In 1993, Connecticut lawmakers abandoned a twenty-year unsuccessful experiment with no-fault insurance, enacting sweeping reforms in the laws governing automobile insurance designed to provide cost savings to consumers while at the same time preserving the valued rights of injury victims to be fairly compensated when injured through the fault of a drunk, reckless or simply negligent driver. Because of this law, everyone who has automobile insurance has the opportunity to make important decisions when selecting insurance coverage limits and, in particular, the coverage that protects you and your family from devastating injuries and losses caused by an uninsured driver or a driver who has inadequate insurance coverage.
Contact us for a free initial consultation to discuss your car insurance dispute with an experienced lawyer.
The mandatory coverages affected by the Auto Insurance Reform Act of 1993 are 1) no-fault, 2) bodily injury (“BI”), and 3) uninsured/underinsured motorist (“UM”) coverage.
1. No-fault coverage was abolished. Under prior law, minimum mandatory no-fault coverage of $5,000 per accident meant that auto accident-related medical bills and lost wages (a weekly benefit not exceeding $200/wk) were paid by the auto insurer. Under the current law, such accident-related expenses will be paid for in the same manner as expenses of any other illness or injury, primarily through major medical insurance, unless the automobile insurance includes medical payments coverage. In that case, the automobile insurance company will be responsible for the payment of your medical bills up to the level of the medical payments coverage purchased.
2. Bodily Injury (“BI”) or liability coverage minimum requirement will remain at the low level of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident no matter how many people are injured in a one-car accident. BI coverage serves two purposes: First, it protects your personal assets up to the stated amount from claims made by someone who you injure. Second, and closely related to the first reason, it provides you with limited funds to pay the claim of the person who you injure.
BI coverage can be purchased in various amounts as either split limits (per person/per car accident) or combined single limits (one limit for one victim or all victims plus property damage) depending on the insurance company. The limits commonly available in Connecticut range from a minimum of $20,000/$40,000 to common increments of higher limits such as $100,000/$300,000; $250,000/$500,000; $300,000 single limit and $500,000 single limit. Additional bodily injury coverage should be and is frequently purchased as umbrella coverage in increments of $1 million. Anyone who owns their own home or condominium should have umbrella coverage. BI coverage provides an injured person compensation for various elements of damages including but not limited to past and future medical bills, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, permanent disability, scarring and disfigurement and pain, and suffering.
3. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage is the most important coverage you can buy because it protects you and your family from damages caused by someone else in the event the at-fault party has no insurance or not enough insurance to pay your damages.
Your goal should be to maximize car accident protection for your family and yourself. No matter how many vehicles you insure, you will have options to increase your personal protection. If your current coverage includes umbrella protection, there are special steps that you can take so that you are protecting your family almost as much as you are protecting the stranger who you might accidentally injure. Each one of the options recommended will add some additional cost to your insurance, but it is the most important coverage obtainable and should be considered money well spent.
1. DO NOT REDUCE COVERAGE.
Never sign any election which reduces your UM coverage below your liability limits. If you have previously reduced this coverage, contact your agent or insurance company and revoke that election.
2. DOUBLE YOUR UM COVERAGE.
Double your UM coverage regardless of the number of vehicles you insure. Doubling your UM insurance coverage creates added protection.
3. INCREASE YOUR BODILY INJURY/LIABILITY LIMITS.
Under the current law, personal protection against an uninsured motorist is limited to two times your BI limits. If your BI limits are low ($20,00/$40,000), the most UM protection you can purchase will provide family protection of $40,000/$80,000. If you now have $250,000/$500,000 in BI coverage and a $1 million umbrella and you want to protect your family like you protect strangers, increase your BI limits at least to $500,000 single limit, which is generally available, and request or shop for higher BI limits ($750,000 or $1 million). These higher limits can be doubled under #2 above.
4. ELECT CONVERSION COVERAGE.
This special option gives you and your family the right to recover the full amount of the UM coverage elected but not exceeding actual damages, regardless of the amount paid by the at-fault party or any other payment made to the injured person after the car accident. Under a new law that went into effect on January 1, 2010 dealing with this form of special Connecticut automobile accident insurance, insurance companies must make the offer of UIM conversion coverage conspicuously using an informed consent format. Without conversion coverage, our attorneys in Stamford stress that there is no guarantee that you or your family can enjoy the benefit of your money spent on UM coverage because your own insurance company will get a credit for other payments.
For example, if your child has damages of $750,000, the at-fault party has $100,000 in insurance and you have doubled your $300,000 BI limits for a total of $600,000 in UM coverage, you can get the following results:
1. With Conversion Coverage – $700,000 recovery
2. Without Conversion Coverage – $600,000 recovery
Assume your child has damages of $200,000 and you have $100,000/ $300,000 UM coverage, if the at-fault party has $100,000 in coverage, you can get the following results:
1. With Conversion Coverage – $200,000
2. Without Conversion Coverage – $100,000
If you have a minimum coverage of $20,000/$40,000, your child has $50,000 in damages and the at-fault party has $20,000/$40,000 in coverage, you can get the following results:
1. With Conversion Coverage – $40,000
2. Without Conversion Coverage – $20,000
3. With Double Coverage + Conversion -$50,000. With item 2 in this example, you get no benefit from the coverage paid for. You get the maximum protection with Double Coverage + Conversion.
If you would like to find out if your insurance will be sufficient to cover the expenses from your car accident, contact the personal injury attorneys of Casper & de Toledo, located in Stamford, Connecticut.
For the Connecticut Insurance Department’s Ranking of automobile insurance companies by consumer complaint ratio go to: http://www.ct.gov/