The next time you’re on the freeway, think about this: Approximately one of every seven U.S. drivers on the road has no automobile insurance. That’s the most recent estimate from the Insurance Research Council, which noted that the five states with the highest percentage of uninsured drivers were Florida, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Tennessee. With that many people driving without coverage, it’s more important than ever for you to be insured. But how much car insurance do you need to have?
If you’re like many people, you might be in an economic pinch these days. Your inclination might be to get the minimum insurance coverage required by law in your state. The trouble with minimum coverage is that it might not fully protect you — or your assets — if you’re at fault in an accident. It’s a better idea to carry more than the minimum coverage unless you are driving an older car with little value and have no assets to protect.
Every state in the nation except for New Hampshire requires you to have liability insurance. That mandatory coverage varies according to state.
The chart below shows minimum liability limits (in thousands of dollars):
Bodily injury liability for one person in an accident
Bodily injury liability for all people injured in an accident
Property damage liability for one accident
In Alabama, for example, the minimum requirements are $25,000 of bodily injury liability for one person, $50,000 bodily injury liability for all people in an accident and $25,000 property damage liability. Another type of coverage, personal injury protection (PIP), or a system called medical payments (MedPay) in some states, pays for your own medical expenses, any lost wages and whatever other costs may arise when you’re injured in an accident. It usually pays about 80 percent of your losses, and it also pays a death benefit. PIP is required in Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Utah. In Arkansas and Maryland, the coverage is not required, but drivers must reject it in writing if they choose not to purchase it.
Some states also require you to purchase car insurance that will cover your medical expenses, pain and suffering losses and, in some states, car damage, in the event that the other motorist is at fault and is either uninsured or underinsured. The chart below also lists the states that require this uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
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