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Posted on 11-15-2015

Automobile Insurance Explained By a Baltimore Chiropractor

As a Baltimore Chiropractor that continues to spend the majority of my time treating Baltimore auto accident patients with headaches, neck pain and back pain, I often get asked to explain various aspects of an automobile insurance policy to an injured patient when they walk in the door to my office. While it is true that I am not an auto insurance salesman, nor am I an attorney giving legal advice, it is important for consumers to understand what they are and are not buying when they purchase automobile insurance in Maryland. If you have questions about any of the coverages after reading this blog post please contact your auto insurance representative. If you do not have one and would like me to refer you to some knowledgeable professionals, please let me know. In no particular order here are the coverages that you are typically offered for a Maryland automobile insurance policy:

1) Bodily Injury. This is the amount of liability that the insurance company provides you in cases of an at fault accident. State minimum level in Maryland is $30k/$60k. That means that if someone injures you while you are in another vehicle or are a passenger in this vehicle, the driver of the at fault vehicle will be insured by their insurance company for UP TO $30k/person injured not to exceed $60k per accident. If there were 2 injured clients they could each attempt to recover up to $30k apiece. For drivers that have significant assets: businesses, homes, cars, etc, it usually makes sense to purchase more than the legal minimal amount of insurance. Most people carry amounts of $100k/$300k, and still some carry more. Generally speaking, it is not that much more money to carry significantly more liability insurance. When calculating how much you need, don't just look at the price of the premium. Look at how many assets you would like to protect in the unfortunate circumstance that someone gets injured by you in your motor vehicle.

2) Property Damage. This is how much money an insurance company will pay on your behalf to fix whatever you broke. Typically it is another vehicles car or bumper, but in some instances, it can be homes, barns, light posts, etc. I believe the state minimum for property damage (PD) is $10k, but most insurance sales people recommend more than that "just in case."

3) Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. Mayland state law dictates that all drivers must purchase this coverage. It exists to help an injured driver get access to money in the instances where a) the at-fault driver is uninsured and does not carry any insurance or b) has liability insurance, but not in an amount that is enough for you to fully recover from your injuries and pain and suffering. While uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages are separate entities, they tend to be grouped into the same field on your auto insurance policy. Maryland requires that drivers purchase at least the state minimum $30/$60k UM/UIM Policy. However, what most people do not know is that you can purchase an amount up to and matching what you purchased for liability coverage. Let's look at an example:

I carry 100/300k liability coverage to protect me from a loss if I injure someone when I am driving. I have to by law carry 30/60k UM/UIM coverage in addition in case I get injured and the person that injures me doesn't have insurance or if they do but it isn't enough to help me recover. Maryland mandates that you carry AT LEAST the minimum policy, but you can extend it to an amount that equals, but does not exceed, your liability coverage. In this instance, I should elect to pay for UM/UIM coverage in an amount of 100/300. So the underlying advantage of buying higher limits of liability is that it affords you the option to buy more UM/UIM.

4) Personal Injury Protection (PIP): I have spoken about this in a few past blog posts. This is money used to pay for all reasonable, customary, and usual expenses arising from injury in a Maryland automobile accident, regardless of fault. So whether you were driving a car that caused a crash or were a victim of the crash, or were a pedestrian or bicyclist, you could recover from the PIP coverage component of an automobile insurance policy. PIP is written in amounts that vary from $2,500 to $10,000 and is mandatory to be offered to anyone purchasing automobile insurance in Maryland. It can be waived at the time of the underwriting of the insurance policy. PIP can also be used by an injured client to recover for lost wages while they are incapacitated after a motor vehicle collision. It is really an invaluable source of money for the injured client. The other nice thing is it is really cheap. Most people purchase about 2,500 of PIP and spend about 50-70/year for the option to use it. I purchases 10,000 PIP for my automobile policy and it only cost me $101 for the year. The coverage costs pennies but is well worth it.

4b) MedPay. This is in addition to PIP and is only available on a few auto insurance policies in Maryland. Similar to PIP MedPay will pay medical providers, chiropractors, physical therapists, and hospitals for care rendered as a result of your collision. There is no wage loss component however. Some policies will allow you to purchase both PIP and MedPay. Many people decline this coverage if they have health insurance. But keep in mind, health insurance can decline to cover you for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle collision and if they do not, you are responsible for a copay on each visit. MedPay does not require a copay and does not need to be repaid at the termination of your treatment.

5) Comprehensive. This is the amount of money your car is insured for (up to the value of the vehicle) for instances OUTSIDE OF COLLISIONS where the vehicle was damaged. This includes, but is not limited to, acts of god, striking animals while driving, theft, arson, and being stolen. Every auto policy has comprehensive on it and it can be expensive since most cars get damaged a lot when any of the above events occur. As a pro tip, you can reduce your expense for the comprehensive component of the automobile policy if you raise your deductible (deductible is how much money you have to pay out of pocket before the insurance will pick up the tab).

6) Collision. This is to pay for damage to your vehicle in instances where your car actually collides (hence the name) with another surface - be it another car, or a wall, or a tree. As with comprehensive, it comes with a deductible that you would have to pay before the insurance company would pick up the tab.

7) There are a slew of other optional coverages that you can purchase for your automobile. These usually include reimbursement for towing a vehicle, rental car reimbursement, trip interruption, and emergency transportation. These are not mandatory but may well be worth the cost.

As I said above, this was by no means meant to be an exhaustive compendium of all auto insurance coverages in Maryland, but rather an overview just to get the conversation started. I understand that auto insurance is not a "sexy" topic, but one that drivers need to better understand so that they can better protect themselves in cases of an accident.

I would recommend that you contact your auto insurance salesperson if you have specific questions about what your current policy covers or does not cover, as I am not legally allowed to give you advice on what to purchase or what you are or are not currently covered for.

If you have been injured as a result of a motor vehicle collision in Baltimore and require treatment, please consider Mid-Atlantic Spinal Rehab & Chiropractic for all of your auto accident injury treatment needs. You can call us at (443) 842-5500 to schedule an appointment.

Dr. Gulitz

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