which is offered up to the amount of the liability insurance purchased. In this case, Paula purchased $300,000 of Uninsured/Underinsured Insurance. Assuming Paula's total injuries and damages are $500,000, Paula would settle with the student driver for $25,000, and then her own underinsured protection would pay its $300,000 limits. Of course, Paula is still not fully compensated, but her UM/UIM coverage has gone a long way towards making her whole.

It's scary out there . . .

Consider the risks – You are in a vehicle that weighs over two tons and that sometimes travels faster than 60 miles per hour down narrow Montana's narrow winding mountain roads. When travelling down these narrow roads, you are separated from other oncoming vehicles, weighing in over two tons and themselves traveling at speeds in excess of 60 miles an hour, by a mere painted yellow line. If your car veers to the left for only a second, you will be over the line and in the path of the oncoming vehicles. The same goes for them. Maybe they're reading a map, trying to find a radio station on their radio, putting on make–up, searching for the burning cigarette they dropped on the floorboard, disciplining their children –– all at speeds of over 60 miles an hour, and just three feet from you. But now consider that, in addition to all this, they may not have insurance.

Although we are no great lovers of insurance companies, we urge you to buy the insurance to protect yourself, your family, and your passengers. The costs are not so great when compared to the risks. For instance, when we looked at our own automobile insurance policy, we found that in order to insure one car for the lowest limits , it would cost us approximately $100 a year for both cars, the maximum UM/UIM coverage of $1,000,000/$1,000,000. Remember, though, that in order to increase your UM/UIM limits, you will have to correspondingly increase your liability limits.

Get a big car

There is legislation being bandied about in an effort to make SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) pay larger insurance premiums, not because they survive the accidents with fewer injuries, but because they do so much damage to the other vehicle when involved in accidents with smaller cars. That, and they use much more gasoline, and thus cause more environmental impact than smaller cars. This may be true, and while we try to be environmentally conscious, and look forward to the day that we all drive small, electric vehicles, as long as eighteen wheelers and commercial trucks and vans operate on the roads, you are safer in a bigger vehicle. No doubt about it.

Keep a pad and pen in the glove box

In the event of an accident, and you are able to ambulate, write down the information that you will need to provide to your insurance company . . .

Get the police officer's name and MAKE SURE he or she gets the names and addresses of all witnesses. We have, unfortunately, come across cases where the police officer, through laziness or forgetfulness, fails to identify the witnesses to the accident on the accident report – even when the witnesses are still at the scene when he or she arrives! What this means to you is, you now have no witnesses in the event you make a claim or pursue a lawsuit. This happens more frequently than you might believe, so make sure that you get the information. Keep it for yourself, and make sure the police officer gets it, too.

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Waddell & Magan  •  P.O. Box 11330, Bozeman, Montana 59719  •  (406) 585–4145  •  Contact Us

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© 2016 Waddell & Magan. Ms. Magan is licensed in Montana and Texas, and Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law in the State of Texas. Mr. Waddell is licensed in Montana, Texas and Pennsylvania.*