Understanding Your Auto Insurance Policy

When you get a driver’s license in Illinois, you agree to be financially responsible for any accidents or damages you may cause. Financial responsibility usually takes the form of having an appropriate insurance policy with coverage that meets state requirements.

Insurance policies can be complex. That’s why many people use insurance agents, who can explain the various sorts of coverage and what they mean. However, these days many people buy auto insurance policies online through insurance company websites. They plug in their information and the website spits out a quote telling them what they’ll have to pay and offering different payment options. They may know the basics about their coverage, but the vast majority of people never read their actual insurance policy contract and may not know some of the details of their own policy until they get into a collision.

If you have been in a crash, understanding your insurance policy is an important part of the post-accident process. We offer some basic information below. For specific questions about your policy and what it means in the context of your injuries or damages, ask the best car accident lawyer in Chicago you can find.

Your Auto Insurance Policy Documents

When you get insurance, your insurance carrier should issue a standard set of documents. These generally will include:

  • ID Card — This is a very basic document that shows you have insurance coverage. Usually it doesn’t specify the amounts of coverage, but includes your name, the name of your insurance company, your policy number, and the customer service telephone number you should call if you get into an accident. This is the document that most people keep in their wallet or the glove box of their car to show to police to demonstrate proof of insurance if they get pulled over, or to exchange information with other people in the event of an accident.
  • Declarations Page — This document provides a summary of your insurance coverage. It will list your name, policy number, and the types of coverage you have. The declarations page also will show the dollar amount of each type of coverage, and usually will show the premium you pay for that coverage. This document is one you might provide to your auto finance company to prove that you have coverage for a vehicle you’re still paying off. It’s also useful in the event of an accident because it will quickly show you what your limits are for different types of coverage such as bodily injury or property damage.
  • Policy Contract — This document provides the details of your policy and a thorough description of what your policy does and does not cover. This document will be useful if you submit an insurance claim that is denied. A personal injury attorney can reference the policy contract to see what it says about the exclusion used as a reason for the denial and craft an argument to try to appeal the denied claim.

Required Coverage in Illinois

When you buy car insurance in Illinois, the state requires that you purchase a minimum amount of certain kinds of coverage. The required coverage, known as liability coverage, is broken down into two types designed to protect other people in the event of an accident in which you are at fault. The dollar amounts of coverage reflected below are minimum requirements through the end of 2014. Starting in January 2015, the minimum coverage amounts will increase. You have the option to purchase higher amounts of coverage.

  • Bodily Injury — This type of coverage pays the costs of the injury or death of another person, which may include people in another car, passengers in your car, or bicyclists or pedestrians with whom you collide. Illinois requires that you purchase coverage in the minimum amount of $25,000 per person, per accident and $50,000 total per accident.
  • Property Damage — This type of coverage pays for damage to another person’s property. This may include another car damaged in a collision or an object such as a fence or building that you hit. Illinois requires that you have coverage of at least $20,000 per accident.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is a form of coverage that protects you in the event of an accident caused by another person who either does not have insurance coverage or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover all of your medical costs when you are injured.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage only pays for bodily injuries, not property damage. The required minimum amount of coverage is $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.

  • Uninsured Motorist — If you’re in a crash caused by a driver with no insurance, you can make a claim against your uninsured motorist coverage for up to your coverage limits. If you have $25,000 in coverage, your claim would be capped at $25,000.
  • Underinsured Motorist — If you’re in a crash with a driver who has insurance, but not enough to pay your costs, this type of coverage will pay the difference between the other driver’s policy amount and your losses.

Optional Coverage in Illinois

Illinois insurance carriers offer a few types of optional insurance coverage designed to protect you from losses in the event of an accident, even if you’re at fault. If you’re still paying for your car, your auto lender likely will require that you buy both types of property damage coverage listed below. The dollar amount of coverage will depend upon what your insurance company offers and what you choose to buy. There are no mandated minimums.

  • Collision — This type of coverage pays for damage to your car when you’re in a crash with another car or a fixed object such as a light pole or a tree.
  • Comprehensive — This type of coverage pays for damage to your car from causes other than collisions, such as fire. This also is the type of coverage that covers your losses if your car is stolen.
  • Medical Payments/PIP — This pays your medical or funeral costs if you are injured or killed in an accident, even if you cause the crash.
  • Rental Reimbursement — This pays the cost of a rental car — usually a specific dollar amount per day — when your car is being repaired after an accident.
  • Towing — Pays all or part of the cost to have your car towed to a repair shop.
  • Uninsured Motorist Property Damage — Covers damage to your car caused by a driver with no insurance.
  • Physical Damage/Repair/Replace — If you have a late model car — usually less than three years old — this type of coverage pays to replace your car when repairs would cost more than a new car.
  • Accidental Death — This type of coverage pays a benefit when you die in an auto collision.