While all drivers in Illinois are required to purchase automobile insurance, many are unfamiliar with what their policies cover or how the claims process works. Because insurance terms are often confusing and highly technical, understanding your coverage may require more than simply reading your policy declarations page.
This article explains some basic car-insurance terminology and the most common types of coverage that are available to drivers. It also addresses some of the problems that can arise during the claims process.
The dollar amounts that describe the amount of coverage in an automobile insurance policy are referred to as "limits." A limit is the maximum amount that an insurer will pay for a particular type of damage or injury under the terms of a given policy. When the actual damage exceeds the policy limit, an at-fault driver may be personally liable for making up the difference to the injured party.
Illinois law requires certain types and amounts of minimum coverage for all vehicles. Drivers may choose to purchase additional insurance beyond the state minimums, either in terms of higher limits or additional types of coverage or both.
Liability insurance covers the injuries and property damage that you may cause to others in the event of an accident. Under certain circumstances, this may also cover damages caused to others by a family member or someone else who uses your car with your permission.
In Illinois, all motor vehicles must be covered by liability insurance in at least the following amounts:
- $20,000 for injury/death of another person
- $40,000 total for the injury/death of two or more people in a single accident
- $15,000 for damage to property belonging to another person
Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage (UM)
Uninsured motorist bodily injury insurance covers the injuries that you or your passengers might suffer as a result of an accident with an uninsured at-fault driver or a hit-and-run driver who cannot be located. Under Illinois law, all vehicles must carry the following UM coverage at minimum:
- $20,000 per person per accident
- $40,000 total for accidents involving more than one person
Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UIM)
UIM makes up the difference between your own UIM bodily injury coverage and the liability coverage of the at-fault driver, if the at-fault driver's coverage is less than your own.
State law requires this coverage only for drivers who elect to purchase uninsured motorist coverage that exceeds the mandatory minimum.
These types of coverage are not required by law in Illinois, and drivers who choose to add them will usually pay higher premiums. While not legally mandatory, lenders often require borrowers to purchase one or more of these as a condition of providing financing for the purchase or lease of a vehicle.
- Collision: Pays for damage to your car as a result of collision with another car or object, such as a fence, tree or lane barrier.
- Comprehensive: Pays for damage to your vehicle from non-collision causes like hail, fire, vandalism or theft.
- Uninsured Motorist Property Damage (UMPD): Pays for damage to your vehicle caused by an uninsured, at-fault driver.
- Gap Coverage: Pays for the difference between your vehicle's post-accident value and the amount you still owe on your loan for the vehicle.
- Accidental Death Benefit: Pays a sum to a named beneficiary if the insured dies as a result of a car accident.
- Medical & Funeral Expenses: Pays for medical and funeral expenses if you or a passenger is injured or killed in an accident, whether the injury occurs in your own or another vehicle, or as a result of being struck by a car as a pedestrian. This coverage still applies even if you are at fault in the accident.
Making an Insurance Claim
Even if you are properly insured, the process of obtaining the compensation for your injuries can be a difficult and complicated process - particularly if you are attempting to navigate the system on your own while coping with the physical, emotional and financial aftermath of a serious automobile accident.
In order to avoid paying claims, insurance companies employ a wide array of tactics designed to prevent you from collecting the full amount of compensation to which you are entitled. These strategies can range from delaying your case for as long as possible to denying that you are injured at all or making a lowball settlement offer in the hopes that you will simply take what you can get.
Insurers will often bring in their own medical examiners and expert witnesses to testify at trial and cast doubt on the validity of your claims. Automobile accidents often result in injuries that, while severe and debilitating, are difficult to prove to a medical certainty. Insurers can use this fact to their own advantage to avoid paying your claim.
Insurance companies often employ large teams of lawyers and other professionals who work full time to defend against claims from accident victims. An attorney experienced in motor vehicle accident cases can advocate for you during the difficult and often hostile insurance claims process. By putting years of insurance litigation experience to work, an attorney in this area can help protect your rights and fight for the compensation you deserve.