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When car accidents happen, the right coverage matters

Man and young woman looking at a laptop computer together.

A car accident can happen in an instant. Auto accidents happen millions of times every year in the United States, and on any given day, anyone could find themselves a victim.

In March of 2018, it happened to First Tech Director of Insurance Arron Stephens.

As a professional in the insurance industry, Arron already knew the importance of having the right insurance coverage at all times. But until he became the victim of a serious accident, he had no idea how important his coverage could be on his long path to recovery.

In March of 2018, Arron was driving by himself down Interstate 5 in Oregon, on his way to coach his son’s indoor soccer game. As traffic in front of him on the highway began to slow and eventually stop, Arron followed suit and came to a stop. He glanced in the rearview mirror in time to see a car behind him not slowing down and headed right for him.

He braced for impact.

The car collided with him while travelling over 50 miles per hour, sending him into another car and totaling Arron’s car. The accident left him with serious injuries.

“The next thing I know, someone is tapping on my window,” he recalled about the accident. “I don’t know who it is. I don’t remember being unconscious, but I went from knowing I was going to get hit, to sitting there not knowing where I am.” Arron said.

He was able to gather himself enough to collect photos of IDs and insurance cards on the scene from everyone involved in the accident, and then contact his insurance.

Read more about the steps you should take after being involved in a car accident.

“I went into my primary care provider and let them know I was injured in an automobile accident. Right away they are looking for Personal Injury Protection coverage in my auto insurance,” Arron said, highlighting the significance of his insurance plan.

Arron didn’t realize the extent of his injuries at the moment. In the following weeks, he would return to work and attempt to regain some normalcy, but he still didn’t feel right. He knew he needed to seek more help. He was eventually diagnosed with a severe concussion.

“I was not thinking straight, but I had a hard time letting everyone see that. I was really good faking it,” he said. “But I couldn’t type or spell, and I’d wander off in conversation and lose words. I just wasn’t recognizing anything. I wasn’t acting like myself and my emotions weren’t mine.”

Because he had Personal Injury Protection/Med Pay (PIP) coverage as part of his auto insurance plan, Arron had the option to look outside his own medical network to receive the best neurological treatment for his specific condition.

PIP insurance typically covers $15,000 in medical treatments related to an auto accident, but can also be increased to a higher amount. Arron’s injuries were serious enough that he quickly exhausted that coverage. Although the remaining medical bills would typically be covered by the policy of the driver who collided with Arron, that driver’s minimum Bodily Injury Liability coverage – which covers medical expenses and lost wages of anyone you might injure in an auto accident - meant their policy was quickly maxed out. The inadequate liability limits of the other driver meant Arron would have to pay for remaining medical costs out of pocket.

Fortunately, part of Arron’s insurance policy was to carry Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury (UMBI). This afforded coverage to Arron when his damages exceeded the limits of the policy of the individual at fault. He was able to use the UMBI coverage of his own policy to recoup the lost income and damages sustained from the accident.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage takes effect when you are not at fault for an accident, and can be required to carry in some states. Because it helps cover things like medical care and loss of income, setting a higher limit on this coverage (and not just opting for minimum requirements) can help relieve financial stress following an accident.

Since the accident, Arron has been able to get the long-term help and support he needs from family, friends, coworkers and a whole community of professionals.

He spent more than two years visiting eye doctors, ear specialists, hyperacusis specialists, massage therapists, chiropractors and more—at one time totaling more than 12 appointments per month. He’s now on a better path to recovery.

“Self-advocacy is huge. If you aren’t standing up for yourself, you might miss something.”

Following a serious accident, it’s normal to want to put it all behind you as quickly as possible. But sometimes injuries or bill payments can linger long after the incident, and carrying the right insurance plan becomes even more essential. It’s up to you to make sure you are covered—and to get the help you need when you need it.

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