All of us have heard the term "policy limits" when buying auto insurance or homeowners insurance, but most likely never gave it much thought. Simply put policy limits are when your insurance stops paying and you are liable for losses past the policy limits.
Say you have an auto insurance policy with $100 thousand liability insurance per person and $300,000 per accident. This means that if you injure an individual in an auto wreck and are sued successfully for $250 thousand you are on the hook for additional $150 thousand dollars.
The way to gain protection above your policy limits is to purchase an excess liability policy. These policies are often called "umbrella policies."
Buying Umbrella Insurance
Before you go purchasing an umbrella policy you must check on your auto policy and homeowners/renters/condo insurance policy. When you buy an umbrella policy you must have certain minimum liability coverage in those basic policies. Usually for auto insurance it is $100/$300 thousand.
Generally the least amount of coverage you can buy when purchasing an umbrella policy is $1 million, but many folks opt to extend their liability coverage for personal damage and injury to as high as $5 million. They do this because the additional coverage is very affordable.
Things to Do When Purchasing an Umbrella Policy
- Make sure the policy covers the cost of legal defense or negotiations in the event you are sued
- Exposure to slander and liable claims is greater in the age of the Internet, make sure this is a covered risk
- Before you buy get a sample policy and look over all the issues that are covered, even better, get two or three sample policies in order to compare coverage.
- Once you have decided on all the coverage you want get quotes from three insurance companies, you can do this online or through your broker if you have one.
Umbrella policies are not for the rich only. An accident or incident can endanger all your assets, including your home, your savings and if you are a business owner even your business. Coverage expense is very affordable and the peace of mind you have knowing you have protected yourself is well worth the cost.
California law requires all drivers and vehicle owners to carry liability insurance, but it does not require you to have enough liability insurance to truly protect you in the event of a serious accident. The state mandated minimum coverage is just 15/30/5 which means $15,000 for bodily injury to a single individual, $30,000 for all individuals hurt in a single accident and $5,000 to cover any property damage you may have caused.
If you own a home, you probably have California homeowners insurance and a portion of your premium goes for liability coverage. Do you know how much liability coverage you have? Do you know how much liability coverage you need?
California Tort Law Holds You Personally Liable
Any claims beyond the limits of your insurance coverage may result in an attempt to claim the difference by the injured party. To protect yourself from being personally liable, you should carry enough liability insurance.
What is the Right Amount of Liability Insurance?
The right amount of liability insurance you should carry depends largely on your net worth and how averse you are to risk. If you have a million dollar house and other substantial assets, you would probably carry enough liability coverage so those assets are not put at risk in the event that you are found liable for injury or damage to another party.
What Happens if I Get Sued?
If you are involved in an automobile accident and found to be at fault, your insurance will protect you up to the limits of your policy. Your insurance company will also assist you in the event that the damaged party decides to sue you. Legal defense in any type of liability case can be very expensive. Insurance can cover those costs. Even if you are completely innocent, you may still need to hire an attorney and spend thousands in fees just to clear your name. No matter how careful you are, you should always carry adequate liability insurance – just in case.
There is actually a bit of strategy involved when shopping for the best deal for insurance in Texas. All insurance companies are different and they all have different standards when determining rates and which applicants get the best premiums. It is up to the individual to shop around for the best deal possible.
What Type of Insurance are You Looking to Buy?
Many times an insurance agency will sell different lines of insurance. They may offer automobile, homeowners, life, medical and several other types of policies all under one roof. As a consumer, you may find that a particular company has especially low rates on automobile insurance, but higher than average rates on medical insurance. If you are shopping for car insurance, then you are in luck. If you want medical coverage, it would be to your benefit to continue shopping around.
Before you actually set out to buy insurance, you should define your needs and then do a comparison on the exact same coverage between several companies. Unless all the variables are kept the same, you can not truly evaluate which insurance company is offering the best deal on coverage.
Cheapest is Not Always Best
Just because an insurance company might save you $10 or $20 on your premium does not necessarily mean that you should sign up with that insurance company. Other factors such as customer service and the way claims are handled are very important even though they do not have a direct monetary value. You do not want to have an accident, file a claim and then be kept on hold forever. It is definitely worth paying a little extra for great customer service.