State legislators want to force Arizona drivers to purchase more auto insurance to pay for the injuries and losses they cause to others. According to a report on Tucson.com, the existing law allows individuals to drive a vehicle with insurance that pays for only $15,000 of liability for injuries to any one person in another vehicle they hit. That means the minimum required insurance only has to cover a total of $30,000 for all injuries and fatalities from the same auto accident. Coverage for vehicle and other property damage can be as little as $10,000. These insurance limits have not been adjusted since 1972.
But the bill, SB 1111, authored by Senator Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, will increase the minimum personal injury liability insurance requirement to $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident and require property damage coverage of $25,000. This bill, if it becomes law, will also increase premiums for those purchasing the minimal coverage by about $80 a year.
Arguments For and Against the Hike
Opponents fear that the additional cost will cause more Arizona motorists to decide that they cannot afford to pay for auto insurance coverage and drive uninsured. They are concerned that this new law could significantly increase the percentage of uninsured motorists in the state. Currently an estimated 10.6 percent of drivers in Arizona are driving uninsured.
Brophy McGee has argued that medical costs these days are higher and that $15,000 does not go far in the event of a serious injury or the cost of a vehicle that has been totaled in an accident. She said car accidents significantly affect the lives of individuals who are severely injured, lose their jobs and sometimes, even livelihoods, and struggle to pay their bills.
When drivers have insufficient insurance coverage, both the at-fault driver and the victim suffer because while the victim is faced with issues such as medical expenses and lost wages, the at-fault driver is personally liable once the insurance coverage is exhausted. The Insurance Information Institute puts Arizona in the minority when it comes to state insurance requirements. It is only one of six states that have the current $15,000/$30,000 coverage while 30 other states already have proposed increasing the insurance limits to $25,000/$50,000 liability coverage.
Link Between the Hike and Uninsured Motorists
According to the Arizona Department of Transportation, the economic cost of a non-fatal auto accident injury ranges from 23,000 to $72,000 per person. Many who oppose raising the minimum insurance requirements believe that such a move would also increase the number of uninsured motorists on our roadways. However, this premise is not supported by the data. The state that has one of the highest rates of uninsured drivers (24 percent) in the nation is Florida, which also has the lowest minimum coverage requirements in the country.
Similarly, Maine, which has the highest minimum insurance requirements in the nation, has one of the lowest rates of uninsured drivers in the nation — at 5 percent. More and more states are also finding out that there is not really a correlation between minimum coverage requirements and the rate of uninsured drivers. Instead, research only shows that the rate of uninsured drivers in the state is related to how stringently officials enforce financial responsibility laws.
While it is a fact that those who have so far purchased only minimum limits in Arizona so far will face slightly higher premiums, raising the minimum limits may result in lower costs to consumers who have had to pay higher premiums because of accidents caused by underinsured motorists. People have been financially ruined because of one single accident, and that is simply wrong. This bill, when it becomes law, will hopefully encourage every Arizonan to take responsibility for insuring himself or herself adequately.
Understanding Why You Need Auto Insurance
As we’ve already seen, the state of Arizona requires all motorists to have minimum auto insurance coverage. When you cause an accident that injures someone or causes property damage, liability coverage could help pay for the other person’s losses. How does liability insurance benefit you? If you cause a car accident you may be held financially responsible for the costs associated with the crash. This may include the injured person’s medical expenses, their lost income or other types of compensation.
Liability insurance coverage helps pay for these costs. Without liability coverage or sufficient liability limits, you would likely have to pay all associated costs out of your own pocket. Medical payments coverage and personal injury protection may help pay for your own medical bills if you are injured, and it may also cover your passengers’ expenses. Such coverage helps pay for hospital visits, doctor bills and surgery.
You also need uninsured motorist coverage, which helps pay for your medical bills if you are struck and injured by a driver who doesn’t have auto insurance coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is not required in Arizona. But it is important to have this type of coverage because when you are injured in an accident caused by a driver without insurance, an uninsured motorist policy replaces the liability coverage that a driver should have had. Through this policy, you can get coverage of all your costs up to your policy’s limits.
If an underinsured driver caused your crash and injuries, an uninsured motorist policy fills the gap between what the at-fault motorist’s insurance will pay and the total cost of the accident, up to the policy limits. An uninsured motorist policy may also cover you if you suffer injuries in a pedestrian accident involving an uninsured or hit-and-run driver. Other members of your household may also be able to seek coverage for costs associated with auto accident injuries through your uninsured motorist policy. So, it would be in your best interest to buy an auto insurance policy that offers comprehensive coverage protecting not only anyone you may injure, but also you and your family members.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
Often, those who are injured in car accidents struggle to receive the compensation they need and rightfully deserve because of insurance companies that unjustly deny their claims. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, an experienced Arizona personal injury lawyer can help you navigate what can be a complex, challenging and intimidating process. A knowledgeable lawyer will also fight for your rights and make sure that you receive maximum compensation for your losses.