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Does Liability Insurance Cover My Car if I Hit Someone?

Michael Agruss

Written and Reviewed by Michael Agruss

  • Managing Partner and Personal Injury Lawyer at Mike Agruss Law.
  • Over 20 years of experience in Personal Injury.
  • Over 8000+ consumer rights cases settled.
  • Graduated from the University of Illinois Chicago School of Law: Juris Doctor, 2004.

Understanding the extent of your car insurance coverage is crucial, particularly in the aftermath of an accident where you are at fault. Liability insurance is a fundamental aspect of most auto insurance policies. It is designed to cover the costs associated with damage and injuries you may cause to others in an accident. However, it does not typically cover the costs of repairing your own vehicle. That’s why understanding auto liability insurance and what to do if your insurance doesn’t cover your own injuries and damage is so important.

When a policyholder hits another vehicle, liability insurance steps in to cover the damages sustained by the other party’s vehicle, as well as any medical expenses resulting from injuries to the other driver or passengers. This component of an insurance policy is legally required in most states to ensure that drivers can pay for the losses they cause to others.

The policy limits of liability insurance are determined when the policy is purchased and dictate the maximum amount the insurance company will pay in the event of an accident. It is paramount for drivers to understand that any costs exceeding their coverage limits may be their responsibility. Comprehensive or collision coverage would be necessary for a policyholder to have their own vehicle repairs covered in the case they hit someone.

Two Persons discussing insurance With A Toy House On THe table

Understanding Liability Insurance

Liability insurance is specifically designed to protect against financial loss when the policyholder is at fault in an accident that causes injury or damage to another person or their property.

Definition and Purpose

Liability insurance is a type of insurance that provides coverage to policyholders for their legal responsibility for bodily injuries or property damage they may cause to others. The primary purpose of liability insurance coverage is to offer financial protection in case of accidents for which the policyholder is deemed legally responsible.

Types of Coverage

There are generally two main types of liability coverage:

  1. Bodily Injury Liability: This covers the costs associated with injuries to other individuals caused by the policyholder. It can help cover expenses like medical bills, loss of income, and in some cases, legal fees if a personal injury attorney represents the injured party.
  2. Property Damage Liability: This section addresses the costs related to the damage of someone else’s property. This could include the costs to repair or replace the other party’s car or property that was damaged in an accident.

Both types of coverage play a crucial role in ensuring that the policyholder can fulfill their financial obligations without facing severe personal losses.

Scope of Liability Insurance

Liability insurance primarily protects the insured from financial losses stemming from bodily injury or property damage to others for which the insured is legally responsible.

What’s Covered?

Liability insurance typically covers:

Bodily Injury: It includes medical expenses, lost wages, and legal fees if the insured is found at fault for injuring another person.

Property Damage: This covers the cost of repairing or replacing another person’s property that the insured damaged.

These coverages are in effect up to the policy’s specified limits.

Policy Limits

Insurance policies define limits, which are:

Per Person Limit: The maximum amount the policy will pay for bodily injury to each individual in an accident.

Per Accident Limit: The overall limit the policy will pay for all damages sustained in a single accident.

Policies are structured with separate limits for bodily injury and property damage.

Liability in Auto Accidents

Liability insurance is crucial in the event of an auto accident, as it determines financial responsibility for damages or injuries caused. This coverage is a legal requirement in states like Illinois, ensuring that at-fault drivers can compensate those they harm.

Determining Fault

When an auto accident occurs, the process of determining fault is essential to establishing who is financially responsible for damages. Illinois operates under a fault-based system, meaning that the person who caused the accident bears the liability for any injuries or property damage that result. Investigators will often look at evidence such as police reports, witness statements, and traffic laws violated to ascertain fault.

Liability States versus No-Fault States

Liability States

  • Parties rely on insurance coverage of the at-fault driver.
  • Illinois is one such state where drivers must carry liability insurance that covers:
    • $25,000 for the injury or death of a single individual.
    • $50,000 for the injury or death of more than one individual.
    • $20,000 for property damage.

No-Fault States

  • Each party files a claim with their own insurance, regardless of who is at fault.
  • Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance is utilized to cover medical expenses.

When Liability Insurance Applies

Liability insurance provides coverage when a policyholder is at fault in an accident, ensuring the costs for injuries and damages to other vehicles and property are managed up to the policy’s limits. It does not cover the policyholder’s own injuries or vehicle repairs.

Accidents Involving Other Vehicles

In the event that a policyholder is responsible for a collision with another vehicle, liability insurance covers the costs associated with the other party’s vehicle repairs and medical expenses. This coverage is subject to the limits outlined in the policy, typically detailed as follows:

Bodily Injury Liability: This applies to the medical expenses of individuals in the vehicle that was hit. It’s often represented by two numbers: per-person and per-accident limits.

Property Damage Liability: This addresses the repairs or replacement of the other vehicle or vehicles involved. It has a per-accident limit outlining the maximum payout by the insurance company.

Pedestrian and Property Damage Cases

Liability insurance extends to incidents involving pedestrians and property damage:

Coverage for Pedestrians: If a pedestrian is injured as a result of the policyholder’s actions, bodily injury liability will cover their medical expenses within the limits of the policy.

Property Damage: This part also covers costs if the policyholder damages someone’s property, such as a fence or building, with their vehicle. The extent of coverage is up to the property damage limit in the policy.

Exclusions and Limitations

Liability insurance typically provides coverage for damages or injuries that the policyholder is found legally responsible for causing to others. However, it’s important for policyholders to be aware of the exclusions and limitations within their insurance policy.

Common Exclusions

Intentional Damage: Damages resulting from intentional acts, rather than accidents, are not covered.

Property Owned by Policyholder: Liability insurance does not cover damage to the policyholder’s own vehicle.

Use without Permission: Incidents that occur while the car is being used without the policyholder’s permission may be excluded.

Unlisted Drivers: Only drivers listed on the policy are typically covered.

Commercial Use: Personal liability insurance does not cover incidents occurring during commercial use unless specifically stated.

Criminal Acts: Damages or injuries resulting from criminal acts, such as DUI, may be excluded.

Read Your Policy Carefully

It is crucial for individuals to read and understand their own insurance policy. Each policy has its own specific terms and conditions, including:

Policy Limits: These are the maximum amounts an insurer will pay under a liability claim.

Deductibles: Some policies may include deductibles that the policyholder is responsible for paying.

Policy details can significantly affect coverage. It is the policyholder’s responsibility to know these details to ensure adequate protection.

Dealing With Insurance Claims

When a policyholder is involved in a vehicular accident that results in bodily injury or property damage, they must navigate the insurance claims process to determine coverage and compensation.

Filing a Claim

The first step a policyholder must take is to file a claim with their insurance company. This initiates the formal process of seeking coverage under the terms of their liability insurance policy. They need to provide:

  • The date, time, and location of the accident.
  • A description of what happened.
  • Names and contact information of everyone involved.
  • Insurance details of other parties.
  • Photos or videos of the accident scene and damages, if available.

The Claims Process

Once a claim is filed, the insurance company begins an investigation to assess the validity and scope of the claim. Critical stages of the process include:

  1. Assignment of a Claims Adjuster: This individual investigates the accident, evaluates the damage, and negotiates settlement particulars.
  2. Review of the Policy: Key aspects such as coverage limits and exclusions are confirmed.
  3. Liability Determination: The adjuster determines the degree of fault of the involved parties based on evidence and applicable laws.
  4. Damage Assessment: An estimation of repair costs for the vehicles involved is created, often necessitating the input of automotive repair professionals.
  5. Payment Authorization: Should the claim be approved, the insurance company authorizes payment up to the policy’s coverage limits for liable expenses.

The process should conclude with a resolution to the satisfaction of all parties within the confines of the policy’s stipulations.

Legal Considerations

When an individual is involved in an automobile accident and is at fault, determining whether liability insurance covers the damages to their car requires an understanding of the legal framework surrounding insurance claims. The process can be complex, but knowledge of the key legal principles involved is essential.

When to Hire a Lawyer

A driver should consider consulting with a personal injury attorney at Mike Agruss Law if there are ambiguities about the liability or extent of the insurance coverage. This is particularly prudent if the incident resulted in significant property damage or personal injuries. A Chicago personal injury lawyer from our law firm can help protect the driver’s rights and ensure that they navigate the claims process effectively. Just a few of the reasons to hire an attorney include:

  • Disputes about liability or insurance coverage terms
  • Severe property damage or personal injury
  • Navigating complex legal procedures

Navigating the Legal System

The legal system can be intricate, and understanding the procedures for filing insurance claims is critical. One should be familiar with the stipulations of their liability insurance policy and the state laws that may affect the coverage.

Steps in the legal process:

  1. Report the accident to the appropriate authorities and insurers promptly.
  2. Review your insurance policy and understand the coverage limits and exclusions.
  3. Document all correspondence and decisions related to the accident and the claim.
  4. Seek legal advice if there is any confusion or dispute surrounding the claim.

Protecting Your Rights

When involved in a car accident, it is crucial to understand the steps necessary to protect one’s legal rights and ensure proper coverage by liability insurance.

What to Do After an Accident

Immediately after an accident, safety is the priority. Individuals should move to a secure location and check for injuries. Then, contact law enforcement and wait for them to arrive. The presence of police typically results in an official accident report, which is a critical document for insurance claims.

One should exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver but avoid discussing fault or liability. Statements made at this time can impact insurance claims and legal rights.

Documentation and Evidence

The gathering of documentation and evidence is a methodical process that begins at the scene. Individuals should take photographs of:

  • Vehicle damage
  • License plates
  • The surrounding area
  • Road conditions

The driver should also collect names and contact details of any witnesses. The protection of one’s legal rights is augmented by creating a comprehensive dossier of the accident’s context and aftermath. This includes:

  • Saving all medical records and bills related to injuries sustained
  • Recording any time missed from work
  • Documenting all related expenses

Securing this evidence early on fortifies one’s position when filing a claim with the liability insurance provider.

Insurance Premiums and Rates

Insurance premiums and rates are subject to a variety of factors. Understanding these can help one manage costs effectively.

How Rates Are Determined

Insurance companies assess risk when determining rates. They consider:

Driving Record: A clean record typically results in lower premiums.

Location: Urban areas with higher traffic may lead to increased rates.

Vehicle Type: High-performance or luxury vehicles often incur higher premiums.

Usage: More miles driven can increase the likelihood of an accident and thereby premiums.

Rates are also influenced by the coverages selected. Liability coverage, which is mandatory in most states, can vary in cost depending on the coverage limits set by the policyholder.

Managing Your Premiums

There are strategies to keep premiums in check:

Compare Insurance Providers: Different companies may offer competitive rates.

Increase Your Deductible: A higher deductible can reduce the premium, but it will increase out-of-pocket costs if an accident occurs.

Discounts: Many insurers offer discounts for certain qualifications such as safe driving, multiple cars, or security features.

Regular Reviews: Policyholders should review their policies annually to ensure they are only paying for necessary coverage.

Additional Coverages

When a driver hits someone, liability insurance typically covers the damages to the other party, not the at-fault driver’s vehicle. Additional types of coverage can financially protect the at-fault driver’s vehicle in an accident.

Collision Coverage

Collision coverage is an optional policy that pays for the repair or replacement of the policyholder’s car after an accident, regardless of fault. It usually comes with a deductible, which is the amount the policyholder pays out-of-pocket before insurance kicks in.

Comprehensive Coverage

Comprehensive coverage provides financial protection for a vehicle from damages not caused by collisions. This includes events such as theft, vandalism, natural disasters, and hitting an animal. Similar to collision coverage, comprehensive policies typically include a deductible.

Frequently Asked Questions

As experts in Illinois car accident claims, we regularly get questions regarding liability insurance and whether or not it offers the coverage an injured driver needs. This section addresses the specifics of how liability insurance functions when a policyholder is responsible for a vehicle accident.

What is liability insurance for car accidents in Illinois?

Liability insurance in Illinois is coverage that helps pay for the other driver’s expenses if you’re found at fault in a car accident. It typically covers bodily injury and property damage costs for the other party.

Is liability insurance mandatory in Illinois?

Yes, liability insurance is mandatory for all drivers in Illinois. The state requires drivers to have minimum liability coverage limits to legally operate a vehicle.

What are the minimum liability insurance requirements in Illinois?

In Illinois, drivers are required to have liability insurance with at least the following minimum coverage limits:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury per accident
  • $20,000 for property damage per accident

What does liability insurance cover in a car accident?

Liability insurance covers expenses related to the other party’s injuries and property damage if you’re at fault in an accident. This includes medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and vehicle repair or replacement costs.

Does liability insurance cover my own expenses in a car accident?

No, liability insurance typically does not cover your own expenses in a car accident. It’s designed to protect you financially if you’re responsible for someone else’s injuries or property damage.

What happens if I don’t have liability insurance in Illinois?

Driving without liability insurance in Illinois is illegal and can result in severe penalties, including fines, license suspension, and vehicle impoundment. Additionally, if you’re involved in an accident without insurance, you may be personally responsible for paying the other party’s expenses.

Can I purchase additional coverage beyond the minimum liability insurance requirements in Illinois?

Yes, you can purchase additional coverage beyond the minimum requirements to provide more extensive protection in case of an accident. This may include options such as higher liability limits, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and collision/comprehensive coverage.

How does fault affect liability insurance claims in Illinois?

Illinois follows a modified comparative fault system, meaning that if you’re found partially at fault for an accident, your liability may be reduced, but you can still be held responsible for a portion of the damages. However, if you’re found to be more than 50% at fault, you may not be able to recover any damages from the other party.

How long do I have to file a liability insurance claim after a car accident in Illinois?

In Illinois, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury or property damage claim after a car accident is generally two years from the date of the accident. It’s essential to initiate the claims process promptly to ensure you meet any deadlines and preserve your right to compensation.

Contact Mike Agruss Law For Compensation to Cover Ongoing Medical Expenses

If you have any questions or need assistance with liability insurance issues or car accident claims in Illinois, don’t hesitate to reach out to Mike Agruss Law. Our experienced team is dedicated to helping individuals navigate the complexities of insurance law and obtain the compensation they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation with a car accident lawyer, and let us advocate for your rights and interests.

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