Most of us want the legal limit, we want to save a buck or two, but paying a lower insurance premium now could cost you a lot later, if you’re underinsured.
Six years ago, I was hit while riding my bike on a two-lane rural highway in Washington State. I never met the young man who was driving; our lawyers made sure of that. But he changed my life forever. Our system of “justice” ensured we would never come face-to-face. He got off with a $150 ticket for reckless driving and I spent a week in the ICU in a coma, two months in the hospital getting put back together like Humpty Dumpty, followed by 8 months in outpatient rehab. My medical bills were $875,000 before I even left the hospital.
The man who hit me had a policy with Progressive insurance, but it was the minimum required by the state. That covered me for a few days in ICU. My own better auto policy kicked in after that, despite the fact that my car was sitting at home in its parking space. It covered me for the rest of my hospital stay.
My own health insurance kicked-in for the rehab, but I still owed $60,000 in out-of-pocket expenses by the time it was over. But that wasn’t the end of it. There was still my follow-up care that included annual brain scans that cost $800 out-of-pocket along with twice-a-month doctor appointments with copays, and then bills that came later for the remaining amount, to be applied toward my deductible.
We in the United States think of insurance as a bother. We shop for discounted rates and want to pay as little as possible. Think, though, about what insurance is. It provides when you can’t pay for the damage yourself. What if, in a moment of distraction, you seriously hurt someone? Does your policy cover you enough to cover the damages? One of my doctors recently phoned me, excited because she discovered that for the cost of two lattes a month, she could triple her liability coverage on both of her family cars.
Next time you renew your policy, ask your agent about your coverage. You might be surprised how poor it is. The state minimum is just that — minimal. And if you think upgrading your insurance coverage is too expensive, I understand, it’s a hardship for many. We should be taking this issue to the voting booth rather than having the option to purchase adequate coverage – the option to choose to do the right thing under a broken system. When I have enough income to support myself and can spare a little energy for the fight, I do plan to work toward insurance law reform.
In June, I visited the ditch where my broken body was pulled out six years earlier. It was full of water; I was lucky it was dry when I landed in it. I’m told the car that hit me was lying above me, held up by the banks. That’s why they didn’t see me. Only the woman whose Durango was hit first knew I was there. They thought she was crazy or hallucinating. The poor woman said she had nightmares for months.
It’s weird; I remember a long embankment and being thrown a long distance. I was thrown along the road shoulder, but while I remember bouncing down a grassy hillside, I was actually ricocheting off pavement as if dragged behind a horse.
When I was there, I saw a road cross that wasn’t there before. I wrote to the property owners to let them know I survived.
Copyright © Kristin Noreen / 2016 Singular Communications, LLC.
Kristin Noreen lives in Bellingham, WA where she enjoys a variety of home-based consulting jobs, volunteers in animal rescue, and regularly contributes to the Facebook forum, Community of Single People. She recently published a memoir, On Silver Wings: A Life Reconstructed that chronicles her recovery from a near-death bicycle accident.