If you drive a car in Rhode Island, the law requires you to carry certain minimum coverages in your car insurance policy. Making sense of your car insurance can be a tricky task, and if you are like many drivers, you may be uncertain what your policy entails or how it protects you. Learning the basics about car insurance in Rhode Island can help you make informed decisions about the policy you choose to make sure you and your loved ones are well protected in case of a car accident.
Contrary to popular belief, your own car insurance policy does not necessarily protect you directly for the injuries you may suffer if you are injured in a crash. Instead, its primary purpose is to protect you from financial liability for injuries suffered by other people if you are found to be at fault for causing a crash. This is why basic car insurance is referred to as liability coverage.
Rhode Island law requires all drivers to purchase car insurance at certain minimum levels, including liability protection of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. This means that the most basic car insurance policy must pay up to $25,000 on your behalf to each person who is injured in a crash for which you are at fault, up to a per-crash maximum of $50,000. The same minimum coverage is required for damage to other people's property, such as cars, buildings and personal belongings.
In a serious car accident with injuries, those policy limits can be exceeded very quickly, leaving you on the hook for additional damages in excess of that amount. Purchasing additional liability coverage, for instance by increasing the limit to $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident, will increase the extent to which you are protected from having to pay for other people's injuries - but it does nothing to make sure your own injuries will be paid for if you are hurt in a crash.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage
Just as purchasing the minimum coverage required by law can leave you vulnerable to personal liability for other people's damages, there is a corresponding risk that your own injuries may not be covered if you are in a crash with someone who has only the bare minimum coverage - or worse, with someone who is not insured at all.
If you are injured by another driver and your damages exceed the limits of his or her insurance coverage, you can attempt to recover payment from that driver directly. However, there is no guarantee that the other driver will have the financial resources necessary to offset your costs. Uninsured motorist coverage is a type of insurance coverage that is designed to protect you under these circumstances. However, as with liability insurance, basic uninsured motorist protection in Rhode Island has relatively low limits of just $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Rhode Island drivers choose to decline uninsured motorist coverage altogether, or they may purchase additional coverage to better protect themselves in case they are injured in a crash.
Get legal advice before accepting payment
If you or someone in your family has been hurt in a car accident in Rhode Island, it is important to take steps to protect your legal rights and financial interests. Before discussing the crash with an insurance company or accepting an offer of payment, be sure to get advice from an experienced personal injury lawyer. To arrange a personalized consultation and get answers to your legal questions, contact Karns & Kerrison