The Minimum Required Limits for Auto Liability Insurance Are Soon To Be Higher
On June 7, 2019, Governor Ducey signed Senate Bill 1087 into law. The new law will require motorists who buy the minimum limits of auto liability insurance to purchase a bit more coverage. The increase will go into effect on July 1, 2020 and will apply to all automobile insurance policies issued or renewed on or after that date. If you buy more than the required minimum, this new law will have absolutely no impact on you or the coverage you buy.
What are the New Limits and What Will an Increase Cost?
Arizona’s current minimum limits, which are among the lowest in the nation, went into effect in 1972. Those limits are 15/30/10. When we talk about auto insurance liability coverage, we are talking about liability for bodily injury. When you buy liability coverage, you are buying protection in the event you are at fault during an accident and cause injury to another person. If you did not have insurance, the injured person could sue you for the injuries you caused and obtain a judgment that puts your wages and personal assets at risk. Liability insurance provides you with a lawyer to defend you against the claim and money to pay the damages (up to your insurance limits).
The numbers (15/30/10) mean your insurance company will pay a maximum of $15,000 per person injured in the accident, with a maximum of $30,000 for all the injuries sustained in the accident. If more than 2 people are hurt, a decision must be made as to how much of the $30,000 pie, each injured party gets. The number 10 refers to the maximum the insurer will pay for property damage you cause. That usually means damage to the other driver’s car or damage to walls, buildings or other structures you may hit with your car.
Your liability insurance does not cover injuries you receive in the accident, nor does it cover damage to your vehicle. For your injuries and damage to be covered, you would have to add medical payments coverage and collision coverage to your policy. If the other driver is at fault for the accident, his insurance carrier should pay for your injuries and vehicle damage.
The new minimum insurance limits will be 25/50/15. Again, these are the minimums. If you are wise, you will buy more insurance than minimum coverage. The numbers 25/50/15 mean a limit of $25,000 for injury to a single person in an accident, and a maximum of $50,000 for all the injured parties. The minimum property damage limits will now be $15,000. Current estimates calculate the cost to purchase minimum coverage will rise by somewhere between $3 and $8 per month.
Why is the Law Changing?
The current minimums were set back in 1972, 47 years ago. Back then, the minimum wage was $1.60 per hour. In 2019, the minimum wage is $11.00 per hour. In 1972, the median household income in the U.S. was $8,198. In 2017, it was $60,145. With wage increases come increased costs. As you can imagine, the cost of ambulance transport, emergency room visits, and hospital treatment have increased many times over what they were in 1972. Those increased costs motivated Senator Kate Brophy McGee to propose the legislation and the Arizona legislature to vote in favor of the increase. A single trip to the emergency room can cost more than $15,000 in today’s economy.
The same is true about property damage. Last year, Senator Brophy McKee proposed increasing the minimum property damage coverage to $25,000, but the Governor vetoed that bill. In the current Bill, the property damage limit was scaled back to $15,000. As Senator Lupe Contreras pointed out during debate on the bill, most of the modern cars on the road can’t be replaced for $10,000. Many can’t even be repaired for $10,000. The limit had to be increased.
As mentioned earlier, those are the minimums, but financial experts will urge you to buy more if you can possibly afford it. If you have assets that you want to protect, more coverage is a must. Otherwise, if you cause an accident, you leave yourself vulnerable to a lawsuit that can wipe out your assets.
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