This column was originally published in The Odessa File.
It’s not easy to convince people to invest more money in their car insurance.
I often meet people, and represent clients, who are underinsured, and when I advise them to budget more money for car insurance, I am sure that some wonder, “Why does he want the insurance companies to make more money?”
I represent injured people; I’m not a salesman for insurance companies. I don’t want you to give an extra penny to the insurance companies that you don’t have to, but the reality is, most people are underinsured — and being underinsured can be financially devastating. You need to have enough insurance to adequately protect yourself and your family.
But how do you decide what is enough insurance coverage? That’s the tough question, and the answer depends upon your unique circumstances: your income, your assets, the number of dependents, your health insurance coverage, and so on.
Because there are so many factors at play, my best advice is to consult an experienced, LOCAL insurance agent. Do NOT buy your insurance online or on the phone. Take the time to sit down face-to-face with an agent who can ask you the relevant questions and who can answer your questions. There are many excellent insurance agents in our area, so ask around and see who your friends and neighbors recommend. You are looking for an agent who will take the time to get to know you and your needs.
I know that the last thing anyone wants to do is spend a lot of time shopping for insurance, and it’s very tempting to just buy the cheapest insurance you can find online but the reality is that, no matter what, you are going to be spending a lot of money insuring your vehicle and home, so it’s important that you spend your money wisely to make sure you get the coverage you need. Take the time to do this important job of buying insurance correctly.
And as an absolute baseline for all New Yorkers, I recommend that you have at least $250,000 in Liability and Supplemental Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage. When a single helicopter flight to the hospital can cost $38,000 (I kid you not!) and a single day in the ICU more than $20,000, anything less in coverage is simply not enough.
Although I appreciate that my $250,000 recommendation is more than the $25,000 New York minimum, I would point out that this minimum coverage has not been increased in over 30 years while medical costs have skyrocketed. I think it’s ridiculous and financially foolhardy that state legislators in Albany have not increased the minimum limits, but regardless, you have the power to do the smart thing by buying enough coverage to protect you and your family. Better safe than sorry.
So get out your current policy and review your SUM and Liability limits. If you have a question about your car insurance policy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will provide a free evaluation.
Be well and drive safely,
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”