State Minimum Insurance: Don't get snowed this winter.
As the snow flies here in Western & Central New York, you're most likely concerned about your vehicle's safety while you're out and about. Fresh tires? Check. Full tank of gas? Absolutely. Flares and that old flannel blanket that your mother shoved in the trunk? Yep (thanks Mom)!
But there's probably one thing you didn't consider when you brush off and get ready to hit the road for that hour and half, ten mile commute; what are my insurance limits...and better yet...what do they actually mean?
What are limits?
Your car insurance policy contains limits of liability, meaning how much actual insurance in dollars you are protected for in the event of an accident. As insurance agents, we use three numbers here (Unless you have a Combined Single Limit, which includes all three of these in one number):
1. Bodily Injury per Person - How much insurance you have for each person's injuries
2. Bodily Injury per Accident - How much insurance you have for the total injuries in one accident
3. Property Damage - How much insurance you have for damage caused to other people's property (Could also be a municipality's property, like a road sign or guard rail).
Simply put, the higher these limits are the more insurance you have, meaning the less likely you'll be responsible for anyone's injuries or damages out of your own pocket.
What is the State Minimum?
Each state has what is called "State Minimum", meaning the absolute least amount of insurance that you need. In the Empire State, that number is $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident and $10,000 in property damage, and yes, you read that last number correctly.
If you have state minimum insurance in New York, any property damage you cause whether to another car or object, will only be covered up to $10,000. If you actually hurt someone in an accident, then the first two numbers apply.
Which begs a simple question:
If you get into an accident that is more than that in damages,
where does the rest of the money come from?
Why State Minimums are just a bad idea
As agents, our office never recommends purchasing just the minimum limits for two main reasons;
You're basically guaranteed a call from one of those single digit phone number lawyers (Think 8's and 4's). Garnishments, levies and asset forfeiture is 100% realistic in a case where someone doesn't have enough insurance to pay
It makes your insurance more expensive over time. Similar to credit, having access to a higher limit shows you're a more favorable risk which usually means lower interest rates on loans. Insurance is the same way, carrying higher limit insurance over time makes you a better risk, and less likely in the future to pay higher premiums
The moral of the story; don't drive around with state minimums. It really isn't going to help you out if you ever actually need to use your car insurance. You'd also be surprised at how many people have no idea what their limits are. For a complementary review, give us a call (716-835-6790 in WNY, 315-657-3688 in CNY) or request a quote online here at the Encompass Agency. We will sit down with you and review everything to make sure you're not the one left with just a corn-cob pipe and a button nose this winter!
Taylor M. Haines is an Independent Agent and Managing Broker of the Encompass Agency, Inc. He writes auto, home and business insurance in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse, and has clients as far-reaching as the Adirondack region. Taylor has been the acting manager of the agency since 2015 and has overseen the expansion of the brand throughout New York. He is married to his wife, Megan, since 2016 and resides in South Buffalo.