What You Should Know About Public Liability

If you have an older car that’s paid for, do you continue to carry full coverage comp & collision insurance on it? Or do you go down to public liability? For many of us who are in the lower income brackets, public liability is where we end up, usually with a rider to cover ourselves, Uninsured Motorist Protection, or UMP. There are going to be some initials in here, I’ve been giving myself a crash course on automotive insurance law.

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I realize this picture doesn’t look so bad, but the gas tank is knocked loose, the trunk won’t open, and only one door still opens. It’s totalled, and you cannot insure a totalled car. You can insure a salvaged car, once it’s fixed, and that is where the problem begins.

You see, I am a fairly responsible adult; I eat my vegetables, I recycle, I make sure the grandbabies have sunscreen on when I take them out to play, I read labels in the store, I clean with natural ingredients that are safe for the environment, and I have insurance. In return I expect to not have sunburned babies, a cleaner home and planet, and my insurance to cover accidents. Not too much to expect, right? Or is it? I have found over the years that many insurance companies can be counted on less than a politician before election, but I have had this company for years, and I had a similar situation once, and they were super helpful, so I expected that this time too.

Last Sunday my neighbor came pounding on my door to tell me he saw someone hit my car in the parking lot, I went running outside, saw my darling car all smashed up, ran back in and traded my nightgown for clothes, and sent my daughter next door to babysit so my son could come help assess damage. I had him take pictures while I took information from the man who stuck around to say sorry he backed into my car going 30 in a parking lot, his hitch crunched right through my car without damaging his at all, not even a paint fleck on his truck. It’s easy to stick around and be helpful if you already know your insurance cards are not valid and you have no intention of answering your phone again.

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According to the Insurance Research Council, last year there were 4.1 million uninsured drivers on the road JUST in California.  The DOT estimates uninsured drivers as 15% or so of the vehicles on the road right now. That’s a lot of uninsured drivers, and if one hits you, your insurance doesn’t have to pay. How awful is that? Now, had I been in the car, and the guy killed me, they would have paid my family. Since I was sitting innocently on my couch planning my day I am SOL. How unfair.

The other thing I learned is that there is something called UMPD, Uninsured Motorist Property Damage, if I had this coverage my insurance would have to pay for the damages. Problem solved, I thought to myself, that is what I asked for when I bought insurance, protection from a car wreck from an uninsured motorist. Well, it doesn’t matter that I asked for it I guess, because apparently the state I live in doesn’t have it. I spent hours searching online trying to find what states have it, the most recent I found was in 2000, and it says my state does offer it, and I have to reject it in writing, but that is apparently out of date, because I don’t have it.

Now… I told you all that to tell you this… I am scared. Scared to death. I can’t sleep. I lie down and get comfortable and start to cry, crying in big, loud, wracking sobs. I’m so scared, I have no idea what’s going to happen to me. I’m disabled. I cannot afford a car payment, in fact I can’t always afford food, sometimes I have to supplement at the food shelf, how will I get there now? I have a pain doctor for my work comp. injury, he is 20 miles away, as is the pharmacy, the grocery store, and the laundromat. Right now I have no idea how I will even get my clothes clean. I can’t go to the bank to get laundry quarters even. I am freaking out. My daughter is in college, 25 miles away, will she have to drop out because I don’t have a car? None of this is my fault, I wish it was, if I had wrecked it myself it would at least make sense to me. This man stole my independence, walked away with no damages, and no one stinking CARES!!

this is not coverage, I thought it was
this is not coverage, I thought it was

I have had a lot happen in the last few years, I was permanently injured working as a nurse, a job I loved, then I developed fibromyalgia, I can no longer work, I am… not well… I still hate saying it, but medically I am rather fragile, stress makes it worse, and I have been crying for days. Some of my friends on social media suggested I start a GoFundMe, I said no, it’s not false pride, if it was I wouldn’t be telling the world my story. It’s because we are living in a world of earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, disease, and childhood cancer. It feels selfish and small to me that not having a car is wrecking my small sense of stability, and yet the fact remains, my stability is shattered.

The reason I decided to tell everyone all this is because, no, this should not have happened to me, and it should not happen to you either. Ask your insurance provider exactly what you are covered for, if UMPD is available where you live, buy it, it’s like $15 extra. If it’s not available call your legislator and tell him your state needs it, it does. Sometimes bad things happen to one person so that person can save others from the same thing, in some ways that makes it worthwhile. Learn from me.

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