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Personal Injury Protection (PIP)

Written by Todd Clay. Posted in Definitions Last Updated: 10/24/2010

What is PIP coverage, how it works in no-fault states, and how it’s different from medical payments coverage.

Motorcycle and Ambulance

Looks like this motorcycle's owner may need PIP Coverage.

Personal injury protection, or PIP, is an integral part of any auto liability policy section. It covers the medical costs of treating injuries sustained in an auto accident up to a certain stated limit.

In certain cases it can also provide coverage for court awards such as pain and suffering as well as an accidental death benefit.

In a traditional tort auto insurance state in which the insurance policy for the party found at-fault pays for the other party or parties in an accident, the term is often used synonymously with bodily injury. Personal injury protection is typically expressed as a limit for both injuries to a single person and for injuries to any group of people in a single accident.

On a policy declarations page which lists liability as a “split limit,” these limits are the first two numbers.

PIP In a No-Fault State

Personal Injury Protection is more closely associated with auto insurance liability in no-fault insurance states. Since auto liability insurance in no-fault states pays for damages to you, your passengers and your car regardless of fault, the coverage stands in for medical payments coverage found in traditional tort states.

In certain cases it can also provide coverage to others if you’re found at-fault in an accident. PIP coverage in no-fault states is often capped at $50,000.

PIP vs. Medical Payments

Both Personal Injury Protection and medical payments coverage provide insurance protection above and beyond any medical insurance coverage you have. Generally speaking higher PIP or medical payments coverage limits are recommended for motorcycle insurance policies than for auto policies.

The reason: motorcyclists are much more likely to be injured in accidents than other motorists.

As with medical payments, PIP coverage can be lowered or even eliminated if you have excellent health insurance, although few insurance professionals would recommend eliminating the coverage entirely. Both coverages comprise a relatively small portion of your overall auto insurance premium, therefore dropping either medical payments in a traditional tort state or PIP in a no-fault state will not realize significant cost savings for you.

Bodily Injury

Written by Todd Clay. Posted in Definitions Last Updated: 10/18/2010

What bodily injury insurance covers, what are the limits of the coverage, and how an umbrella policy helps even more.

injured man after car wreck

This guy may need bodily injury coverage after his wreck.

Unfortunately, auto accidents hurt people – bodily injury is sad fact of the roads.

While insurance can repair, replace and otherwise indemnify (pay back) inanimate objects like cars and trailers in the event of a claim, the unfortunate truth is auto accidents hurt people as well. Indeed, there is probably no more important aspect of auto insurance than the concept of bodily injury coverage.

What Bodily Injury Coverage Does

Similar to related coverages such as medical payments, bodily injury auto liability coverage covers medical expenses incurred by individuals who are injured in an auto accident. The key difference between bodily injury coverage and medical payments is that bodily injury coverage is designed to cover a driver and passengers in an accident who are not found at fault.

Bodily injury coverage is in addition to any health insurance coverage one may have. In addition like other auto liability insurance coverages it doesn’t have a deductible. This property can be useful in claim situation when used in conjunction with health insurance, which often does have a deductible.

Bodily injury coverage is also closely related to personal injury coverage. Indeed the two are often mentioned by insurance agents in the same breath. The main difference is bodily injury coverage is designed to cover actual medical costs, while personal injury coverage often applies to court awards for such things as “pain and suffering” as a result of an auto accident.

Knowing the Limits of Bodily Injury

If your declarations page states your auto insurance liability limits in a standard split limit setup, bodily injury coverage is defined by the first two numbers. As an example, if you carry minimal auto insurance liability coverage of 25/50/15, you have $25,000 in bodily injury coverage for any one person and $50,000 for any group of people in a single claim.

Given how hospital costs can rack up quickly, these limits can easily be maxed out if someone is seriously injured. Many insurance agents recommend carrying bodily injury limits of at least 50/100, or $50,000 in coverage for one person and $100,000 for a group in any claim.

An Umbrella Policy Covers Even More

Many large insurers, so-called “multi-line” companies that sell both home and auto insurance, offer umbrella policies that can be tied in to their auto insurance policies. In essence an umbrella policy is a secondary, catch-all liability policy that kicks in once the limits of its underlying policy are exhausted in a claim.

An umbrella policy, typically offered in units of $1 million, is a relatively inexpensive way to dramatically increase your effective liability limits. It not only works for auto insurance but for other insurance products such as homeowner’s as well. Umbrella policies typically require you to carry certain underlying limits on their auto policies.

Consult your insurance agent for more information.

Emergency Road Service

Written by Todd Clay. Posted in Definitions Last Updated: 06/11/2013

What emergency road service is, how it works, should you just use your auto club’s service, and questions to ask before signing up.

man with phone and broken car

Looks like he needs some emergency road serice.

Once upon the time emergency road service, aka ‘emergency roadside service’ was the exclusive domain of auto clubs such as the American Automobile Association (AAA).

Today these services are increasingly offered by auto insurance companies as well. To further blur the lines, AAA and other auto clubs have entered the auto insurance field in many states.

How Emergency Road Service Works

Auto insurance traditionally considers regular automobile maintenance to be an exclusion (a situation that is specifically not covered by the policy). While this remains the case with nearly every auto policy, many companies now offer emergency roadside assistance.

Emergency roadside assistance is covered in much the same way as towing. Depending on the company and whoever is actually providing the service, the claim is either paid directly to the roadside assistance service, or more typically to the policyholder as a reimbursement once the claim is made.

Emergency roadside assistance is paid on a per occurrence basis and capped at a modest amount, typically $100, depending on the company. This limit is generally not available in other amounts. You either have emergency roadside assistance or you don’t. Claims usually require little more than a copy of the receipt provided to the insurance company.

Auto Club or Insurance Coverage?

Like other secondary auto insurance coverages, emergency roadside assistance is often quite inexpensive. It’s also very useful. However, it’s by no means necessary in all instances.

Obviously, if you’re already a member of an auto club that provides emergency roadside assistance, there’s no need to have it on your insurance too. Depending on your area, auto clubs may offer a better emergency roadside assistance program anyway. If you’re looking at the coverage, checkout the auto club first.

What Exactly does Emergency Road Service Cover?

Also check to see exactly what is covered by your insurance company’s emergency roadside assistance. These are all good questions to ask of both the insurance company and the auto club:

  • Will they provide gas if you run out?
  • Will they tow your car if necessary, or is the towing coverage separate?
  • What if you break down in a rural area, or out of state?

It stands to reason that older cars are more likely to break down on the road than newer cars. If you have a newer car, you may want to take that into consideration. Also, if you’re handy with vehicles on your own, you may be your own best emergency roadside assistance.

Consider all these factors before signing up for emergency roadside assistance with your insurance company.

What is an Auto Deductible?

Written by Todd Clay. Posted in Definitions Last Updated: 10/12/2010

What is a car insurance deductible, different levels, making changes, and why the comprehensive deductible is different.

Man's hands holding cash.

How much will you pay out on your next accident?

Insurance is not only a business of statistics – it’s a business of terminology as well. Learning insurance jargon is a big part of  insurance education.

One of the most important of these terms is “deductible.” Especially in auto insurance, it comes up again and again. Every insurance agent needs to know it inside and out. That’s a good idea for everyone else as well.

What is a Deductible?

In simplest terms, a deductible is predetermined amount that you agree to pay on any claim before the insurance company kicks in. Deductibles feature prominently in just about all property and casualty insurance lines, including homeowners, commercial and inland marine policies in addition to auto insurance.

Different deductibles often apply to different insurance coverages, even within the same policy. For example a typical full coverage auto insurance policy may feature a $500 collision deductible and a $100 comprehensive deductible at the same time.

Deductibles in Auto Insurance Policies

Usually deductibles in auto insurance policies apply to the full coverage lines, namely collision and comprehensive. While exact offerings vary from company to company, auto insurance deductibles are generally available in $0, $100, $250, $500 and $1,000 levels.

Higher deductibles are occasionally found in commercial auto policies, but for personal auto policies the $1,000 deductible is usually the highest available. The $1,000 deductible is also usually the upper limit allowed by auto loan creditors, or “lienholders.” Lienholders contractually require full coverage insurance until the car is paid off.

As it implies, a $0 deductible means the insurance company pays for everything on a full coverage claim. (Unless they find an exclusion in the policy). The true full coverage option is also the most expensive. Because of this the $0 deductible is not very common.

Making Change to Deductibles

Remember, the higher the deductible the lower the premium. In order to maximize cost savings many people choose the highest deductible available. This is usually $1,000. While this is fine if you’re comfortable with paying up to $1,000 for each and every claim, it can cause gaps in coverage.

For example, if you receive a repair bill for $750 on an otherwise covered event, because you have a $1,000 deductible there’s effectively no coverage. When choosing deductibles to lower your premiums, choose the highest one you’re comfortable with then go no higher.

Deductibles can be changed at any time and for any reason. There’s no need to wait for policy renewal. All you have to do is contact your company and request it. Don’t worry about putting them off; they do this sort of thing all the time.

Just remember that any changes made can’t be undone when you have an accident. If you changed your collision deductible from $100 to $1,000 yesterday and had a minor $750 accident today, it’s too late to change your mind. You can get the $100 back for tomorrow, but you’re stuck with the $1,000 deductible today.

The Comprehensive Deductible

Comprehensive deductibles are usually available in the same levels as collision deductibles, but many people choose lower comprehensive deductibles. Comprehensive claims are typically much smaller than their collision counterparts. They also often don’t count towards future premium ratings.

You could theoretically file a comprehensive claim every day and never see your auto insurance rates go up (We don’t recommend actually doing that – it’s likely to generate unwanted attention).

In addition many companies offer a different deductible scheme for auto glass claims, which are by far the most common comprehensive insurance claim. Auto glass deductibles of $0 are often quite reasonable, and sometimes even included in the policy. Make sure you know what’s available for auto glass coverage when considering your comprehensive deductible.

Medical Payments

Written by Todd Clay. Posted in Definitions Last Updated: 10/08/2010

Med pay in no-fault states, how it works, and the critical need for getting medical payments coverage on your motorcycle policy

fire truck, ambulance, vehicle upside down

Somebody may need 'med pay' after this accident.

Medical payments, aka “med pay”, coverage is one of the least understood yet potentially most important secondary coverage on any auto insurance policy.

In order to maximize its use, one needs to not only know what it does, but what it doesn’t do and even when you don’t need it.

The No-Fault Question on Med Pay

Many people believe if they’re in an accident that their liability coverage will cover them and their passengers if they’re injured. This is only partially true.

If you live in a “no fault” auto insurance state this is indeed the case. No fault liability auto insurance by definition pays for your car and your interests only. Because of this, there is no need for separate medical payments coverage in no fault states. If you live in one of these states, you can skip the rest of this article.

However, most people live in a “traditional tort” auto insurance state, or a state where auto liability insurance only pays for injuries and damages to others if you’re found at fault. If you or your passengers are injured, there is no coverage under your traditional tort liability auto insurance policy. This can pose a significant problem for both you and your friends if you’re in an accident.

Never fear, however. Insurance agents in traditional tort states offer an optional coverage designed to “keep your friends your friends.” Hence, medical payments coverage is widely available as an option.

How Medical Payments Coverage Works

Similar to auto liability, medical payments coverage is offered as a limit rather than a deductible. While exact options range from company to company, these limits range from a modest $1,000 to a more robust $10,000 or more.

Medical payments coverage is often quite inexpensive. Many agents often include it in their quotes whether you ask for it or not. They do that not because they’re trying to gouge you (they actually don’t make that much on it to begin with), but rather because they think it’s that important.

Remember medical payments coverage covers both you and any passengers. It also covers you above and beyond any medical insurance you may have. If you have excellent, low deductible medical insurance, you may want to consider a low medical payments limit or dropping it entirely. If not, you definitely want the medical payments coverage.

Medical Payments and Motorcycles

To state the obvious, motorcycle drivers and riders are much more exposed to the elements than their contemporaries in cars and pickups. Logic follows they’re therefore considerably more likely to sustain personal injury in an accident.

As a result, when considering bike insurance one should also consider the highest medical payments limits available. It’s definitely more important on a motorcycle policy than an auto policy.

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