WASHINGTON, August 3, 2014 — While there is no amount of money that can repair the loss of a loved one, adequate insurance and financial preparations can help mitigate the financial loss associated with an accidental death.
David was 26 years old. He was a beloved son and brother. He was a superstar mechanic at his job and his reputation at the garage where he worked brought his employer more business than the garage could handle, but customers were willing to wait several days before repairs began because they wanted David’s touch.
David’s girlfriend was hoping he was going to propose marriage soon. They had been dating for almost two years and had talked about the things couples planning to get married talked about, “feeling” each other out.
David went to a birthday party with several co-workers and friends on the day he died. A group of about fifteen rented a mini-bus to transport them to and from the party, as the party was about an hour away and none wanted to come home late at night in their own vehicles, recognizing they might be consuming alcohol at the party.
On the way home, about ten minutes away from home, while still on the highway, a man lost control of his car and struck the mini-bus. The bus went into a spin and flipped, and several people were injured, some seriously. One of David’s friends suffered a brain injury and lapsed into a coma. David was ejected and died instantly.
David’s family, friends and co-workers were shattered. His mother couldn’t talk for weeks. His father’s depression over this loss prevented him from returning to work for months, and but for his father’s employer’s empathy, he would have lost his job.
Money will never replace the enormity of the tragedy created by David’s death. Heartbreak has no price.
The law provides wholly inadequate answers. Insurance provides equally hollow responses.
While the knee-jerk reaction of many here would be to scream for extended jail time because this driver caused a death, the law will measure the circumstances and provide comparatively light “punishment” as David’s death is considered.
Vehicular manslaughter can be charged as a minor crime (a misdemeanor), or as a felony, depending upon the circumstances. Reckless driving, drunk driving, and excessive speeding are circumstances that would lead to a felony charge. Simple negligence, driving a few miles over a posted limit, or not paying attention and changing lanes would likely be considered a misdemeanor. There is not “justice” in the structure of the law as applied in this type of situation. The at-fault driver did not mean to cause harm, nor injury, nor certainly a death. It was an accident.
Beyond a possible “I am truly sorry” from the at-fault driver, in most cases it is unlikely that the driver and David’s family will ever connect in any meaningful way.
Thus, moving past “justice,” if “compensation” is considered, all that is normally to be had is money, which comes from available insurance coverage. There can never be, and there will never be enough money to compensate. Nonetheless, many survivors ultimately seek financial compensation, and some create foundations, or use the funds toward a cause their loved one championed. More money then is better than less money.
The first insurance policy that provides coverage is that of the at-fault driver. This driver purchased a “minimum limits” policy from his auto insurer. Most states have minimum “liability” limits of $30,000.00 or less. When someone causes an accident, their insurer only has to pay up to the limits they purchased. Regardless of the injuries, harms and losses that might be caused, regardless of the amount of the medical bills or the wreckage that can be caused by an accident, an insurer only has to pay up to the limits of the purchased coverage. Even if someone dies.
A life cannot be monetized, but juries in courtrooms across the country routinely award “damages” for “wrongful death” cases and thus do indeed place a monetary value on a death. A payment of $30,000.00 is and would never be enough. Nonetheless, that is all the insurance company would ever have to pay, even if a jury awarded five million dollars.
The logical question then normally asked is “can the victim go after the at-fault driver personally?” The answer is “yes,” but it is usually a wasted effort, as it is unlikely that the at-fault driver who purchases minimum limits auto insurance has any money, or any assets that could be subjected to a judgment and seized. Mostly, people who have no money and no assets have no reason to protect themselves, and they jump at the chance to have insurance which will fix their car if something happens, without understanding the consequences for others, or for themselves, about what small limits really means.
Every automobile insurance agent has a coverage available to sell that can address the problem of small or minimum limits. The coverage is called Under-Insured Motorist (UIM). UIM will add money to the at-fault person’s small or minimum limits coverage.
If the at-fault person has minimum limits of $30,000.00, and the injured party has UIM coverage of $100,000.00, there is $70,000.00 “extra” available to the injured person in the appropriate case.
Looking at an insurance policy reveals that the UIM coverage is the same in amount as the Liability coverage. Accordingly, having “good” coverage means having both Liability and UIM in an amount of at least $100,000.00. Liability protects the insured if he or she causes and accident, while UIM is a protection where another without enough insurance causes the accident.
Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage is automatically included in auto policies, and similar to UIM coverage, it provides an answer, specifically where the at-fault party had no insurance.
Many auto insurance agents tell their customers not to use their policy benefits. They do this because when claims present, their commissions get dinged.
It is against the law to increase a customer’s premium or to cancel a customer’s policy simply because the customer used the policy’s benefits. Get high limits and use them if and when needed. There is no consequence and only “extra” money.
Getting higher limits will cost a very small amount more. The increase in the premium payment is ridiculously small.
David’s family can look to the insurance carried by the mini-bus for potential UIM limits. Here, the second tragedy, this time financial, as the UIM coverage on the mini-bus was very low.
The third tragedy, again, financial — if David had been in his own car, his family would not have had any “extra” because David had minimum limits. For maybe $40.00 more per year, David’s insurance could have been $100,000.00 instead of $30,000.00, and his family would have had $70,000.00 more. For maybe $75.00 more per year, David’s policy limits could have been $250,000.00. A one million dollar liability and UIM auto policy limit is not that much more.
Watch this video: About High Insurance Limits
Ask your agent for pricing for high limits, get higher limits, and then know that if money is all there is, there is enough.
May David rest in peace.
Paul A. Samakow is an attorney licensed in Maryland and Virginia, and has been practicing since 1980. He represents injury victims and routinely battles insurance companies and big businesses that will not accept full responsibility for the harms and losses they cause. He can be reached at any time by calling 1-866-SAMAKOW (1-866-726-2569), via email, or through his website.
His new book “Who Will Pay My Auto Accident Bills?, The Most Comprehensive Nationwide Auto Accident Resolution Book, Ever” can be reviewed on http://www.completeaccidentbook.com and can be ordered there, or obtained directly on Amazon: Click here to order
Mr. Samakow’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign, El Textarudo, has become nationally recognized. Please visit the website http://www.textarudo.com and “like” the concept on the Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/textarudo.