In Louisiana, the law requires you to carry auto liability insurance coverage on any vehicle you own. The minimum liability coverage limits are $15,000 per person for bodily injury, $30,000 per accident for total bodily injury to all people, and $25,000 for property damage (i.e., vehicle repairs). This type of mandatory insurance covers other people’s personal injuries and property damages that arise out of any car accidents you may cause, but it doesn’t cover your injuries and damages if you are involved in an accident that isn’t your fault.
At our law offices in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Hammond, and Ponchatoula, Louisiana, our personal injury attorneys frequently witness the harsh consequences suffered by auto accident victims who foolishly rely on minimum coverage only. Therefore, we have provided this information in hopes that it will help you avoid similar tragedies.
Although the minimal “15/30/25 Policy” is all that the law requires, you should consider purchasing more coverage if you can afford it. Three important areas of improvement to consider are (1) adding uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage (a/k/a “UM”), (2) adding medical payments coverage, and (3) increasing your liability policy limits. Collision and comprehensive coverage are also worth consideration depending on your circumstances.
The most common advice we give our car accident personal injury clients about auto insurance is to purchase as much UM insurance coverage as possible. It is discussed it in greater detail in our Accident Handbook and other blog posts.
To best understand why you should purchase UM coverage, imagine what you would do if you were severely injured in a car accident:
Who would pay for your medical expenses if you suffered a herniated disk in your back or neck?
Who would reimburse you for your lost wages if you were unable to work?
Who would compensate you for your physical and emotional pain, suffering, and distress?
Under Louisiana’s personal injury law, the driver who caused your accident would be liable to pay for your damages. However, if that person is broke, bankrupt or uninsured, he cannot pay you. Even the best attorney cannot recover damages from a deadbeat driver that lacks money and insurance. Therefore, you should never depend solely on the driver who caused the accident to cover your bills. Instead, you should get UM insurance coverage. UM is a contract between you and your insurance company that protects you against damages caused by uninsured motorists, underinsured vehicles, and hit-and-run drivers. When it comes to buying car insurance, UM is the most important coverage you can buy.
Another important auto insurance to consider is medical payments coverage, also known as “Med Pay.” It covers your medical expenses associated with auto accidents, including treatment for you and your passengers no matter whose fault caused the accident. While you might doubt you need this type of insurance coverage if you have health insurance, med pay can nevertheless be helpful because it can pay for your copays and treatments not covered by your health insurer.
Also, you should consider raising your auto liability insurance limits beyond the 15/30/25 minimum. If you are at fault in a car wreck where the total costs of the accident exceeds your policy limits, you can be personally responsible for any costs above that amount. Since costs of an auto accident can be great (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.), this means that if your liability limits are too low, you are still at a great risk every time you operate a vehicle of being personally responsible for a portion of the huge costs associated with an auto accident.
For example, lets say “Carless Carla” causes a car accident that results in “Hurtin’ Harold” going to the hospital for severe back and neck injuries. If Carla only has the state-required 15/30/25 minimum coverage, she could be personally responsible for Harold’s medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering above $15,000. Depending on the severity of his injuries, Harold’s hospital bill could easily exceed $15,000, especially when you consider the high cost of medical expenses. The same goes for the damage to Harold’s vehicle. If his $75,000 BMW was totaled because of the accident, Carla could be responsible for paying $50,000 out of her own pocket for property damages alone. Making matters worse, imagine if multiple victims and vehicles were damaged in the accident. The exposure could be much higher!
When you think about all of the damages associated with an auto accident, such as medical bills, car repairs, lost wages, etc., the state required minimum coverage is often not enough to cover all of these expenses. If you are held personally responsible for the additional costs, you will have to pay the money out of your own pocket.
In addition to the coverages mentioned above, you should consider comprehensive and collision insurance. Comprehensive coverage pays for cost of damage to your own vehicle that occurs as a result of a non-collision incident, such as fire, flood, theft, falling objects, or vandalism. Collision coverage pays for damages to your own automobile caused by collision with another vehicle or object when you are at fault for the accident. Liability only insurance, which is all that is required by the state, will not pay to fix your vehicle when you were the individual at fault for the accident.
In short, the compulsory 15/30/25 liability policy is far from “full coverage.” If you can afford more car insurance, you should invest in that important protection.
Parker Layrisson Law Firm