How Much Car Insurance Do I Need?: A Connecticut Injury Trial Lawyer’s Perspective

As injury trial lawyers, we have represented thousands of individuals who have been severely injured or killed from careless driving. Lives are changed forever. Jobs are lost, lifestyles are destroyed, and medical bills pile up. Unfortunately, it is all too common that the careless individual does not have adequate insurance coverage to pay full and fair value to the injured person.

According to data published by the Connecticut Crash Data Repository, hundreds of people are killed in Connecticut each year from car accidents, and thousands more are injured.

Finding out the person who hit you did not have enough insurance to cover your financial and personal losses adds insult to injury.

Making sure you have adequate insurance coverage for these situations is important. Yet, we often find that people do not understand the importance of adequate insurance until catastrophe strikes. When that happens, we are heartbroken because there is not enough coverage available to ensure you are fully and fairly compensated for your injuries.

How Much Car Insurance Is Required By Law In Connecticut?

Car insurance is designed to protect you and your family when harmed by the careless driving of others. Connecticut law, per C.G.S. § 14-112, requires that all drivers maintain car insurance in an amount sufficient to cover a claim of:

  1. $25,000 in property damage;
  2. $25,000 for bodily injury to another person;
  3. $50,000 for all persons claiming bodily injuries in a single incident.

This means that if a careless driver causes an injury to a person, the car insurance company will be responsible for paying up to $25,000 per person who is injured, up to $50,000 regardless of the number of people injured in the crash, and up to $25,000 to cover property damage such as damage to another vehicle.

Keep in mind these are minimum requirements. The cost of living increases year after year, as does the cost of medical care and motor vehicles. These limits are low. The expense for a single trip in an ambulance and a visit to the emergency department typically cost several thousands of dollars. The $25,000 bodily injury limit is exceeded quickly in the instance of catastrophic injuries.

No one wants to cause an injury to another person. Negligence happens. Ensuring you have adequate insurance to protect yourself and your family is important.

What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

Two of the most important insurance coverages that an injured person should have are what’s known as “Uninsured motorist coverage” and “Under-insured motorist coverage.” Connecticut law mandates that all of us have at least $25,000 of both of these coverages. These coverage amounts can be relatively inexpensive to increase and, importantly, can be the difference between making you and your family whole after a significant car accident.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage in Connecticut refers to situations where the negligent driver does not have any car insurance. It also provides coverage in the instance of a hit-and-run when the other vehicle or driver cannot be located or identified.

Underinsured Motorists Coverage in Connecticut refers to situations when the careless driver has some insurance coverage, but it is not enough to cover your losses. A clear example is when a person has the mandatory minimum insurance of $25,000 and the medical bills of the injured person are $50,000. In that case, the injured person may be able to make a claim against their own auto insurance company for underinsured motorist benefits if they have purchased adequate additional coverage.

Many people feel guilty in making a claim or do not want to make a claim against their own insurance company; but keep in mind, you pay the insurance company every year for these benefits. If you don’t use them when you need them, you are giving the insurance company free money. A way to think about it is “liability insurance protects others, uninsured motorist coverage protects you.”

Connecticut finds uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage so important that insurance companies must offer people coverage that is double the liability insurance limits. For example, if an individual purchases $100,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, the insurance company must offer $200,000 in underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage. While insurance companies must offer these coverages, a person can elect to purchase less coverage so long as that request is made in writing and is not lower than the minimum mandated coverage of $25,000. Electing less coverage and saving a little money may seem like a good idea at the time, but we have seen firsthand how much this coverage is needed when serious injuries occur.

Because insurance companies are permitted to write policies providing underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage in the same amount as the liability insurance limits, that is what we see most often. For example, if someone has purchased $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, many times that same individual has purchased $50,000 in underinsured and uninsured motorist benefits; or if only $25,000 in liability, then also $25,000 in underinsured and uninsured motorist benefits.

Our recommendation is to purchase as much uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage as you can afford. It ensures that you have adequate insurance in the unfortunate event you or your family are involved in a catastrophic collision.

What Is “Conversion Coverage” And Why You Should Consider It

Many people see “conversion coverage” and fail to understand what it is and why it is important to protect yourself. Conversion coverage in Connecticut car insurance policies usually means that a person can add the underinsured motorist limit to the insurance limits of the careless driver.

Without conversion coverage, any insurance payment collected from the careless driver is typically deducted from the underinsured motorist coverage of the injured person. This can be a big problem when the injured person has the same coverage amount as the careless driver, rendering the underinsured motorist’s coverage useless.

For example, assume a careless driver has $100,000 in bodily injury coverage and causes a crash that severely injures a person, leaving the injured person with $250,000 in medical bills. The careless driver’s insurance company pays the full $100,000 of the bodily injury coverage. This leaves unpaid medical bills of $150,000. The injured person purchased $100,000 in underinsured motorist benefits and attempts to make a claim for those benefits. Without “conversion coverage”, no claim can be made from your underinsured motorist coverage as the amounts are equal. A simpler way to visualize this is the payment by the careless driver’s insurance company is subtracted from the underinsured motorist coverage. In this example, there would be $0 remaining for the injured person to pursue. If the injured person had paid for “conversion coverage,” then the full $100,000 underinsured motorist benefits would still be available to pursue. Conversion coverage can be relatively inexpensive to add to a policy.

The peace of mind that purchasing adequate uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits can provide is irreplaceable. No one wants catastrophe to strike, and we certainly don’t want to give the insurance industry more business, but our goal as trial lawyers is to educate and help in some of the worst situations of your life. Knowing the importance of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage can be the difference in ensuring you or your family receives full and fair compensation for injuries you suffered from a careless driver.