Thursday, December 17, 2009

Getting Proper Coverage If You Drive A Company Car

Here's the scenario: You drive a company car. You were told by someone in your company that the car has "full coverage." Months or years later, you are seriously injured in a crash by an uninsured motorist. You miss months or years or work, or worse yet can't return to your job because of your injuries.

You come to learn that your "full coverage" on the company car work did not include uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage because your company declined the coverage(perfectly legal in Ohio and other states).

If you were injured on the job, workers compensation laws MIGHT cover your bills and a portion of your lost wages. But what about compensation for the rest of your wages, and your permanent injuries? Worse yet, what if you weren't on the job?

How can you protect yourself in this situation? More than anything else, you need to have high levels of uninsured/underinsured motorists (UM/UIM) coverage--more than the standard $100,000 limits most people have (I explain why in my "How To Buy Car Insurance" book). This coverage protects YOU if you're injured by a driver with little or no liability insurance.

Armed with the knowledge in the book, there are basically two things you can do to find out whether your employer has purchased enough UM/UIM coverage to protect you. First, ask your HR department or someone in charge of insurance matters: "Is there UM/UIM coverage on my car and what is the amount of coverage?" Ask to see a copy of the "Declarations Sheet" for your car. But what if you are not comfortable asking this for fear of "making waves?" There is still something you can do.

Ask your auto agent about purchasing "Drive Other Car" coverage. This coverage basically covers you for other autos that you drive that you do not own. You may ask: "Why doesn't MY auto insurance cover me when I drive another car?"

Welcome to the world of fine print "exclusions" in your policy. Buried in your policy is probably a "non-covered auto" exclusion. It basically says that your auto policy does not cover you when you drive another vehicle you do not own when it is made "available for your regular use."

Here's the beauty of asking your agent about purchasing "drive other car" coverage. He or she will be able to find out from your employer whether your company car has UM/UIM coverage as a means of determining whether you even need to purchase this coverage.

The absolute WORST thing you can do is drive a car that has little to no UM/UIM coverage. In over twenty years of representing auto accident victims, I have seen, in broken record fashion, a repeating scenario: clients seriously injured by drivers with very little or no insurance. And if you do not have high levels of UM/UIM coverage, guess who is left holding the huge bag of bills and unreimbursed lost wages (not to mention nothing to show for your permanent injuries)?

That would be you--which makes you twice the victim.

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