5 On Your Side

Check your coverage: Accident proves the short-comings of low-cost car insurance

Posted October 25, 2018 6:14 p.m. EDT
Updated October 25, 2018 6:29 p.m. EDT

— A Person County man contacted 5 On Your Side's Monica Laliberte to spread the word about his ordeal after he was seriously hurt in a car accident that wasn't even his fault.

Most consumers want to save money where they can, so low-cost insurance policies can seem like a simple adjustment until you need the coverage.

It was an expensive lesson that Chris Godley learned the hard way.

His car was totaled and his back was broken in the accident.

"It's not like mine was a catastrophic accident (or) I was involved in a 10-car pile-up or hit by a Mack truck," he said. "I was T-boned by an SUV."

Police said the accident was the other driver's fault. That driver was insured and so was Godley, but neither had enough coverage to fully compensate him for the thousands of dollars in medical bills he was faced with.

"For 12 years now ... the best rate's been great, but when it came down to it, the best rate didn't cover it," says Godley, who needed an ambulance, surgery and therapy after the crash.

He said his medical bills topped $100,000, and with his car totaled, he needed a new one.

Godley said the other driver's policy maxed out at $32,000.

That's when his underinsured policy kicked in, but the coverage limits he had only brought his total insurance payment to $50,000.

"That was a huge shock to us," he said. "$50,000 seems like a tidy sum that should cover most anything, which is not even remotely the case."

Godley's story raises the question: Does your policy provide enough coverage if you're in an accident?

Industry experts say if you have your state's minimum financial liability requirements then probably not.

That's why vehicle owners should ensure that their coverage limits will cover potential damages and injuries, both of which can get expensive, quickly.

And keep in mind that an estimated 6.5 percent of North Carolina drivers don't have car insurance, another good reason to get that uninsured, underinsured coverage.

"Every time I turned around throughout this entire process, everything that I had previously thought was the case, was wrong," Godley says now.

He has significantly higher coverage limits under his new policy.

"I went from a $50,000 medical coverage to $250,000\500,000, meaning $250,000 (for a) single incident (and) $500,000 total," he said. "I want to to say it went up maybe $12 a month. Had I had that six months ago, none of this would have been a problem."

He said he hopes his experience serves as a teaching moment for other drivers."

"If anybody watches this and says, 'Wait a minute, if that happened to me with what I've got, I'd be screwed,' it helped somebody," he said.