Idaho Auto Insurance Claims - Are You Covered?
After an injury, one of your first concerns will probably be whether your injuries and property damage are covered by auto insurance. You probably have at least some insurance coverage, because all 50 states have motor vehicle financial responsibility laws that require insurance or require drivers to show they have the financial resources to pay for the damage they cause in an accident.
Unfortunately, having some auto insurance is not the same as having enough, or the right, auto insurance — and some drivers break the law by carrying none at all. This is bad news if you rely on the other driver's insurance policy to cover your injuries.
Before we go on, you should understand how insurance works in Idaho.
There are two types of auto insurance systems in the United States- at-fault and no-fault.
Like most states Idaho is an at-fault or "tort" state. A tort in this setting is a French word that means essentially "negligent injury." This means the other driver is legally responsible for any injuries and financial costs arising from a collision caused by his negligence. The basic idea is personal responsibility. If you make a mistake -- negligently cause a collision -- you are responsible for the damage caused by your mistake.
If you are the injured person, then eventually the other driver's insurance policy is supposed to pay those costs. However, you may have to sue to get payment if the facts or the amounts of damages are in dispute.
If you live in Idaho but your injury occurred in another state then you might learn about the other type of coverage.
Eleven states (including New York and Florida) and Puerto Rico have no-fault auto insurance systems. If your insurance policy is called Personal Injury Protection (PIP), you probably live in a no-fault state. In a no-fault system, your own insurance company pays the costs of your injuries, no matter whose fault it was. In exchange for that security, you cannot file a lawsuit over the accident unless you meet certain qualifications. In some states, your financial costs must be above a certain amount; in others, your injuries must be very serious (as defined by law).
Three other states have "choice no-fault" systems, which means each individual may choose either an at-fault policy or a no-fault (PIP) policy. Those states are New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
Because Idaho operates under the at-fault/personal responsibility system we focus on that here.
All Insurance is Not the Same-Types of Coverage
Insurance coverage and its lingo can be confusing -- collision, medpay, liability, UIM, uninsured, 50/100, 25/50/25, 500 single limits. Many times people come to us and say they have "full coverage" but are not sure what that means.
Think of insurance policies like a pair of painter's pants. There are lots of pockets with a certain amount of money in them and various rules that allow you to use the money in certain pockets to compensate you for your certain losses.
Liability-bodily injury: This pocket provides coverage for injury claims brought against you by people hurt in a collision you caused. In Idaho, drivers are required to have a minimum of $25,000 in liability coverage for 1 person hurt and a minimum of $50,000 for all injuries in a collision. These are the first 2 numbers you see in a policy description like 25/50/25.
Liability- property damage: This pocket provides coverage for property damages to others -- such as another person's car or a fence you run over in a collision you damage -- which you cause or are responsible for. In Idaho, drivers are required to have a minimum of $25,000 in property damage. This is the third number in a policy description.
Medical Payments: This pocket (Med Pay) pays for medical costs incurred by the driver and other passengers in the policy owner's car. It can be as little as $1000, but is frequently much more. This is not mandatory coverage and you have to choose it when buying a policy. This is insurance that protects you, your friends and your family – without regard to fault.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM): This pocket (UM) is available when the negligent driver either has failed to buy insurance or it was a hit and run collision. This is again insurance that protects you, your friends and family. In Idaho insurance companies are required to give you the opportunity to buy this insurance and you must sign a waiver form if you choose not to. Our advice is BUY IT. Check with your company for many of them this covers only bodily injury losses though some companies also include property damage losses.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM): This pocket (UIM) is available when the negligent driver's liability insurance has paid the maximum amount under the coverage he bought. You dip into this pocket when the other driver's insurance is simply not enough to fully compensate you. This is again insurance that protects you, your friends and family.
In Idaho, insurance companies are required to give you the opportunity to buy this insurance and you must sign a waiver form if you choose not to. Our advice is BUY IT. Check with your company for many of them this covers only bodily injury losses though some states also include property damage losses. Be careful though some companies sell PHANTOM UIM COVERAGE. That is they sell you $25,000 in underinsured coverage and take a credit against it for every dollar you recover from the other driver's insurance. Because Idaho drivers are either uninsured or required to have at least $25,000 in coverage the UIM policy never provides you a benefit. As you purchase insurance, make your agent show you how that coverage will work.
Collision Coverage: This pocket is to covers losses to your car when you are involved in a collision. It applies no matter who was at fault. It usually has a deductible which is an amount you must pay before the insurance kicks in.
Comprehensive: This pocket covers most non-collision physical damage to your car like if your car is damaged in a storm, or a windshield breaks. This also has a deductible in most policies.
Those are the basic insurance coverage options.
Many companies also offer additional things like roadside assistance, towing, rental car reimbursement and other limited benefit coverages. We recommend you go through all the possible coverages and choose those that are right for you.