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 must purchase auto insurance to be allowed to drive on public roadways legally. Each state sets its own requirement for 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 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 individual 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, suppose you, your spouse, and your children are in a car accident, and the spouse and children of the at-fault driver are in the other vehicle. In that case, there is a total of $60,000 in available liability coverage for all seven claimants (assuming two children in each car).
Suppose 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 any serious injuries or follow-up visits are needed, or worse if someone dies due to 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. Collisions are generally the result of negligence. Think of all the things people have to distract them, even momentarily. Things such as the radio, the weather, 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 generally, you have to carry higher liability coverage to purchase higher Uninsured (does not have insurance) or Under-insured Motorist Coverage (does not have enough insurance to compensate you for your damages fully). Both of which help to protect YOU and your family.
Due to the high number of uninsured motorists on the roadway, in 2009, just a little over 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 could not work or provide for your family. Then get as much as you can afford. This will allow you to help take control of a vulnerable and challenging situation instead of hoping that the stranger that hit you and caused your injuries has enough coverage to pay for them