What to Look for When Insuring Your Automobile in Montana

Are you above the law? When it comes to adhering to Montana's mandatory auto insurance law, you really should be.

In accordance with Montana Code 61.6.103, all owners and operators of motor vehicles in the state are required to maintain liability protection with minimum levels of protection at $25,000 per accident for bodily injury or death; $50,000 per accident for bodily injury or death of two or more people; and $10,000 per accident for property damage. While the mandatory coverage law saddles drivers with a financial burden that didn't exist before 1979, one certainly can't argue the merits of a liability plan. As it was created to do, liability insurance guarantees that the driver who causes an accident will have the means to pay for the other motorist's repairs and medical bills. By doing so, it lessens the likelihood of a lawsuit being filed against the at-fault driver, thus protecting his or her assets in the event of a traffic accident.

When Enough Isn't Enough

That said, it should be noted that all residents have the right to sue whomever they choose. And if the minimum required benefits of $25,000, $50,000 and $10,000 leave some of the bills unpaid--which, given the rising costs of medical treatment and auto repairs, is an increasingly likely scenario--you can probably plan on seeing the other driver in court. A judgment made for the plaintiff could result in state-mandated deductions from your paycheck, a depletion of your life's savings, or even the forfeiture of your home to satisfy your court-ordered debt. In other words, every time you get behind the wheel of your car, you risk losing everything you and your family spent years building. And considering that the state is home to an average of 348 car accidents every day, knowing the risks could make even the most confident driver afraid to back out of the driveway ever again.

Go Above the Law

But it doesn't have to be that way. Because the state has set minimum requirements doesn't mean you're bound by them. You have every right to go above the law and increase your liability protection, as well as add additional protection to your policy. If you don't think it's necessary, consider the national average for bodily injury benefits is $100,000 and $300,000. That's $75,000 and $250,000 more than the amount required by law. And the national average for property damage benefits is $50,000, which is a far cry from the $10,000 mandated by the state. Does everybody else know something we don't?

Protection from the Other Guy

In addition to upping the ante on your liability, you might want to consider tacking on uninsured motorist protection. By covering your expenses if you are in an accident in which an uninsured motorist is at fault, this safeguards you against drivers who aren't so willing to play by the the state's rules. A number of states consider uninsured motorist coverage so important that it's required as part of their mandatory requirements.

Customized Products Tailored to You

But the options don't end there; there's a bevy of options available for residents. Some people might see a few of the selections as frivolous, while others might consider them to be essential. What it really comes down to is what type of policy best suit your needs and fit into your budget. The choices include:

  • Comprehensive. Especially important if you drive a new or high-end vehicle, comprehensive insurance helps replace your car if it's stolen and pays to repair damage caused by such factors as fire, wind, hail, flooding, explosion, vandalism and animals.
  • Collision. Offered by many providers as part of a package with comprehensive, collision coverage goes towards paying for vehicle damage resulting from a collision--regardless of who is responsible.
  • Medical. Completely opening the umbrella of injury protection, medical insurance not only pays for your injuries, but also for the injuries of anyone else in the car. In fact, you don't even need to be in the car to take advantage of the benefits--most medical plans cover the policyholder if he or she is struck by a vehicle while walking or riding a bicycle. Some plans even offer protection for injuries you sustain in someone else's car.
  • Other Options. While most providers offer a handful of riders that might appear to some as unnecessary extravagances, there's nothing like being caught in a situation that's covered by one to change a person's mind in a hurry. The add-ons include free towing; roadside assistance; a free or discounted rental car; and labor benefits to make up for lost income resulting from an accident.
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