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How to Prepare for a Motor Vehicle Accident-Forewarned is Forearmed

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

How to be prepared in case you are involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA). As drivers return to the roads this summer and fall and away from mass transit in larger cities due to COVID -19, the incidence of serious MVA is likely to increase.

Now is the time for drivers and passengers to prepare to navigate themselves through what can become quite a financial and emotional ordeal.

Today is a great time to review your insurance coverage. Many clients who come to our firm fail to realize that there are easy, inexpensive and cost-efficient steps to take with their insurance company or insurance broker to better protect themselves in case of an accident.

Four significant must-dos:

1. Consider raising your liability limits so in case you cause injury, your personal assets are better protected. Additional coverage will be more expensive but many insurance companies have provided pandemic reductions in premiums so effectively one can pay the same for additional protection.

2. Increase your SUM coverage. SUM stands for Supplementary Underinsured Coverage and provides a mechanism for you to collect injury money from your carrier in the event you are injured by someone who has no insurance coverage or limited coverage. Minimal insurance coverage can be as low as $25,000 in certain states, including New York. That means that if you have a significant injury you won’t collect more than that $25,000 from the other insurance company. But if your injury is worth more, you can collect additional finds from your carrier under your SUM coverage. Make sure you increase your SUM coverage to the same limit you protect yourself with your liability coverage. For example, if your liability limit protects you up to $100,000 in personal injury compensation to others you may hurt, your SUM should not be only $25,000. We see this all the time and it’s the biggest failure on behalf of brokers and persons who obtain their own insurance. The dirty little secret that the insurance carriers don’t want you to know, including your own, is that for literally pennies more in premium charges you can raise that SUM protection to $100,000, the same as your liability limits. You can’t protect yourself by purchasing more SUM than liability coverage but you should have them equal. This way if you get injured by someone with no insurance, you can collect up to $100,000 from your own insurance company.

3. Pay a few dollars more for additional PIP or NO fault medical expense coverage. If you are injured in a car accident your own insurance company pays your medical bills even if you are not at fault, thus the term “NO FAULT” which describes the system in many states including NY. Increasing that limit will provide you with additional resources to cover hospital, doctor, therapy and medications bills without costing you out of pocket or requiring you to use your own personal health insurance, Medicaid or Medicare. Private Health Insurance and government insurance often have a right to collect against proceeds of your potential personal injury settlement and that will only serve to reduce your net recovery.

4. Use this time in quarantine, remote work, or shelter at home to take an online defensive driving class. Most programs are inexpensive and allow you to complete a multi-hour course on your own schedule. Most insurance companies will give you an automatic reduction in your premiums when you submit proof of course completion. All drivers on a policy should complete the course for maximum savings.

We hope your return to the roads is a safe one. If you or a loved one are involved in any type of accident, please contact us at Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP for a free consultation

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