In Illinois, the minimum liability limit for motor vehicle coverage is $20,000 per person. It is commonly called a 20/40 policy, meaning that the insured is covered up to $20,000 per person that is injured, but no more than $40,000 to all injury victims per occurrence. This means if several persons are injured, they will be splitting $40,000. In blue collar areas such as Madison County, Illinois and Alton, Illinois, many drivers have these high risk policies.
Insurance companies, such as Affirmative Insurance, who write these policies do not give much protection to their insureds. The insureds are personally liable for all damages over the limit. For example, if a jury awards $50,000 in damages to an injured party, the insurance will pay their limit of $20,000, and the insured is personally liable for the additional $30,000.
Many drivers do not know what type of coverage they have or their liability limits. You should check your policy or speak with your insurance agent. Most good insurance companies will not write a 20/40 policy, and will not recommend this type of policy.
If you are injured by an insured with a 20/40 policy, expect a fight. They will often times fail to pay good claims, leaving injured parties with climbing medical bills and lost wages uncompensated. Further, they do not protect the personal assets of their insureds by getting the case settled within the policy limits – leaving their insureds exposed to personal liability.
How can you protect yourself against a driver with low limits? Increase your “underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage”. All auto coverages provide coverage if you are injured by a driver without insurance (uninsured driver) or a driver with lower limits than you have (underinsured claim). For example, if you have a 100/300 policy, and sustain serious permanent injury in an auto accident, you will be covered by your own policy up to $100,000. This is how it works. If you are hit by an uninsured driver, your policy will protect you up to $100,000 as if the other driver were insured. If you are injured by an insured driver with a lower limit than you (“underinsured“), such as 20/40, your insurance company will cover you for the difference between their policy and your policy – in this case an additional $80,000.
This type of coverage is cheap. Ask your agent to increase your uninsured and underinsured limits. The more you have, the more you are protecting yourself regardless of the insurance liability limits of another driver. You can get limits of 100/300, 250/500, 500/1,000 or more – discuss this with your agent.
The law firm of WWF&G represents numerous victims of auto accidents, many who are injured by uninsured or underinsured drivers. We recently met with a man who was a passenger involved in a one car accident, where he lost all of his fingers on his dominant hand. He is a laborer from the Alton, Illnois area, and will no longer work again. Even though his medical bills will be over $100,000, the driver had a 20/40 policy. Further, the injured man did not have car insurance or other insurance to protect himself. Under these circumstances, he will most likely recover $20,000 of insurance and nothing else, unless the other driver can pay – this is usually not the case.