Bruce Sackrison

Bruce Sackrison is a Napa Valley Register columnist who will write about property and casualty insurance matters.

Sometimes, the simplest things get overlooked when we think about insurance. I’ll talk about a couple of them today.

There are two basic auto insurance coverages that almost everyone has, yet few give any thought to.

Larry’s Lousy Day and Low Liability

Larry was always switching insurance policies. He loved the lizard that told him 15 minutes could save him... oh, he forgets the rest of it. He just loves shopping for the cheapest policy.

Price was everything, so Larry always got the cheapest quote, which included the state -mandated minimum liability limits. He assumed that since the state required it, it would be enough.

Wrong. Oh, how very wrong he painfully discovered.

One day, as Larry was driving, he had the top down on his convertible, and the tunes cranked up on the radio. He remembers the song was “California Dreamin.’”

That’s about all he remembers. He must have been dreaming when he rear-ended that car at the green light that hadn’t started moving yet.

It was a frightening crash.

The other driver ended up in the hospital for weeks, and sued for damages, including pain and suffering. The jury was not allowed to hear if there was insurance coverage, but to simply rule on the merits of the case. So, how much was the other driver entitled to?

The sympathetic jury awarded the other driver $500,000. Half a million dollars.

Larry’s state-mandated minimum liability coverage was $30,000. Yes. That’s all the state of California required.

After liquidating his considerable assets, Larry still owed $150,000, which would be paid to the other driver by way of a garnished paycheck for years to come.

Larry lost everything. All for a cheap premium and low liability coverage.

Ursula’s Unusual Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Ursula was always careful. Unlike Larry, she always prepared for the “what-ifs” of life. One evening, she and her friends were driving to dinner.

As they drove through an intersection on a green light, they were struck broadside by a drunk driver.

Everyone was injured. Some badly.

After the paperwork dust settled, Ursula realized that the drunk driver did not have insurance. He was similar to over 25 percent of California drivers... uninsured.

Fortunately, Ursula had reviewed her insurance coverage with her local agent just a few months before and decided to raise her limits on Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UMC) and Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM).

These coverages, as her agent explained, covered bodily injury for her and her passengers if the other driver didn’t have coverage (or not enough coverage).

The injuries took weeks to heal, and the costs were high. But her coverage took care of almost all of it. Her passengers, who were also her friends, were glad she had planned ahead.

My advice

Don’t let price be the first consideration when shopping for insurance. Instead, meet with a trusted local agent to help you consider coverage needs.

Then remember: the coverage you’ll wish you had if there is an accident tomorrow, is the coverage you should purchase today.

As always, if you don’t have a local insurance agent, please feel free to contact me for advice.

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Bruce Sackrison is an insurance property and casualty broker affiliated with Professional Insurance Associates. He is at 707-931-0186 or bruces@sackifs.com.