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AUTO COVERAGE TRAGEDY

During winter months, slick, wintery roads create dangerous driving situations, which may increase concerns about being involved in an auto accident. While you might think that you've taken the necessary precautions to prepare for winter's worst, you may be overlooking a key component: Your present insurance plan may not supply ample coverage to you and your family if you are severely injured in an accident. Here at Quatrinini Rafferty, we can't control the weather, but we can help you to gain control of your auto insurance policy so that you and the ones you love are fully prepared for all that winter might bring.

Below you'll find a true story that reveals the risks associated with an inadequate insurance plan. While this example is not winter weather-related, it exemplifies a lesson to last all year long:

Our office got a call from a father who was terribly worried about his daughter. She had recently been involved in an accident while traveling to work in East McKeesport. A drunk driver of an oncoming SUV had crossed the center line of the roadway and struck his daughter's car head-on, causing life-threatening injuries. He felt so lucky she was alive. They had to deal with the frightening news that her foot might need to be amputated. Over the course of 6 months, she underwent a total of four surgeries. He knew that, with these types of injuries, his daughter would not be able to work for some time. He contacted our office for assistance in taking care of the insurance and medical billing matters that she could not attend to while in the hospital.

When we met with this gentleman and his daughter in the hospital, we assured them that we would help. We learned that her injuries included severe abdominal injuries, a left forearm fracture and a severe right ankle fracture. After this young lady's inpatient stay of 10 days, she was released to a rehab facility because she could not care for herself at home. Her hospital bills alone were in excess of $327,000.

Our first step was to determine how much insurance coverage was available. The driver who caused this collision carried the minimum insurance coverage required in Pennsylvania, which is $15,000 of liability insurance. That amount was offered to settle the claims against this at-fault driver. This coverage was of course inadequate to compensate our client for her injuries. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that a person who is injured can make a recovery from an at-fault driver for any money in excess of the insurance policy limits. Next, we turned to her auto insurance policy. We found that the underinsured motorist coverage in effect at the time of the collision was only $25,000. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is not required under Pennsylvania law, but is coverage you can purchase to protect yourself if injured by a driver with little or no liability insurance. The difficult news that we had to deliver to our client was that there was a grand total of $40,000 of insurance coverage available.

After the daughter recovered to the point that she could discuss her insurance coverage, she called her agent. She learned that adequate coverage would have been only a few dollars more per month...and she could have afforded it. She wants us to tell our clients to be informed about their auto insurance coverage BEFORE they have an accident.

You should make a call to your insurance agent to find out how much uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage you have in place. After you learn that amount, think to yourself, "Could that coverage begin to help me put my life back together if I was in a serious auto collision?" If your answer is no, get more underinsured motorist coverage immediately. You cannot control what other drivers do on the road, but you can control the amount of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage you purchase as part of your auto insurance coverage.

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