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Does auto insurance cover the car or the person?


Auto Insurance that Follows the Person
While we're talking injuries: Sometimes injuries like whiplash take a couple days to present symptoms, so don't sign away any rights to medical coverage offered by an insurance company directly after an accident.
While we're talking injuries: Sometimes injuries like whiplash take a couple days to present symptoms, so don't sign away any rights to medical coverage offered by an insurance company directly after an accident.
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Liability insurance is one type of coverage that follows the person, not the car. It will pay for damages to other people and other people's property that you're found at fault for causing. The three types of liability insurance are person (which is the total your coverage will pay for a single person injured in an accident), accident (which is the total coverage for all people injured) and property (which, yes, covers property damage).

So just how much coverage do you need? Well, that depends where you live. For example, Pennsylvania requires that all drivers carry a minimum of $15,000 in coverage for single-person injuries, $30,000 for total accident injuries, and $5,000 for property damage. However, this varies widely across states; for example, at $100,000, Alaska has the highest requirements for multiple-injury coverage [source: Auto Insurance Remedy; All Insurance Info].

Medical payments and bodily injury insurance are two other types of coverage that follow the person, not the car. Medical payments (med pay) coverage pays for any injuries that you or your passengers may incur in an accident, regardless of who's at fault. However, if you already have decent health insurance, med pay coverage may be redundant -- talk to your health insurance company if you're not sure. Med pay coverage is usually optional, but some states do require it [source: Auto Insurance Tips]. Check with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles or Department of Driver Services to find out what kinds of coverage are required and how much you need to be insured for.

This all means that even if you're driving someone else's car, you're still covered if you meet two requirements:

  • First, the owner of the car you're driving must have insurance. Since most insurance follows the car, not the driver, you're covered as long as you have permission to drive that car.
  • Second, you as a driver must have insurance. While things like comprehensive and collision insurance won't follow you to a car that's not yours, that's already taken care of by the driver's insurance. And the coverage that doesn't follow the car -- med pay, for instance -- follows you from your own policy, no matter what car you're driving.

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