When the economy bottomed out in 2008, I had just graduated from college and my parents were struggling to manage the finances of three other children. In an attempt to completely wean me from them financially, my parents called to tell me that they would be placing liability coverage on my car and that I needed to research my own policy.
“What is liability coverage?” I asked my mother.
“It means that the insurance company will only pay for damage to another person’s car if you are at fault in an accident.“
Newly independent and struggling to make ends meet myself, I settled for the limited coverage. After all, I had never even received a speeding ticket, much less gotten into an accident. The limited coverage would allow me to save money until I was on my feet. A year later, I was in a much healthier financial position, but I still considered the liability coverage to be adequate. I spent my spare money on clothes and eating out at restaurants. I repeatedly ignored my parents’ urgings that I look for another policy. It just seemed like too big of a hassle.
When a speeding jeep crashed into me from behind, my insurance coverage was the last thing on my mind. I was uninjured, but my car was totaled. The driver of the jeep had been going 75mph in a 45mph speed-zone. Even worse? The driver had been carrying a two-year old child in his lap. In the rush to get them both to the hospital, the police officer on the scene failed to get his insurance information.
Without coverage, I had to pay out-of-pocket for the towing and storage fees, which totaled close to $900. I couldn’t afford a rental car, and in a city without public transportation, I had to work three miles to work every day, rain or shine. In addition to lacking public transportation, the city was extremely unfriendly to pedestrians, with little to no sidewalks on my side of town. A large portion of my daily walk was spent balancing on the sides of deep drainage ditches on the side of the highway.
While the walking wasn’t entirely bad – the fresh air and exercise was beneficial – the frustrations from dealing with an insurance company and police department over the course of three months was mentally exhausting. The driver who hit me also damaged another vehicle, and his own insurance was limited to $10,000 – an amount that was eventually split between the two of us.
In the end, the reimbursement was enough to purchase a 2001 vehicle with a few drawbacks – no radio, dying electric motors in the windows and moon roof, a tattered and stained interior – but after being without a vehicle for three months, it was a chariot of freedom. And even though it was a cheap little car, I immediately purchased full coverage to ensure I would never, ever, go through anything like that again.
Rebecca Morris grew up working in the family auto parts store. Today, she writes for carinsurance.org where she shares all of the tips she learned throughout the years. In her free time, Sarah watches reruns of BBC’s Top Gear. Sarah loves connecting with readers, so feel free to leave a comment below!