The situation involves you being rear ended from behind while waiting for a red light. You are upset, injured and end up going to the emergency room. You need treatment, and your outlook will take months if not longer to recover. The accident is not your fault, and you want your bills and damages paid for. Then, one of our experienced attorneys here at Parnell, Michels & McKay tells you your insurance will help pay some of your damages. At first blush, this response can be confusing, but it is also very correct. Your insurance is there for a reason, and will protect you when the driver that hurt you does not have insurance, or has low insurance limits. The two most common types of benefits in your automobile insurance policy that allow for this are called medical payments and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
First, medical payment coverage is a no fault portion of your policy that covers medical bills incurred as a result of an auto collision. These benefits do not have to be paid back in New Hampshire policies, even if you obtain a settlement later on from the responsible driver. More importantly, you cannot be surcharged (i.e. have your insurance rates increase) for using these benefits as long as the accident was not your fault. Medical Payment coverage is a great way to get your out of pocket medical bills covered in the first instance so you are not paying anything out of pocket. Using these benefits will not result in your insurance going up, and can help you avoid getting behind on bills due to medical bills from an unfortunate accident.
Second, all policies in New Hampshire have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. As you may know, auto insurance is not mandatory in New Hampshire. This means any driver could cause an accident and hurt you, and they would not have any insurance. In most instances, these folks also cannot afford to pay your damages out of pocket. In situations where the other driver has no insurance, your insurance steps in and covers your damages. This is called uninsured motorist coverage, and is important especially in a state like New Hampshire where auto insurance is not mandatory. This can help you get relief and payment of your damages even though the other driver was uninsured. You can also make a claim if the other driver has limits that are low and do not cover your damages. For instance, the minimum liability policy in New Hampshire is $25,000 per person. Thus, if you get severely injured and have over $25,000 in medical bills, then the $25,000 coverage will not be enough. In these situations, underinsured motorist coverage can step in and help make sure your damages are paid for. For example, in a situation where you have $50,000 in medical bills, but the driver that hit you only has $25,000 in coverage, and you have $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage, this allows you to recover the $25,000 from the responsible driver’s insurance, and then an additional up to $100,000 to cover your damages. While in most instances the responsible driver’s policy offsets the underinsurance coverage, it still provides a key benefit to those that are injured. In most situations like the above, the injured person would recover $25,000 from the responsible driver, and then $75,000 from their own insurance for a total of $100,000.
It is important to remember that you paid the insurance company to provide these benefits. By utilizing these policies to protect yourself, you are simply using the policy for what it was intended for, and you cannot be penalized for it if you were not at fault.