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Insurance folks I’ve met over the years may know the story of my daughter Jenna’s car accident. It’s a painful, very personal story. But by sharing it, I hope to help other people avoid this situation.

Jenna’s story actually starts before she was born. I was told I could never have children. So that is the first miracle.

Here’s the second:

On December 10, 2017, Jenna, her fiancé and her future father-in-law suffered an automobile accident — they were T-boned by a driver carrying minimum liability limits. Tragically, Jenna’s future father-in-law died.

That night Jenna became my miracle for a second time. Her neurosurgeon said most people don’t live when the neck is fractured as Jenna’s was. Even if they do live, they are paralyzed from the neck down. Jenna went through emergency neck surgery the next day, and the neurosurgeon said it was like putting back together pieces of a very tiny puzzle.

Jenna also had a punctured lung, four broken ribs, two breaks of her clavicle, a huge break in the humerus of her left arm, a fractured jaw, nerve damage on the left side of her head and a severed radial nerve.

We finally heard some good news nine months later. Her radial nerve had started to regenerate enough to where she could return to work as a journalist. We learned she would not require additional surgery on her left hand, which is her primary hand. She still sees an occupational therapist twice a week to see if they can bring it completely back to life.

For years Jenna had fought me over her automobile liability and uninsured motorists (UM) limits. I kept hounding her to keep her limits up. (I wanted her to have 250/500/250 but she ended up with 100/300/100 because I said that was the absolute minimum.)

Jenna’s expenses for the first week alone in the hospital were $174,000. At last count, the medical bills were nearing $300,000. By stacking coverages from all the insurance policies, we cobbled together enough coverage.

But Jenna went nine months on disability, and eight of those months were at 60% salary. She has ongoing medical expenses. And she doesn’t know if she will ever regain full use of her left hand.

Jenna was very lucky. But what if she had had only minimum state-required limits or had waived the coverage? She could have received only $35,000 — completely inadequate to cover the reduction in wages, ongoing medical care, etc.

After the accident, I offered via Facebook to answer questions about car insurance limits for Jenna’s friends — or anyone. Luckily most older adults had at least 100/300/100 but only one of Jenna’s friends (younger generation) did, and that’s because her father is an agent. Most had minimum limits.

And this isn’t just about car accidents. Ask the poor folks in California who are underinsured after the wildfires, an article in IBA said 80% of homeowners were underinsured. When I hear about folks being underinsured, I wonder: Why the hell does any insurance professional — carrier, agent or broker — still sell on price? And why would any consumer buy solely on price?

Sure, 15 minutes might save you 15% or more on your car insurance. But what’s the true cost of that?

There is genuine value in insurance consulting, good advice, and proper coverage.

Linda Dodson

Posted 5:20 PM

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