At Plymouth Rock, we do more than just help drivers get car insurance. Anybody can do that. We want to help you pick the right policy with the right coverage so you can feel comfortable that you and your loved ones are protected moving forward.
Part of the way that we do that involves helping people understand car insurance in Massachusetts in the first place – how it works, what it does and, more importantly, what it doesn’t do.
This information provides general descriptions of basic auto insurance concepts. It’s not intended to describe every condition and exclusion of the insurance policy. You should consult with your Plymouth Rock agent about your particular needs and remember that actual coverage is governed by the insurance policy as issued.
Understanding Your Auto Insurance Limits
The terms “auto insurance limits” and “coverage limits” refer to the maximum amount an insurer will pay in the event of a loss that is covered under your policy. The higher your limits are, the more the insurer will pay and the less you’ll pay in the event of an accident – but the more your policy will cost. Carrying lower limits can reduce your premium payments but it also comes with the risk that you will be responsible for higher out-of-pocket costs in the event of an accident.
Don’t worry – it’s not as complicated as it sounds. Balancing financial risk and the cost of your policy is a personal decision, and it’s one that should be based on your own unique needs. Think about the value of your car and the amount that you’re comfortable spending in the event of an accident or even a total loss. Also consider your ability to pay for medical expenses for yourself or another party if you are so unfortunate as to be involved in an accident that causes injuries. If you have any questions, the passionate experts at Plymouth Rock would love the opportunity to discuss your particular needs.
When people talk about coverage limits, they normally are referring to the “per person” and “per accident” limits for bodily injury liability coverage, as well as the property damage liability limit. Massachusetts law requires that you carry Bodily Injury Liability limits of at least $20,000 per-person and $40,000 per-accident and Property Damage Liability coverage of at least $5,000. You must also carry coverage of at least $20,000 per-person and $40,000 per-accident for Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto. You must carry $8,000 of PIP coverage. An important note: the state-required minimum Bodily Injury Liability coverage pays only for accidents that occur in Massachusetts. To ensure that you have coverage outside of Massachusetts for bodily injury liability you need to buy additional optional coverage.
Here is some basic information regarding those coverage limits:
- Bodily Injury to Others. This protects you against legal liability for the accidental injury or death of others (not including your passengers) caused by the operation of your car, but only if the accident occurs in Massachusetts. You will be covered up to a basic limit of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. Higher limits are available with optional bodily injury liability coverage, which also covers accidents that occur outside of Massachusetts. See below for more information on optional coverages.
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP). This pays up to $8,000 for medical expenses, replacement services and 75% of any lost wages. PIP will pay these expenses to you or anyone you let drive your car, anyone living in your household, passengers and pedestrians, regardless of who causes the accident.
- Bodily Injury Caused by Uninsured Auto. This protects you, anyone you let drive your car, household members and passengers (unless covered by another Massachusetts policy with similar coverage) against losses caused by an uninsured or unidentified (“hit and run”) driver. A minimum limit of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident is required. You should consider buying higher limits for greater protection. You should also consider buying optional coverage for bodily injury caused by an underinsured auto (where the at-fault driver has liability insurance, but not enough to cover your injuries). See below for more information on optional coverages.
- Property Damage. This pays for damage to another person’s property when you, a household member or another authorized driver cause an accident. A minimum limit of $5,000 is required.
These numbers are sometimes expressed by insurance professionals in a kind of short-hand for your easy reference as X/Y/Z in the order outlined above. So a policy with liability limits of 100/300/50 would have $100,000 limits for bodily injury liability per person, $300,000 limits for bodily injury liability per accident, and $50,000 limits for property damage liability per accident.
Major Types of Optional Auto Insurance Coverage
When you come to Plymouth Rock for all of your auto insurance needs, you’ll have some additional coverage options to choose from. Here are just a few of the more common optional coverages that our customers buy:
- Comprehensive coverage, which is designed to protect your car from damage NOT related to a collision with another vehicle. This includes things like natural disasters and storms, fires, vandalism, damages caused by hitting an animal and more.
- Collision insurance, which covers the cost to repair or replace your car after a collision with a stationary object or another car or truck. Collision only covers damage to your car or someone else’s car that you are operating with permission of the owner. It does not cover the damage you cause to other vehicles. You need property damage liability coverage for those damages. Wear and tear and mechanical breakdowns are also not covered by Collision.
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. If you weren’t at fault for an accident but the offending party doesn’t actually have insurance (or doesn’t have enough), or you are a victim of a hit-and-run accident, you’re in a tricky situation. This type of coverage will provide compensation for the cost of repairing your damaged vehicle or to pay for your medical costs. Under Massachusetts law you are required to carry at least $20,000 per-person and $40,000 per-accident for Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Auto Coverage (i.e., Uninsured Motorist Coverage). Any additional coverage is optional.
- Coverage for substitute transportation while your car is being repaired from a collision or comprehensive claim. We offer rental limits ranging from $15 per day/$450 maximum up to $100 per day/$3,000 maximum.
- Coverage for medical payments beyond the mandatory PIP coverage. This covers reasonable expenses for necessary medical and funeral services (1) incurred by anyone occupying your vehicle as a result of an accident, or (2) incurred by you and any household member if struck by an auto or while occupying someone else’s auto at the time of an accident. We offer limits ranging from $1,000 up to $25,000.
- Loan/lease gap insurance. If you’ve totaled your car to the point where the cost of repairing it exceeds its actual cash value but you are still making payments, this type of insurance will act as the salvation you need. Collision and Comprehensive coverages pay no more than the actual cash value of your vehicle just before the accident occurred (less your deductible), but you might owe more than that on your loan or lease. For a covered Collision or Comprehensive loss loan/lease gap coverage will pay the difference between the actual cash value of your car and the remaining balance on your loan or lease so that you can free yourself from this financial burden and get back on the road as quickly as possible.
As always, if you have any additional questions about how Massachusetts auto insurance works, or if you’d just like to sit down and speak to someone about your own situation in a little more detail, please don’t delay – contact Plymouth Rock today.