Unfortunately, car insurance can't keep you from getting into an accident, but it can help pay the hefty medical bills and repair costs that come from a serious wreck.
How much your policy will pay out depends on the types of car insurance you buy and the limits you choose.
Basic personal auto insurance mandated by most U.S. states provides you some financial protection while operating your car, you cause an accident that damages someone else's car or property, injures someone or both.
But to make the best decisions about other types of auto insurance coverage needed and what amounts, you'll want to understand what's covered, what's not covered and what's optional, as state-required minimums may not cover the costs and complexities of a serious accident.
Does my insurance cover that?
When we consult with people who have been involved in a serious car accident, most do not know what kind of car insurance coverage they have off-hand.
This is not surprising, because car insurance policies are intentionally confusing, broad, vague, ambiguous, and unnecessarily long. Insurance companies rely on the fact that most people will not actually read the policy or fully understand the coverage.
A phrase we often hear from some to describe their policy is that they have "the full coverage", but because of the various types and sizes of coverages and exceptions, that phrase doesn't really mean anything.
Your personal auto policy likely only covers personal driving, whether you're commuting to work, running errands or taking a trip. Your personal auto policy, however, will not provide coverage if you use your car for commercial purposes—for instance, if you deliver pizzas or operate a pet grooming business.
How do I know what insurance coverage I have?
Each type of coverage has a limit — the maximum your policy will pay after an incident. The best and easiest way to get a full view of your coverage is to request that your insurer provide you with your Declarations Page.
Before you're ever involved in a car accident, looking at your Declarations Page will give you a full understanding of the insurance coverage you currently have and help you understand other coverages you might consider adding.
In the unfortunate case of a serious car accident, this Declaration Page - or Dec Page - is one of the first things your lawyer will request to see. Below is an example of what a "Dec Page" might look like.
It's important to know what these insurance coverages actually mean, but the Dec Page will not provide a detailed account of what exceptions exist that might cause coverage to be denied. For that information, you have to read your actual policy for that.
The Dec Page gives you a quick 1-2 page overview of the coverages you have and those you have declined - a summary blueprint of what you already have and what additional insurance coverage you might want to consider.
What insurance coverage won't cover
There are many different types of car insurance coverage available to Arizona drivers, but there are still many situations that car insurance simply won't cover such as:
- General maintenance for your vehicle like oil changes and mechanical repairs
- Personal items that are stolen from your vehicle
- Injuries you cause to others or damage you cause to their property that exceeds your liability coverage limits
- Intentional damage that you caused to your vehicle
- Damage from previous owners if you purchase a used vehicle
- Electrical wear and tear — only electrical damage related to a crash is typically covered
Some situations are only covered by car insurance if you purchase additional or special coverage. If you have state minimum car insurance you likely aren't covered for:
- The cost of a rental car if your vehicle breaks down
- Roadside assistance
- Natural disasters, theft, or falling objects
- Driving your car for a ride-share service like Uber or Lyft
- Damage to modified, after-market, or custom parts you added to your vehicle
- The full value of an antique or classic car
- Frequently using your vehicle for commercial use or business purposes
When it comes to financial responsibility for losses stemming from a car accident: injuries, lost income, vehicle damage, and so on, Arizona follows a traditional "fault"-based system.
This means that the person who was at fault for causing the car accident is also responsible for any resulting harm. Typically, the at-fault driver's insurance carrier will absorb these losses, up to policy limits.
If you've been involved in a serious car accident in Arizona, you need to know your insurance coverage and understand your options. The AZ Injury Law team of Schmidt, Sethi & Akmajian are Arizona car accident lawyers who know what to do and how to help if you or someone you know was seriously injured in a car accident.