Not the police report. Most everyone remembers that. Not the license number
of the other driver. Hopefully that’s in the police report. It’s
something you’ll look for once, every few years, if at all, and
then it will be filed away in a drawer of a desk or a folder in the kitchen
or in the trash. What is it?
The declarations page to your insurance policy, also known as the “Dec” page.
How Can You Get Ahold of Your Declarations Page?
It is just a one page which summarizes all your insurance coverage using
acronyms that are entirely indecipherable to the uninitiated. Boring,
right? Yet, whole lawsuits rise or fall, depending on what’s printed
on it. It’s one of the first documents I ask for after a client
is injured and nine out of ten times, my clients say something to the
effect of, “Why? The accident wasn’t my fault? Why should
my insurance pay?”
It has nothing to do with fault. If I had not already believed that my
client wasn’t at fault, I wouldn’t even ask for this document.
Only, here’s the trick. You don’t really have to search for
it. If you’ve been
hit by a car and are lying in bed, listening to tv on pain killers, don’t bother
even trying to look for it. Pick up the phone and call your car insurance
agent. Ask him, or her, to email a copy of your “dec” page
to you. They’ll know what it is. When you’re done, forward
it to your
personal injury attorney.
Why is Your Declarations Page So Important?
By looking at a declarations page you’re attorney can tell:
- Whether you have to run up an unpaid bill for your medical expenses. How?
The dec page will have small box that says “med pay”. That’s
short hand for medical payment coverage, which is usually about $5000.
If you have that coverage you are able to pick and choose where you go
for treatment and the health care provider will bill your insurance. And
no it doesn’t increase your rates.
- Whether or not your claim will succeed, even if the driver who hit you
doesn’t have insurance or has limited insurance. Everyone who drives
on the road is supposed to have insurance, but of course they don’t.
You can’t even rely on a police report or the insurance card the
other driver shows you because if that driver missed a payment, the coverage
may have been cancelled. So how does staring at the “dec”
page help you? There’s another box on the ‘dec’ page
which if checked, means you have “UM” or Uninsured Motorist
coverage. There are numbers next to it, like 15/30 or 50/100 or even 100/300.
Take those number and multiply them by a thousand and that tells you how
much coverage you have, even if the other party is uninsured. The first
number is for one person, and the second is for everyone. What’s
more, if you have a large policy, and the drive who hits you has only
minimal limits, you then have under insured coverage for the same amount.
Once the attorney sees that box checked, he knows he has a chance of achieving
a recovery for you. If not from the driver, then from your own carrier
utilizing a much easier legal process call binding arbitration. And again,
it doesn’t raise your rates…because the accident wasn’t
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