Navigating the Auto Insurance Landscape

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Whether you’re insuring a car for the first time, updating your auto insurance to cover a new car, or simply trying to lower your premiums, buying auto insurance can be confusing. In some ways, the task is simpler now than it ever was. Gone are the days of making umpteen phone calls to insurance agents and keeping copious notes. Online quotes and comparison tools can provide a lot of information and save you valuable research time when trying to locate the best auto insurance policy. But figuring out precisely what type of coverage you need-and how much-remains a little mysterious to many drivers.

How does auto insurance protect me?

The first thing you need to know about auto insurance is that it’s required by law in the state of South Carolina and in nearly every other state, too. So the first way it protects you is by keeping you legal on the road.

But the state doesn’t insist you carry every type of coverage. It only mandates two kinds: uninsured motorist and liability insurance. Uninsured motorist coverage protects you if you are in an accident with someone who ignores the law and drives without insurance. Your medical costs and car repair costs are reimbursed under the uninsured motorist provision of your policy. It also protects you in the case of a hit-and-run accident.

If you are determined to be at fault in an auto accident, liability insurance will pay for any medical costs and property damage incurred by the other party or parties to your accident. It may also protect you from financial obligation if you are sued for other damages, such as lost wages or wrongful death. But it’s important to recognize that liability insurance also protects everyone on the road with you.

What other types of coverage should I buy?

Cars get damaged in all kinds of ways. Sometimes they’re outright stolen. They can also fall victim to vandalism and tumbling tree limbs. Comprehensive coverage is designed to protect you from a wide range of unforeseen circumstances. Here in South Carolina, for example, severe weather-from hurricanes to flood damage-can be ruinous to automobiles. Comprehensive coverage protects your car from natural disasters, too.

We don’t need to tell you that cars aren’t cheap. Even a used car that has racked up plenty of miles can cost set you back a few thousand. If you own a new car, the amount you stand to lose in an accident is even more substantial. Collision insurance, while considerably more expensive than other types of coverage, can be a wise investment, particularly if you’d be hard-pressed to repair or replace your car in the event of severe damage. If you are leasing a car or taking out a loan to purchase it, your creditor will require you to carry collision coverage until you’ve paid off your lease or loan.

One type of coverage that’s often overlooked by drivers is underinsurance. The state of South Carolina sets minimum limits for uninsured motorist coverage. But these minimum limits may be insufficient to cover your losses in a serious accident. By purchasing underinsurance you effectively raise your coverage to a safer level, even if you’re involved in an accident with someone who carries the minimum amount of coverage. Underinsurance is one of the most affordable options you can add to your policy. Carrying it is a pretty smart move.

How do I select my coverage limits?

Sad to say, but as a personal injury attorney, I have witnessed the financial devastation that can result from being underinsured. In an age when jury awards for the most serious accidents can reach into the millions of dollars, it makes sense to buy as much insurance as you can afford. If you are sued and the jury reaches a verdict beyond your auto insurance coverage limits, your personal assets may be seized to satisfy the verdict. By all means, select coverage limits in excess of the value of your home. Even higher coverage limits make sense for high-net-worth individuals. When selecting coverage limits, you might ask yourself, “How much do I stand to lose?”

How should I pick an auto insurance carrier?

You might be tempted to select a carrier on the basis of price alone. But there are a few other factors to consider. Look for carriers that have demonstrated financial strength. You can get a sense of how reliable a company is by checking its ratings online with such financial organizations as Moody’s or Standard & Poors.

Your carrier’s customer service prowess is equally important. From filing claims to rental car arrangements, your relationship with your insurance carrier involves a wide range of transactions. You want to be treated fairly, respectfully, and promptly every time you contact your insurer.  J.D. Power has thoroughly researched how insurance carriers compare in terms of customer satisfaction. You may want to investigate their findings before purchasing a policy.

How can I save money on auto insurance?

One simple way to bring your auto insurance premiums down is to select higher policy deductibles. But higher deductibles cut both ways. You may pay less annually for a high-deductible plan, but that savings can be erased if you have to file multiple claims in one year. That’s because you’ll pay a deductible on every claim your insurance company settles for you.

But there’s another way to lower your premiums. Instead of choosing an insurance carrier based on the first quotes they provide, dig a little deeper. It’s the auto insurance industry’s business to assess to risk.  In turn, carriers offer quite a range of discounts based on what their research indicates are risk-mitigating qualities in their customers. The most obvious, of course, is the safe driver discount. But you might be surprised. You could earn a discount if you’re in the military. You may be rewarded with lower premiums if you have a high credit score. Certain features on your car, like anti-lock brakes or an anti-theft device, can also bring your rates down. Insuring more than one car with the same company or bundling your home and auto insurance are other paths to saving.

One final thought.

Whenever you’re involved in an accident, it’s important to speak with an attorney. What you say when you report your accident to your insurer can have an impact on what you’re able to recover. And an attorney will advocate for you throughout the claims process to make sure you receive the best possible return on your insurance investment.

If you have questions about an accident and not only their insurance but yours, please call for a free 20-minute strategy session.

Frank Hartman will fight for fair and reasonable compensation for your injuries.

To get started, call Frank 24/7 at 843.300.7600. Or, you can contact him online, or email him at The sooner you get Frank on your case, the sooner you’ll get your settlement and start on the road to recovery


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