As a personal injury attorney in North Carolina, I hear this from clients all the time. Unfortunately, in most cases, it is not true. At the very least, it is not what they believe it to be. In North Carolina, as in most states, you are required to purchase auto insurance to legally be allowed to drive on public roadways. Each state sets its own requirement as to the minimum amount of insurance and type of insurance that you must purchase to be a legal driver. The primary purpose of these requirements is to protect innocent persons from your negligent driving. In North Carolina it is called the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act and can be found at NCGS §20-279.21.
North Carolina requires that all drivers carry at least $30,000 in liability insurance. This is sometimes referred to as “minimum limits” or a “30/60” policy. That means that you only carry the minimum amount of auto liability coverage required by law in North Carolina. Under a minimum limits policy, the most any one injured claimant can collect is $30,000 and there is only $60,000 in available liability coverage for all the claimants involved in an accident. For example, if you, your spouse and your children are involved in a car accident and spouse and children of the at-fault driver are in the other vehicle, there is a total of $60,000 in available liability coverage for all seven claimants (assuming two children in each car). With the costs of health care rising, if all seven claimants are transported by ambulance and get checked out at the hospital, you can easily see how quickly that $60,000 is exhausted, let alone if there are any serious injuries or follow up visits are needed, or worse, if someone dies as a result of the accident. None of those factors change the amount of money available to the claimants in a minimum limits policy.
As such, it is highly recommended that you carry as much auto liability coverage as you can afford. There are two reasons for this. One is that most people do not go out and intend to cause a collision. They generally the result of negligence. Think of all the things people have to distract them, even momentarily, the radio, the weather, the other cars on the road, GPS, eating or drinking, texting, talking on the phone, children, the list goes on and on. As such, if you have assets that you want to protect, you should carry higher liability limits so that claimants can focus on your insurance coverage instead of trying to get money from you directly. The second reason is that, in general, you have to carry higher liability coverage in order to purchase higher Uninsured (does not have insurance) or Under-insured Motorist Coverage (does not have enough insurance to fully compensate you for your damages), both of which help to protect YOU and your family.
Due to the high number of Uninsured motorists on the roadway, in 2009, just ten years ago, the North Carolina legislature made Uninsured Motorist coverage mandatory as well as liability insurance. As a rule of thumb, imagine how much insurance you would like to be available to you and your family if you were involved in an accident where you were seriously injured and were not able to work or provide for your family and get as much as you can afford. This will allow you to help take control of a vulnerable and difficulty situation instead of hoping that the stranger that hit you and caused your injuries has enough coverage to pay for them.