Montana law requires all drivers to have auto insurance. The law also requires minimum insurance amounts.  For instance, you are required to carry a minimum of $25,000 liability coverage; $25,000 uninsured motorist coverage (“UM”) and $20,000 property damage coverage.  (Montana Code Annotated § 61-6-103).  These are the bare minimum requirements that Montana drivers must have. But, as we describe below, the minimum coverage won’t fully protect you and your loved ones.

Do I have the right car insurance for myself and my family?

Many drivers have only the minimum insurance required by law ($25,000). Other drivers choose to drive without any insurance.  So, if you get hit and injured by someone without insurance, then you will need to collect under your UM policy of $25,000.  However, if it is anything beyond a minor injury that heals up within a few weeks to months, then you can quickly exhaust the entire $25,000 policy.

For instance, if that minimal UM policy is paying medical bills and you suffer a broken arm, torn rotator cuff (that needs surgery) and whiplash, the ER bills and subsequent CT scans or MRI’s, surgery and physical therapy bills quickly add up (let’s hypothesize $50,000 in medical bills for this crash).  These medical bills easily consume the entire $25,000 policy, leaving you with no more insurance to pay for the bills.  Remember, that guy that hit you?  Well since s/he doesn’t have car insurance you can write off any lawsuit against him/her because there almost certainly are no assets to collect from that person.  How do those minimal UM limits sound now?  Not so good. Right?

This is especially scary if you don’t have health insurance because there is no more money to pay for your medical bills.  This can send you and your family into medical debt to pay for someone else’s negligence.  Doesn’t sound too fair does it?  It’s not, but that’s the problem with minimal limits; they really aren’t enough, especially considering skyrocketing medical costs these days.

What if I have health insurance?  Good question. Even if you have health insurance and it pays for the bills, the health insurance company may have a right to subrogate (collect) against your UM policy leaving you with little left to compensate you or your family for your pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of established course of life or other damages.

These are all complicated issues that Doubek, Pyfer & Storrar handle daily. We know how to navigate the system and the right way to help you.  Give us a call for your free consultation.

How much car insurance do you recommend?

We recognize that the cost of car insurance is not something you want to think about, but sometimes saving that 15% or more isn’t really worth it when you discover that the at-fault party that hit you or your family member was wholly underinsured.  At a very minimum, we recommend purchasing a $50,000 policy, and we very strongly encourage you to purchase a higher value policy–$100,000, $250,000, or more–if you have the financial ability to pay for additional coverage.  Why?  Because a brain injury can be a lifelong injury, and for a couple hundred dollars extra a year, it is worth it to make sure you and your loved ones are protected from those dangerous drivers without insurance and to ensure that you have the coverage you need.  It also protects you in the event that you hit someone so that you can make sure you have enough coverage to cover their damages.

Is there any coverage Montana law does not require that I need?  Yes. In addition to upping your policy limits, we also recommend purchasing underinsured motorist coverage (“UIM”).  UIM coverage covers you if the negligent driver does not have enough insurance and Med Pay to help with medical bills.  Unlike UM coverage, which is required by law, Montana law does not require drivers to purchase UIM coverage.  You might not have it on your insurance policy. Go check your policy – if you don’t have UIM coverage listed on the first page that lists your coverages, you don’t have it.  You should call your agent and add it to the policy.  Why?

How does my UIM coverage work? Let’s look at that scenario above again and apply it to your UIM policy.

You are hit by a negligent driver and you suffer a broken arm and torn rotator cuff and require subsequent surgery.  Assume the at-fault party has the minimum coverage–$25,000.  You have $50,000 in medical bills.  The at-fault driver’s policy will pay up to the policy of $25,000 and then your UIM coverage kicks in.  If you have the minimum policy of $25,000, you will exhaust that entire $25,000 paying medical bills and again have nothing left to compensate you or your family for your pain and suffering, lost wages, loss of established course of life or other damages.  Luckily though, the UIM coverage prevents you from going into medical debt, but this exemplifies why the minimal policy doesn’t do much, even if the other driver has insurance.

How does Med Pay work?

Med Pay is a smaller policy, usually $1,000 to $10,000, that provides “no-fault” coverage in the event you are injured, even if you are the negligent driver.  It is designed specifically to reimburse you for medical bills and expenses related to the accident.  Again, with the above example, your Med Pay would absorb some of those medical bills, but you can also use it if you are the negligent driver and injured.  So, it has a dual benefit.  We also recommend including Med Pay coverage on your policy for these reasons.

These cursory examples demonstrate a complex system at work. There is a lot more at play here legally that is not explained, so this post should not be relied on as legal advice.  Insurance law is not simple and clear cut, and the insurance companies certainly are not going to help you navigate these things.  The attorneys at Doubek, Pyfer & Storrar know how to navigate these insurance claims for your benefit, not for the benefit of the insurance company.

Were you injured in an auto acident recently?  Give us a call for your free consultation, we can recognize right away if you will need legal help to navigate the complicated insurance issues involved with your claim.