Automobile Insurance: Protecting Yourself if Hurt in an Accident
By Mike End
You may have heard that there will be a new law that will go into effect November 1 that will significantly change Wisconsin’s automobile insurance laws. The Wisconsin Association for Justice fought against the changes in the new law because it fails to protect consumers and fails to recognize the reasonable expectations of someone who buys insurance. It is important to understand the changes and how they will affect your insurance coverage.
You buy insurance to protect your assets – home, vehicle and investments. For automobile insurance, the most valuable things people need to protect are themselves and their passengers – family and friends. An accident may mean serious injury or death – resulting in extensive hospitalization and rehabilitation, loss of income, and disability. Your main goal is to protect yourself and your family with the best coverage you can afford.
Given the changes in the new law, how can you protect yourself and your family?
First, meet with your insurance agent. This should be done once you get a renewal notice. Review in person with your insurance agent all changes in your circumstances and ask if the policy is changing. Make sure you understand the different policy coverages you can purchase: liability, property, uninsured (UM), underinsured (UIM), medical payments, collision, comprehensive, etc.
Second, make specific requests for coverage to the agent. Tell the agent your specific needs for insurance coverage: how much coverage you want to purchase for liability, UM/UIM, medical payments coverage, etc. Right now it is critically important to tell your agent that you want the exact same coverage that you presently have, without any changes to it. The reason is that current law protects purchasers of insurance in ways that the new law may no longer do.
At or immediately after the meeting, make sure you get the agent’s agreement in writing to insure you and your family at the levels selected.
If your agent or insurance company tells you they can’t provide the same level of coverage you currently have, particularly for UM or UIM coverages, you can ask for endorsements that will reinstate the coverages and benefits you presently have. Again, document this in writing.
If your agent or insurance company are not willing to give you these endorsements or will charge a substantially higher premium for the exact same coverage you have now, then look for another insurance company who will provide the coverage you need to protect yourself and your family.
If consumers take these steps, insurance agents have a duty to fulfill the insureds’ requests and secure the coverage. Agents who fail to secure the requested and agreed-upon coverage may be liable to whomever does not receive the coverage that was requested.
The costs of purchasing insurance are miniscule when compared to going uncompensated because of an accident that was no fault of your own. Make sure you have the coverage you need that gives you peace of mind if you ever have the misfortune to be in a serious car accident.
Mike End is the President of the Wisconsin Association for Justice, the state's largest statewide voluntary bar organization. The Wisconsin Association for Justice stands with consumers to promote a fair and effective justice system for every citizen, not just the privileged and wealthy.