2. Determine if You Have Medical Payments or “Med-Pay” Benefits
We believe the least understood part of automobile insurance is the so-called “med-pay” coverage. Med-pay is different that liability coverage, which protects you from being sued by someone who claims their injuries were the result of your negligence. Med-pay is also different than collision coverage, which provides for direct repair or replacement of your car after an accident. It is essential you understand how med-pay is different and how it can work for you.
Medical payments (“med-pay”) coverage is a type of health insurance which must be offered by all automobile insurance companies throughout the stat of Virginia under Virginia Code § 38.2-2201. The only way this coverage would not be included in your policy is if you specifically declined the coverage in writing. This med-pay coverage is extremely advantageous to you and it is important that you read your policy and make sure you have not declined it.
Med-pay coverage pays the medical bills for you (the person who purchased that insurance policy), as well as any passenger in your car. Med-pay coverage pays these medical bills regardless of who was at fault in the accident! Stated another way, even if the accident was your fault (for example, you were dialing your cell phone at the time of the accident), med-pay coverage which you paid a premium for and should collect regardless of your fault in causing an accident. This is no different from submitting your medical bills to your health insurance provider after you have seen your medical professional for treatment.
The amount of medical bills covered is determined by your insurance policy’s limit as stated in the declarations sheet of your policy. We encourage all of our clients to purchase the maximum amount of medical benefits coverage offered and which they can afford.
It is important to read your insurance policy carefully; as you may be able to obtain multiple medical payment coverage’s (for example, if you insure more than one car.) If you are the passenger in a vehicle and sustain injuries, you may be able to make a claim under the medical payment coverage of both your policy and the policy of the driver.
It is very important to understand that lawyers may not charge a contingency fee to assist people in obtaining med-pay coverage. Be very careful in reviewing any agreement with an attorney to ensure that your rights to collect medical payments without a contingency fee are protected.
3. Understand What Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Benefits Really Mean
Let’s face it, there are lots of irresponsible drivers out there. Many clients are struck by or severely injured in accidents with drivers who have little or no insurance whatsoever. If the driver of the other car has no insurance and your injuries are severe, the question becomes, “Is it possible to obtain a settlement for my serious injuries?”
The defendant driver may be considered an “uninsured motor vehicle” for a number of reasons. First, he may not have purchased any insurance whatsoever (which is against the law unless he subscribes to Virginia’s program that allows for the deposit of a bond or money in lieu of insurance). Second, his insurance company may have rejected his coverage for any reason whatsoever, including his failure to cooperate with his insurance company. And, third the driver of the other vehicle left the scene and cannot be found or is unknown.
To protect yourself from these types of drivers, you should obtain uninsured motorist insurance coverage. This coverage obligates the insurance company to pay you all sums you are legally entitled to recover (as damages) from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle. In other words, by paying your premium for uninsured motorist insurance coverage, you protect yourself for your own injuries which have been caused by the negligence of an uninsured motorist.
An important concept for you to understand is the so-called “aggregate” limit for an insurance policy. In accidents where more that one person is injured, insurance companies frequently limit the amount of money they have to pay to any individual person. And, they may also limit the total amount they would have to pay for any one accident. Once these limits have been reached, the policy is exhausted.
An “underinsured motor vehicle” is one driven by a driver whose total insurance policy does not provide enough coverage to pay bodily injuries and property damage afforded by any person injured as a result of the accident. In other words, if the driver who hit you was negligent and had only very little insurance coverage, but you were smart enough to purchase uninsured motorist coverage, your policy will protect you for your injuries over and above the amount of the negligent driver’s insurance.