I hear it all the time and I hate it more and more each time it is uttered. “But I have full coverage.” Friends, there is no such thing as “full coverage.” Unfortunately, in the world of car insurance this is a term that can have multiple meanings to different people. You, the consumer, have something in mind when you use the phrase. Your insurance agent or company hears something different.
A typical scene: I am visiting a severely injured person or the loved one of someone who has recently died in a car accident at their home. We are discussing the tragedy of the collision and the client is upset because medical bills are starting to come in the mail. They are astounded that an air ambulance is billing $43,000 for a trip from Prescott to Phoenix. “It's typical,” I sadly explain. “Will the at-fault driver's insurance pay for all this? I am still out of work and have more medical care, who will pay for that?”
It is at this point that I must break the bad news. In Arizona we have had the same minimum required insurance rates since 1972. $15,000 per person/$30,000 per collision. Many people only purchase the legally required minimum and sometimes they let it lapse so they are uninsured.
There is still hope. There could be higher limits if the adverse driver was able to buy it. And there is uninsured coverage and underinsured coverage. This is the coverage that protects you, the victim, from being hit by an at fault driver without any insurance or without enough insurance to cover the damages or bills.
“Do you have that?” And that is when I hear it: “I have full coverage.” Oh no!
Full coverage can mean that the victims are protected with uninsured or underinsured coverage but it can also mean that they have the minimum requirements: a $15,000/$30,000 liability policy. A liability policy only protects the person you hit. A victim is not protected with his own insurance if it is a liability only policy.
Heed this warning: Do not get left holding the bag. I have seen tragedy up close with many of my clients who have not only lost a loved one but there is not enough money to pay for the funeral or cover the medical bills. I have seen seriously injured people who are forced back to work while injured to avoid bankruptcy because they are trying to pay their medical bills--all because someone hit them. It is not fair and it is not right. Make sure that you have uninsured and underinsured coverage. You may never need it but if you do, you won't regret buying it (and it is surprisingly affordable).
I am a lawyer, a person who helps victims of serious injuries and death, I make no money from insurance sales. However, I have seen the consequences when a client believes he has “full coverage” and gets stuck holding the bag.