It is a fact that auto accidents happen every day, but not having adequate coverage at time of loss can be life changing. As an agent for 30+ years, I was shocked on January 15, 2017 as I read the front page headline in the Arizona Republic newspaper. Could the law actually be changed from civic to criminal involving and auto accident as a driver accelerates through a yellow light and causes a fatality?
The answer is YES! On June 25, 2012, as a couple of ordinary guys were on their morning commute to work, the light turned yellow. Two cars had already come to a stop, but driver #1 accelerated to get through the intersection and T-boned driver #2 at the driver’s door. The car left driver #2 deceased. No tickets were given at the scene of the accident, but driver #1 was later charged with manslaughter.
Through court proceedings, driver #1 was able to plead down to a lesser charge of negligent homicide with a prison term of one and a half years, as well as restitution that would not exceed one million dollars. The legal counsel for the deceased battled for criminal charges with restitution because a wrongful death award could be side-stepped by declaring bankruptcy whereas restitution must be paid. Driver #1 had a $200,000 a year job in a graphic advertising sales, but only carried 15/30/10 auto liability limits. He lost his job, his house, and his vehicle when he went to prison. Now, at age 47, he has no idea how he will ever pay a million dollars over his lifetime.
As an insurance professional, I am amazed that the risk of driving with minimal liability is not taken more serious by the public. It is a very sad story for the surviving spouse of the deceased and her young child, but also sad for the driver knowing his life also will be forever changed.
As an insurance producer and certified insurance counselor in the state of Arizona the questions I have are:
- Did driver #1 actually have an insurance producer sell him the minimum liability, or did he simply dial an 800# or purchase his policy online? As professionals in the insurance business, it is critical that we take the time to evaluate and strongly recommend higher appropriate limits. Most of our time should be spent educating our clients the importance of having adequate coverage.
- As I review risk and coverage with my clients, I will often ask why risk a lot for a little?
In today’s litigious environment, everyone is at risk of being sued from a loss. I know it is a cliché, but the saying “You do not need to be a millionaire to be sued like one” is absolutely true. As insurance agents in Surprise, AZ, I believe it is our responsibility to do a complete review and offer higher liability limits based on our clients individual situation. I find that as I get my clients to slow down enough to actually evaluate their risk compared to their current coverage, they will ask for more coverage. This allows our agency to sell higher limits as well as umbrella coverage.
In review, there is no substitute for a good local insurance agent who takes time to review the needs of their clients.