Most people who own a car in New Hampshire have their car insured. While we are all given copies of the insurance policy that we purchase, few of us take the time to sit down and read the policy word for word. An automobile insurance policy can vary greatly depending upon the types of coverage you purchase and the amount of coverage you purchase.
An automobile insurance policy has multiple “lines of coverage,” and each line of coverage does a different thing. Collision coverage, for example, protects the vehicle from damage it sustains in an accident. With collision coverage, the insurance carrier will pay to either have the car repaired or, if the cost of the repairs exceeds the value of the vehicle, it will pay for the value of the vehicle. The policy holder must pay a deductible when making a claim under the collision coverage. Depending upon whether the policy holder was at fault in the accident, some or all of the deductible may be returned at a later date.
One of the more important lines of coverage is liability coverage. If the vehicle is involved in an accident and the driver of the insured vehicle is at fault, liability coverage protects that driver of the vehicle in case of a lawsuit. In liability coverage, the insurance company will pay for the property damage and bodily injury sustained by the other party. The insurance carrier will also hire an attorney to represent the driver of the vehicle in case of a lawsuit. It is important to note that the insurance company is only obligated to pay damages up to the “limit of coverage”. For example, if the insurance policy has only $50,000.00 of liability coverage and the injuries and damages exceed $50,000.00, the insurance company is only liable for the first $50,000.00.
Automobile policies may also include medical payments coverage. Medical payments coverage pays for ambulance, doctors and hospital bills for the occupants who are injured in an accident. It is important to note that medical payments coverage may have limits both in the amount of money the insurance carrier will pay for medical bills and also the time that this coverage is available. For example, some policies may state that the medical bills must be incurred within one year of the date of the accident.
Finally, policies may include uninsured motorists coverage. Uninsured motorists coverage protects you if the other vehicle has no liability insurance or insufficient coverage. If the insured vehicle is involved in an accident and another party was at fault, uninsured motorist coverage will pay for the injuries sustained in the accident if the party at fault does not have insurance or their insurance coverage is insufficient to pay for the entire amount of the loss.
Two important things to note about uninsured motorists’ coverage; first, a claim may not be able to be made for uninsured motorists’ coverage unless the insurance company gives permission for the claim to be made. The insurance company will only give permission if it assures itself that the party responsible for the accident either has no insurance or has paid the full amount of insurance that they do have. Second, you must carefully look at the limits of your uninsured motorists’ coverage. If the at-fault driver has $50,000.00 of liability coverage and you have $50,000.00 of uninsured motorists’ coverage, you cannot make a claim because your uninsured motorists policy limits are equal to the other driver’s liability policy limits. However, if you have a $100,000.00 limit on uninsured motorists’ coverage, you can make a claim for up to $50,000.00 in a case where the other driver has only $50,000.00 of liability coverage.
In order to protect yourself, you should read your policy language carefully to ascertain how much coverage you’ve purchased and specifically what coverage you have. If you have any questions concerning your insurance policy or if you’ve been involved in an accident, you should consult with an attorney to find out your rights and obligations.
Andrew J. Piela is a Director at Hamblett & Kerrigan, P.A. Mr. Piela concentrates his practice in civil litigation, family law, probate and land use litigation. You can reach Attorney Piela by e-mail at [email protected].