If you have been in an auto accident that has injured either you or another, it helps to have a basic understanding of some of the common insurance protections that may apply to address injury claims.
Bodily Injury Liability: This coverage protects to you against another’s claims for injuries from your fault. This coverage is commonly purchased and provided in specific limits that are either set to apply to each injured person from an accident, with a total sum applicable to each accident occurrence where several persons may have been injured, or set as a single, combined limit applicable to any one accident occurrence that has injured one or more persons. In Arizona, the mandatory, minimum bodily injury liability insurance limits to be carried on a common motor vehicle are $15,000 for injury to one person in any one accident, and $30,000 for injury to two or more persons from any one accident.
Bodily injury liability insurance coverage commonly provides other protections beyond these limits for injury damages. The most important among these is a liability insurer’s agreement to pay the costs of investigating and providing a legal defense for you against another’s injury claims.
Medical Payments: This coverage protects you, and generally other occupants of your vehicle, with payment for medical expenses incurred because of bodily injury from an auto accident. This coverage is ordinarily available to help insured persons regardless of who was at fault for an accident. Some auto policies extend these coverage benefits to insureds who may be hurt by a motor vehicle while being pedestrians or bicyclists. This coverage is purchased and provided in specific dollar limits for the total amount of medical expenses that will be paid to each insured person from any one accident. This coverage normally limits covered medical expenses to those incurred within a specific time period after an accident.
Uninsured Motorist: This coverage protects you, and other specified persons insured by the policy, for bodily injury damages from an accident caused by the operation of a motor vehicle that has no liability insurance, or from a hit-and-run accident where the responsible vehicle’s insurance cannot be determined. This coverage is portable; that means it protects an insured virtually wherever he or she may be at (even if not in the auto with such coverage) when injured by an uninsured vehicle’s operation.
This coverage is commonly purchased and provided in specific limits that are either set to apply to each injured insured in any one accident, with a total sum applicable to each accident occurrence where there may have been injuries to multiple insureds, or in a single, combined limit applicable to any one accident occurrence that has injured one or more insured persons. In Arizona, every insurer writing auto liability policies must offer to an insured in writing at the time of an auto policy’s initial purchase uninsured motorist coverage in limits not less than the bodily injury liability limits contained in the policy that is being purchased. If this written offer is not made, uninsured motorist coverage will be imputed to the purchased auto policy.
Underinsured Motorist: This coverage protects you and other specified insureds for bodily injury damages from an accident caused by an automobile operator who has liability insurance, but the limits of that insurance are less than an insured person’s total bodily injury damages. Underinsured motorist coverage pays the difference between your total bodily injury damages and the responsible driver’s liability limits available to address your injury claims. This coverage is separate from uninsured motorist coverage, but like that coverage, underinsured motorist coverage is also portable. This coverage can protect an insured virtually wherever he or she may be at (even if not in the auto having such coverage) when injured by an operator of a motor vehicle that does not have enough liability insurance available to fully compensate for the total bodily injury damages that an insured person has suffered.
Under Arizona law, every insurer writing automobile liability policies must make a written offer of underinsured motorist coverage to an insured in limits not less than the policy’s bodily injury liability limits, when an auto policy is initially purchased. If no such offer is made, then underinsured motorist coverage will be imputed to the purchased policy.
We hope that this basic outline of potentially available insurance protections will be helpful should you have an unfortunate auto accident experience. It should be expected that each auto insurer, and their respective insurance policies will contain their own, unique terms and provisions in respect to each of these kinds of coverages, including identification of who is an insured for each coverage, what the limits of and exclusions from each coverage may be, and what conditions an insured must comply with in order to have such coverage. If you have been in an accident, and have any questions involving application and availability of insurance protections, one of our firm’s lawyers would welcome your call.
Dan A. Wilson