Need-to-Know Information About Your Auto Insurance Policy

Josh M. Blane, Esq.
Photo of a car accident

Imagine: you’re driving through an intersection—as you do every day—and suddenly another vehicle in an oncoming lane turns in front of you, causing your car to veer off and collide with a traffic signal. Once your vehicle comes to a stop you scan the scene but the at-fault driver is nowhere in sight. In many “no-fault” states (NY and NJ included) if an event like this results in injuries, your own auto insurer will be responsible for paying your medical expenses for treatment up to your policy limit—regardless of who was at fault. But, if you have a permanent injury, lost wages or require additional treatment beyond what your insurance will cover, you may be out of luck. This is where your own auto insurance—or lack thereof—can hurt you if you are unprepared.

In the above scenario, where there is no at-fault driver to file a claim against, you may find yourself pitted against your own auto insurer. Auto insurance companies offer their customers coverage against uninsured motorists and underinsured motorists—drivers who, although they have insurance, may have minimal policies, sometimes as low as $15,000 in New Jersey ($25,000 in New York) that are inadequate to compensate you if you were to suffer a serious injury. In these situations, your own policy is the one that will have to reimburse you for lost wages, excess medical expenses and pain and suffering. That’s why it is so important to be aware of your auto insurance policy provisions and limits. Consider using the help of an attorney or reading up about your insurance company and policy prior to committing. There are many online resources available.

Insurance companies are notorious for trying to avoid paying uninsured or underinsured motorist claims made by their customers. Your own insurance company may try to say that you were at fault for an accident or they may try to minimize the extent of your injuries by claiming they aren’t as severe you claim or that they are pre-existing. Making matters worse, accident victims may have given statements to their own insurance companies regarding the accident—thinking they were on the same team—that can later be used to avoid paying a claim under the insured’s uninsured or underinsured motorist policy.

Whether or not a driver remains at the scene, obtaining legal assistance is a critical step in ensuring your rights as an accident victim are fully secured and that your ability to recover compensation for your injuries are not compromised. The best time to obtain legal representation is before speaking with any insurance company representatives, so that an attorney who has the knowledge and experience to properly navigate the process of making a claim may speak on your behalf and make sure that your rights are protected.

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