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How to figure out what coverage you need

Without auto insurance, you'd leave yourself exposed to a great deal of potential financial damage. You'd run the risk of incurring heavy hospital bills, shop repairs and other crippling expenses. And you could get into legal trouble too, because state laws require either insurance coverage or proof of financial responsibility. Auto policies are there for your own protection, covering damage to a vehicle, injury liability, rental-car reimbursement (if your vehicle cannot be driven), towing and labor services and loss of income if an accident forces you out of work.

We at Nationwide, however, realize that all of the plans out there can appear complex. But they don't have to be. To simplify, here's a breakdown of coverages insurance experts say are important. Many, in fact, are mandated by individual state laws.

Bodily Injury Liability. If you cause an injury to someone else while behind the wheel, this will protect you. In the case of a lawsuit on the part of a victim and/or the victim's family, the damages could be immense. Everything you own and saved for — a house, savings account, etc. — could be subject to a court-directed payment. So if you possess significant assets, you should strongly consider buying more than the state-designated minimum coverage.

Personal Injury Protection. As opposed to the other person involved, this one covers you — including medical payments and lost wages. And should the unthinkable happen in an accident, funeral expenses for you and your passengers are sometimes covered.

Property Damage Liability. This addresses third party "stuff," like vehicles, buildings, utility poles, fences or other property you run into.

Collision Coverage. This covers damage to your vehicle resulting from collision with another vehicle or object (subject to deductible).

Comprehensive Coverage. Actually, this one is optional in most states. Still, it's wise to have it in your insurance portfolio. After all, you can't stop certain non-driving related disasters/incidents from happening. That's why "comp" coverage covers damage due to theft, weather events, vandalism or accidents with animals, for example.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. How often have you heard about the unfortunate motorist who got rammed by an uninsured driver? If this happens to you and you have this coverage, you're in luck. It accounts for damages from someone who is responsible for the accident but doesn't have insurance — or own enough to pay for your losses.

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