Three years ago, William Johnson lost a bet to his four college friends, so he was assigned to be designated driver one Friday evening. He had always been a good driver—i.e., had a squeaky clean record and always carried auto insurance with personal injury protection. They were going to celebrate the birthday of one of his mates who chose a trendy pub situated along Main Street in Agawam, MA, a city with a population of around 28,000 that sits on the western side of the Connecticut River across from Springfield, MA.
After a good night out, the group piled into Johnson’s minivan, which they jokingly referred to as a “soccer mom’s ride.” When they reached a section of River Road, a black sedan that was speeding swerved and crashed into them head-on. Johnson and the front seat passenger sustained the worst injuries, which included whiplash, blunt abdominal trauma, and a dislocated shoulder.
William carried an auto insurance policy that included personal injury protection, which paid some of his medical bills. However, there was one problem. His insurance company paid him $8,000, but this was not enough to cover his mounting hospital bills.
Massachusetts is a no-fault state, meaning personal injury protection applies to anyone regardless of who is at fault. Hence, it removes the delay of determining who’s to blame for an accident, which spells readily accessible financial support.
Meanwhile, the driver of the black sedan had no insurance and claimed to have no assets or means to pay for the damages.
While the state law mandates that all drivers should carry automobile insurance, surveys have suggested that up to 13 percent of motorists were uninsured in 2017, a trend some experts believe to rise in the next coming years.
Looking back, Johnson said he could have purchased uninsured/underinsured motorist protection. After all, this would be a relatively inexpensive add-on considering the amount of protection it could have offered.
While Johnson and all his passengers fully recovered from the accident, the harrowing experience made him realize that escalating medical bills could spell financial disaster to anyone. Three years after the accident, Johnson said his car insurance now has uninsured/underinsured motorist protection and liability insurance coverage that is above the state’s minimum liability coverage requirement.
“While I’ve always considered myself to be a disciplined driver, I realized that it still makes sense to go above the state’s minimum liability coverage requirement. Should I cause an accident, at least I would not be forced to shell out huge sums of money? Now, I can’t imagine driving without comprehensive coverage.“
He also mentioned that he would not want to commit the same grave mistake as the driver who crashed into his vehicle. “I don’t want anyone to experience the dire financial burden we did a few years ago because the at-fault driver in Agawam MA had no auto insurance,” he added.
While there is no strict definition of full coverage auto insurance, most experts agree that it should be comprehensive enough to include medical payment coverage, emergency road service, gap insurance, rental reimbursement, and uninsured/underinsured motorist protection.
It’s a commonly accepted rule that you may drop full coverage except for liability and other critical protection if you drive an older, less expensive car. Nonetheless, this is not a hard and fast rule, especially if you can’t afford to replace your vehicle, you lack liquid assets (no emergency funds and savings), or you still owe money on your car.