I hear that phrase often and I must honestly tell you that I have no idea what that means and I believe most of the people who tell me they have full coverage don’t know what it means either. The context of “full coverage” is in the auto insurance world. Someone who is involved in a crash always feels more comfortable saying “I have full coverage.” But do they actually know what it means? What does “full coverage” cover? Hopefully, I can provide some insight into “full coverage” in Missouri.
In Missouri, there is a law that requires insurance companies to offer a minimum amount of auto insurance coverage. No matter what auto insurance you as a driver purchase, this is the absolute minimum amount of coverage you will have and it is what is known as “full coverage.” The law is called the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law and you can find it in Chapter 303 of the Missouri Statutes (http://www.moga.mo.gov/statutes/c303.htm). It is broken down as follows:
-$25,000.00 to cover all crashes you are responsible for that only one person is injured. This coverage is known as “Liability Coverage” because your insurance company will pay if you are liable (responsible) for the crash.
-$50,000.00 to cover all crashes you are responsible for in which more than one person is injured. Again, this is “Liability Coverage.” For example, you have state minimum coverage, crash into a bus and kill 50 people. You only have a maximum of $50,000.00 to cover that entire claim.
-$10,000.00 to cover all property damage you have caused. This is the “Liability for Property Damage Limit.” You run into a Bentley and total it—you only have $10,000 to cover that damage.
-$25,000.00 to cover you if you are injured and the injuries are caused by an uninsured motorist. This is “Uninsured Motorist Coverage.” Essentially, someone who hits you and doesn’t have insurance—your insurance will pay for that bodily injury to you, up to $25,000.00.
-$50,000.00 to cover more than one person who is injured by an uninsured driver (a hit and run driver or a driver whose identity cannot be known is considered uninsured in Missouri). This is the “Uninsured Motorist Coverage” maximum limit.
*note: there is NO property damage coverage required by state law when you are struck by an uninsured motorist—so, if someone without insurance hits you, YOU must find a way to pay for the repairs because your insurance will not if you only have state minimum coverage, “full coverage.” Uninsured Property Damage (commonly known as collision coverage) is NOT a coverage required by Missouri Law so you MUST ask your insurance company for that product. Make sure you purchase collision coverage—this will likely include a deductible but it will cover your property damage on your car regardless if it is your fault. This is not standard so you must ask for it.
The above is considered “full coverage” in Missouri. That’s it and it is not a lot of coverage. If you are seriously hurt or even mildly injured, and all the other driver has is $25,000 in liability coverage, you are not going to obtain a good recovery. There simply will not be enough money to cover medical bills, lost wages, etc… When this happens, a person can try to collect against you personally. What that means is the following: If you cause a crash and only have state minimum coverage (“full coverage”) and the injuries to the other person are serious, you are personally exposed to be paying for everything. Your insurance is only legally obligated to pay the amount in the insurance agreement and they will not pay a penny more. You will not have rental coverage either so you will be without a car. Sound like fun?
What can I do to protect myself?
There are many additional insurance endorsements (i.e., larger coverage limits, more things can be covered by your insurance, etc…) you can buy to increase your coverage for liability, uninsured motorist, property damage, etc…. I highly recommend that you call your agent or insurance company and INCREASE your coverages. The look of disbelief and outright anger of clients in my office when they are told there is a coverage problem or their property damage is not covered or the other driver does not have enough coverage or they don’t have rental coverage so they will not have a car for a while is stomach-turning. Can you imagine be seriously injured in a crash and the other driver only has $25,000 to cover your surgery, your ER visit, your lost wages, etc….? A typical shoulder surgery can cost $40,000-$50,000. What about the loss of transportation? Weeks can pass before the physical damage portion of the claim is figured out. However, there is plenty you can do to protect yourself and it does not cost that much.
- You can easily increase your own liability coverage with your insurance company. You can ask for $100,000 for single person liability and $300,000 for more than one person. This will also increase your property damage liability limit. Remember, “liability” means crashes you are responsible for. You can also increase your uninsured motorist limits to the same amounts or greater. This can all be done at a very minimal cost and your auto insurance company wants you to buy these products/coverages. I cannot say it enough—INCREASE your coverages for your cars.
- You can purchase “Underinsured Motorist” coverage. This coverage will kick in when the liability limits of the person who hit you are reached. If you are in a crash involving someone with only $25,000 in liability coverage and your injuries exceed that amount, underinsured motorist coverage will cover the rest of the injuries. You can obtain underinsured motorist coverage for a nominal amount each month as well. Be aware that you cannot use both uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage in the same incident. They are mutually exclusive so make sure you get both.
- You can get increase your overall liability coverage with an umbrella policy. This is usually a very large amount of coverage for very little payment or premium. This coverage will kick in when your liability coverage reaches its limits. It will keep you from having to pay out of pocket for any serious injuries you cause. This will not apply to any uninsured or underinsured coverages. This is solely to protect you in the event you cause a serious injury. Again, this is a very inexpensive coverage. So buy it.
- You can buy Medical Payments coverage. This is inexpensive coverage that will help pay for your medical costs regardless of who is at fault. This coverage will follow you whether you are a pedestrian, a passenger, or someone is a passenger in your car. It is very inexpensive to buy and you may actually have it already. Many people don’t know they have “MedPay” and insurers sometimes will not tell you. You can get MedPay coverage from $1,000 up to $10,000 or even more. This type of coverage is a very smart and safe investment to help make sure your medical costs can be covered.
The Missouri Department of Insurance has a fantastic website that further explains the above. They have a downloadable PDF brochure that I highly recommend you read. It is an easy read and has plenty of illustrations to help explain all the types of coverages. You can access it by clicking this link https://insurance.mo.gov/consumers/auto/auto.php or copying and pasting in your browser.
Finally, you should never trust your insurance company to explain all the coverages you have. You need a third party who is not gaining by keeping money from you. Consult a lawyer to advise you on your coverage after a crash. The consultation is free (or should be—if it’s not, you have the wrong lawyer) and will not take very long. It is in your best interest to do so.