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How to Choose Life Insurance



Life insurance is part of estate planning.
If you have loved ones who depend upon you financially, you need life insurance.
A life insurance policy allows your beneficiaries to cover their living expenses after your death.
Depending on the size of the benefit you want to provide and the amount you can afford to pay on premiums, you can choose from several different types of life insurance policies.

Calculating How Much Life Insurance You Need

Decide whether or not you need life insurance.
If you have anyone who relies upon you financially, then you should purchase a life insurance policy.
You may be able to purchase a life insurance policy through your work.
But the coverage may not be high enough, and it likely only remains in place while you are employed.
Depending on the amount of coverage you need, you may need to purchase an additional life insurance policy outside of work.

  • The amount you need depends on the expenses your dependents face after you are gone.

Estimate your family`s expenses.
Determine how much money it would take to keep your house, such as the amount you still own on your mortgage.
Tally up any unpaid debt in addition to your mortgage.
Your family will be responsible for your car loans, student loans and credit card debt.
Add in your final expenses.
Your family will have to pay your medical bills and funeral expenses, and they may need to pay estate taxes.

  • For example, suppose you owe $150,000 on your mortgage, and you have other consumer debt that adds up to $20,000.
    Estimate that your final expenses will cost $5,000.
    This adds up to $175,000 .

Consider future expenses.
You want to leave your family with enough money to cover future financial obligations.
For example, your spouse may want to send you children to college.
Estimate how much would be needed for tuition, books, fees and room and board.
If you pass away, this might not be possible without your income.
A life insurance policy can make it a reality.

  • For example, if you want your children to be able to attend an in-state, four-year public school, you will need to have at least $130,000 per child.
    If you have three children, you would need $390,000.

Add up the current financial resources.
Tally up any financial resources still available to your family after your death.
For example, your spouse may have an income.
You may have savings or retirement accounts.
In addition, you may have begun saving for college.
Also, you might have other life insurance policies.
Add up the balances in all of your accounts.

  • For example, suppose you have $75,000 saved in your retirement accounts and $10,000 saved for college.
    Also, you have another life insurance policy through work that`s worth $50,000.
    That means you already have $135,000 in financial resources .

Calculate how much life insurance you need.
Add up all of the expenses you want to cover, including paying off your house, paying off your debt and sending your children to college.
Add up all of your financial resources, including your retirement savings, college savings and other life insurance policies.
Subtract the value of your financial resources from the total expenses you want to cover.
This tells you how much life insurance you need.

  • In the above example, you want to cover $175,000 in debt and $390,000 in college tuition.
    This totals up to $565,000.
  • You already have $135,000 in other financial resources.
  • You need to purchase $430,000 in life insurance .

Use an online life insurance calculator.
Many life insurance companies have online forms that will help you figure out how much life insurance you need.
You enter in how much outstanding debt you have and how many children you need to send to college.
You also input information about the total annual income your family would need and any income you expect your spouse to earn after you die.
Once you submit the information, the calculator analyses your situation and tells you how much life insurance you need to purchase.
From there, you would contact an agent and discuss the life insurance products they have available to cover your needs.

Understanding Life Insurance Products

Compare term insurance and permanent insurance.
These are the two basic categories of insurance available.
Term insurance is good for a specific period of time, whereas permanent insurance is good for your entire life.
Term insurance is typically inexpensive, and permanent insurance is pricey.
Finally, permanent insurance policies build cash value.
This means that a portion of the premium you pay each month is invested and can grow in value.

  • Term life insurance is basic and inexpensive.
    It is good for a specific amount of time.
    For example, your term life insurance may cover your for 10, 20 or 30 years.
    People purchase term life insurance in order to cover them until they are able to save up enough money to cover their families` financial needs.
    If you die during the term of your insurance, your beneficiaries get your death benefit.
    If you die after the term has expired, your beneficiaries get nothing.
  • Permanent policies are also known as cash-value policies.
    They are good until your death.
    They do not expire after a certain number of years.
    Also, they have an investment component attached.
    This means that part of the premium is invested by the insurance company and earns interest.
    Three types of permanent insurance are whole life, universal life and variable life.

Evaluate the two types of term life insurance.
You can choose from two different types of term life insurance.
The first is the “annual renewable term.
” With this type, you can purchase one year of coverage at a time.
You have the option to renew each year.
The other option is “level premium term.
” This means you lock into a specific multi-year period, such as 10, 20 or 30 years.

  • With annual renewable term insurance, the premium is likely to increase each year.
  • With level premium term, you are guaranteed the same premium for the life of the term.

Assess the three different kinds of permanent life insurance you can purchase.
They are whole life, universal life and variable life.
Whole life, universal life and variable life policies use different kinds of investment tools to grow cash value.
The rate of return, which grows cash value, depends on the risk involved in the investments.
Policies with higher-risk investments do not guarantee an amount for your death benefit.
Weigh whether a potentially higher rate of return or the security of a guaranteed death benefit is more important to you.

  • Whole life insurance pays a guaranteed amount to your beneficiaries upon your death.
    Part of your premium is invested by the insurance company to grow the cash value of your benefit.
    The fund grows tax-deferred each year that you keep the policy.
  • Universal life insurance combines a life insurance policy with a money-market investment.
    This type of investment is riskier.
    Therefore, policy holders can expect a higher rate of return.
    However, because of the risk, insurance companies do not guarantee the amount of the death benefit to be paid to beneficiaries.
  • With variable life insurance, the insurance policy is tied to a stock or bond mutual fund investment.
    The cash value account is invested in several sub-accounts.
    The investment grows or shrinks along with the performance of the mutual fund accounts in the market.
    The amount of the death benefit is not guaranteed.
    However, beneficiaries enjoy favorable tax treatments.

Finding the Best Life Insurance Plan

Compare term and permanent policies.
Life insurance policies should provide you with enough to provide financial support to your family in the event of your death.
While having a cash value policy that grows over time sounds attractive, this option can be expensive.
If you would be struggling to pay the premiums on such a policy, then term insurance might be the best option for you.
However, if you can afford the premiums and you have maxed out your contributions on your pre-tax retirement accounts, a cash-value life insurance policy might be a good choice for you.
Since the cash value builds up tax free, it provides you with another opportunity to build your retirement nest egg.

Protect your parents and spouse if you have no dependents.
If you are single with no dependents, you probably don`t need life insurance.
Similarly, if you have recently gotten married, unless you own any property, you may not need life insurance.
However, some people in this case purchase a small policy.
This would allow loved ones to cover their final expenses.
These expenses include burial and funeral expenses Choose between term insurance and mortgage protection insurance when you buy your first house.
When you purchase your first house, it is probably time to consider purchasing term life insurance.
This allows the co-borrower on your mortgage to receive a death benefit that would cover any living expenses and to keep paying the mortgage.
If for some reason you cannot meet the underwriting criteria for term life insurance, purchase mortgage protection insurance.
This pays the beneficiary enough to pay off the mortgage on the house in the event of your death.
15 Provide for your family when you are expecting your first child.
Once you are expecting your first child, you need a life insurance policy to protect your family in the event of your death.
Your beneficiary can use the death benefit to maintain the same standard of living for your children without having to worry about replacing your income.
Choose a policy that is sizable enough to pay for at least 18 years of child-rearing and household expenses.
In addition, you can provide enough to cover college tuition.
Re-evaluate your insurance needs when you reach retirement age.
If you have purchased a term life insurance policy, it has likely expired by the time you reach retirement age.
At this point, the cost of purchasing a new life insurance policy would be prohibitively high because of your age.
However, if you have planned well for retirement, you shouldn`t need a life insurance policy.
Your retirement accounts should be able to provide for your loved ones in the event of your death.
Similarly, if you have a cash-value policy, you shouldn`t need that anymore either.
Cash out the policy and add the cash value to your retirement accounts.

Comparing Life Insurance Quotes

Evaluate the annual benefits and premium.
Compare premiums to see if you are locked into a rate for a number of years or if it varies each year.
If you are on a fixed income, a fixed premium might be better for you.
Similarly, compare the death benefits.
Depending on the type of policy for which you are shopping, the amount of the death benefit may not be guaranteed.
Evaluate how much it is likely to fluctuate each year.

  • For example, term life insurance policies are less expensive than permanent life insurance policies.
    Their premiums are fixed, meaning you pay the same amount each month for as long as you have the policy.
    Also, the death benefit is a guaranteed amount.
    Your beneficiaries are guaranteed to get the amount of insurance you purchased.
  • Permanent life insurance policies are more expensive.
    Also, some invest part of your monthly premium in order to grow the cash value of your death benefit.
    This means that your monthly premium might vary.
    It also means that the amount of your death benefit is not guaranteed.
    It can increase or decrease depending on how well your investments perform.

Calculate the amount of cash value you can accumulate.
If you are shopping for a cash value policy, determine how much the cash value can grow.
Whole life, universal life and variable life policies utilize different kinds of investment tools.
Depending on the risk involved, the rate of return varies.
However, those policies with a higher risk also do not guarantee an amount for your death benefit.
Weigh the promise of a higher rate of return with the security of a guaranteed death benefit.

  • Speak with your insurance agent about the kinds of investment tools they will use and how risky the investments are.
    The riskiest investments have the potential for high rates of return.
    This means the cash value can grow quickly.
    But, they also can crash just as quickly, depleting your investment.
    This means that the amount of death benefit paid to your beneficiaries decreases.
  • Decide how comfortable you are with the different levels of risk before settling on a policy.

Assess the fees.
Some insurance providers build fees into your premiums.
Before purchasing a policy, read the fine print to learn about policy fees.
Policy fees mean that some of your premium is being paid to the insurance company instead of going into your death benefit.
This also means that less of your premium is being invested and allowing your cash value to grow.
If you are using your life insurance policy as an investment tool to build your retirement nest egg, the fees charged by the insurance company can exceed the fees you would pay to invest the money elsewhere.
Ask if you can convert a term policy to a cash value policy.
Some insurance providers write a clause into your term policy that allows you to convert it to whole life without providing new evidence of insurability.
This means that you can convert the policy regardless of your health.
You don`t have to undergo physical examinations in order to re-qualify.
If this is something that interests you, choose a policy with this clause.
Find out if the cash value portion of your policy has dividends.
This means that you would share in the company`s surplus if you own a permanent policy.
Each year, once the company has paid claims, expenses, other liabilities and has funded reserves for future benefits, it pays the excess to policyholders in the form of dividends.
You can reinvest the dividends into your policy, or you can cash them out.
24

  • This only applies to mutual companies, not stock companies, which have shareholders instead of policyholders.

How to Get the Most from a Car Accident Claim

There are millions of car accident claims every year.
Getting the most out of your car accident claim from your insurance requires that you know a little about the process and the people involved.
The time period after a car accident can be filled with an overwhelming amount of stress.
With patience and organization during this time, you will be able to confidently navigate the claims process.

Responding at the Scene of the Accident

Stay calm.
In order to maximize the amount that the insurance company will pay for your claim, it is very important to pay attention at the scene of the car accident.
Getting into a car accident is a stressful situation, but try to stay calm.
Check to see if anyone is injured.
If you or the other driver is injured, help as much as you can until paramedics arrive.

  • While you are not typically required by law to give it, it is possible that an injured party could sue you for not helping them if it turns out that the accident is your fault.

Call the police.
Call 911 or make sure that the other driver or a witness has called the police.
Speak with the police and provide an honest statement about what happened.

  • Often, insurance adjusters will talk to police officers if there is any question on fault.
    Not calling the police to the scene could reduce your insurance claim amount.

Do not argue with the other driver.
Even if you believe that the accident is completely their fault, do not yell or argue with the other driver.
Arguing with the other driver or letting your anger get the best of you will not fix your car.
Instead, it might make the other driver angry enough to blame the accident on you.
The other driver also might not cooperate with the insurance company.
Get the other driver`s information.
If you want to be compensated by the other driver, you must get the following information:

  • The other driver`s name and driver`s license number,
  • The other driver`s vehicle type and license plate number,
  • The name of the other driver`s car insurance company, and
  • The other driver`s insurance policy number.

Check on the other driver`s insurance policy.
Usually, after a car accident, two or more insurance companies will potentially be involved in the claims process.
There will be an insurance company for each driver that was involved in the accident.

  • Make sure that the other driver`s policy isn`t expired.
    If the insurance policy is not under the driver`s name, get the insurance policy holder`s name and contact information.
  • You will use this contact information to get in touch with the other driver`s car insurance company.
    Then you will be able to start a car accident claim.

Keep a record of the accident.
As soon as possible after the accident, write down an account of the accident.
Make notes on how you believe the accident happened and any other details you remember from the crash.
For example, make sure that you write down the road conditions at the time of the accident, and exactly what you were doing when the accident occurred (i.
e.
, I was stopped at a stop sign when the other car rear-ended me).

  • Take pictures of the scene.
    You can show these to your insurance company later.
    Use your phone or get your camera.
    If you don`t have access to either of these, ask a witness to take pictures.

Find witnesses.
Find people who saw the accident can confirm your story.
Ask for the witnesses to give you or the police a statement.
Get contact information from the witnesses to use if necessary.
Go to the hospital.
Get checked by a doctor to document any injuries you may have received in the accident.
Even if you don`t think you`ve been injured, you should verify with a doctor.

  • Most major insurance companies use a software system called Colossus to determine your claim`s value.
    3 The Colossus system is largely based on the contents of your medical records, and assign “severity points” to your injuries to determine how much you are entitled to.
    Broken bones and other easy-to-verify injuries are given a higher value.
    Soft tissue damage such as sprains and strains are given a lower value.
  • If you do not go to the hospital immediately after the accident, your claim will be given lower value.
  • The insurance company may ask you to visit a doctor of their choosing.
    You don`t need to visit their recommended doctor.
    In fact, you probably shouldn`t see someone who may be biased in favor of the insurance company.

Ask your doctor to evaluate you for accident-related injuries.
Certain types of injuries will increase your settlement.
The Colossus software will also take these into account.
These include:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Dizziness
  • Radiating pain
  • Headaches
  • Restriction of movement
  • Nausea
  • Vision impairment
  • Neurosis
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Keep track of all medical treatments.
After your accident, make sure you keep careful documentation about all medical treatments you receive.
Treatments by specialists are given a higher value by the insurance company`s Colossus software system.

  • Document all physical therapy.
    Getting physical therapy for a period of 1-90 days is considered 1-3 months of treatment.
    When you have at least 91 days, you will be considered as receiving 3-6 months of treatment.
    The longer the treatment, the higher the settlement value.
  • Keep track of all medications.
    The Colossus system takes medication into account when determining settlement value.

Keep track of all expenses related to your accident.
It is important to document any costs or expenses that occurred as a result of the accident.
Keep all documentation in order, including receipts, reports, and estimates.
Put papers together in a file so that when you need them, they are easy to find.

  • Keep track of claim numbers and people with whom you have spoken.
  • Include missed work and medical costs.
    These should be part of the total settlement you receive, so include every related expense.
    This documentation can take the form of medical records or work excuses from your doctor or work supervisor.
  • If you plan to claim an expense as part of the damages or loss from your accident, you will need to provide documentation of the expense.

Starting Your Claim

Call your insurance company.
To begin your claim, call your insurance company and inform the representative that you are filing a claim.
4 This can be done after you get home from the accident.
You can wait until the next day if necessary.
5You will be connected with a car insurance claims adjuster or liability examiner.

  • If you live in one of the twelve states with no fault auto insurance, you`ll almost always deal directly with your insurance company.
    These states are Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Utah.
    Check your policy to be sure what kind of insurance you have.
  • Keep in mind that the adjuster or examiner works for the insurance company.
    It is in their job duty and interest to save money for their company.
    So, they are not looking out for you.
    You need to look out for you.
  • Each claims adjuster will negotiate with each other to get the best settlement possible for their insurance company.
    Therefore, your claims representative will be trying to shift blame for the accident onto the other party at the same time they are trying to reduce the amount of your settlement.
  • If the claim will be paid entirely by the other driver`s insurance company, your claims adjuster will probably be much more helpful during the claims process.
  • Tell the person that you speak with that you are going to file a claim.
    You should also say that you will speak to the adjuster when the investigation into the accident is complete.

Do not immediately describe the accident.
When you call the insurance company, tell them that you are starting a claim.
Do not give an exhaustive description of the accident.

  • However, if the other driver was clearly at fault in the accident, it is appropriate to briefly explain the circumstances.
    For instance, you can tell the adjuster that the other driver ran a red light.
    In this case, your insurance company can contact the insurance company that covers the other driver and being building a claim against the other driver.

Do not give names of witnesses.
Often, the insurance company will want to catch you off guard so you make a statement that might not help you.

  • For example, if you immediately disclose the identity of the witnesses to the accident, the insurance company could go and speak to them and pressure them into changing their statements.

Do not say that you were not injured.
You will not know whether you are injured until you see a doctor.
Even if you don`t think that you were hurt, do not tell the insurance adjuster.
If you discover later that you do have an injury from the crash, the insurance adjuster can hold you to your past statement.

  • Instead, tell the insurance adjuster that you are unsure about the extent of any injuries.
    Tell them that you will go to a doctor to get checked out.

Don`t immediately share your medical records.
An insurance company may want to go through your medical records to blame any injuries that you may have on something other than the car accident.
Don`t admit to any fault.
Even if you think that you may be slightly at fault in the accident, do not say that to the insurer when you call them.
The blame for the accident has not been determined yet.
If you make a statement indicating that you may be the one at fault, it could be used against you by the insurance company at a later time.

  • This likely won`t matter if you live in one of the no fault auto insurance states.
    Still, it can`t hurt to avoid admitting to fault.

Don`t give an estimate of damages.
Refrain from estimating what you think the damages from the accident may be.
If you estimate how much it will cost to repair your car, this is what the insurance company will offer you.
If your repairs cost more, the company will not give you more.

  • The insurance company may suggest cheaper alternatives to repair your car, which will lower your overall settlement value.
    Make sure you get estimates for the same parts that were damaged on your car, not these cheaper alternatives.

Call the other driver`s insurance company.
If you do not live in a no fault state, you may choose to choose to speak with the insurance company for the other driver.
You may do so in order to find out the terms of the other driver`s insurance policy.
This way, you will have a better idea of what you`re dealing with.

  • If the other driver doesn`t have insurance, you may be able to get coverage from uninsured motorist coverage.
    6

Being Interviewed by a Claims Adjuster

Expect an interview.
In most situations, the claims adjusters for both your insurance company and the other driver`s insurance company will want to interview you.
The adjuster will ask you questions about the accident.

  • This interview may happen over the phone.
    If there is a local office, you might have an interview in person.
    7

Write down an explanation of what happened.
Before you have your interview with the insurance company, write down what happened in the accident.
This way, you will be able to clearly communicate your views without getting flustered by questions from the claims adjuster.
Have documentation handy.
Bring any paperwork, receipts or other documentation that you have gathered relating to the accident.
If you`re talking over the phone, make sure to have all documentation handy.
Get your adjuster`s name and phone number.
Get the name and direct number for the person who is assigned to your claim.
You will be talking to this person about your claim, so you should try to get to know them.

  • Knowing this person`s contact information will allow you to check on the status of your claim.

Be polite and friendly when talking with the insurance representative.
Even though dealing with an insurance company, especially after a car accident, can be stressful, be sure to remain polite.
Angering the person who is handling your insurance claim can slow down the settlement process.
This may reduce your chances for a large settlement.

  • You want the insurance adjuster to be on your side.
    At the very least, don`t give him a reason to place your claim at the bottom of the pile.

Frame certain factors in your favor.
Each car accident is different and presents different circumstances, so insurance companies do not have a precise mathematical formula that they use to determine the settlement amount.
However, there are certain factors that the insurance company considers when determining a settlement value.
When talking with your claims adjuster, describe these factors in your favor.
These factors include:

  • The type and nature of the property damage from the accident: Talk about how your car was damaged by the other driver`s negligence.
  • Whether or not an injury is involved: Talk about your own injuries, medications, and therapies.
  • To learn more about how an insurance company calculates settlement values, read ”How to Calculate an Auto Insurance Settlement.

Watch out for “blaming” questions.
During the settlement process, the fault of the accident has not been allocated.
However, the insurance company may try to ask questions that force you to admit that the accident was your fault.

  • Being found to be “at fault” for a car accident will increase the costs of your insurance payments going forward, even though your insurance company will pay for the costs of the accident.
  • For example, the company may ask you something like, “How could you have avoided the accident?” You should respond, “The accident could not have been avoided because the other driver hit my car when I was stopped,” or something similar that fits with your situation.
  • If you are responsible in any way for the accident, the evidence will show this.
    But don`t assume you are responsible from the outset.
    This will lower the value of your settlement.

Focus on the other driver`s conduct.
Focus your answers on the other driver in the accident.
This will help you avoid “blaming questions,” instead emphasizing the other driver`s conduct.

  • For example, don`t say “Driver X and I were in a car accident.
    ” Instead, say, “Driver X hit my car when I was stopped at the intersection.

Don`t speculate about causes.
If the adjuster asks you questions that you do not know the answers to, simply communicate that.
Do not speculate about the cause of the accident.

  • If you don`t know an answer or don`t remember something from the accident, just say, “I`m not sure,” or “I don`t remember.

Don`t feel pressured to take the first settlement offer.
It is likely that the insurance company could offer you a settlement quickly in hopes that you do not realize the extent of your possible damages.

  • While settling quickly may save you some convenience, you may end up paying out of pocket if the settlement doesn`t fully cover your medical bills, car repairs or other costs from the accident.
  • Do not accept a settlement until you know for sure what all of your costs will be.

Ask the insurance company to send offers in writing.
If the insurance company offers you a settlement right away, ask that they mail the offer in writing.
This way, you will still have to agree to the settlement later.
You won`t feel pressured to make a split-second decision.
Consider hiring an attorney.
If the settlement offered by the insurance company does not cover your medical or other expenses and your car repairs, consider hiring a personal injury attorney.
This person can help you negotiate with the insurance company.
She can also help you file a lawsuit against the driver who was at fault in your accident.

  • Get a referral to a personal injury lawyer by asking friends or family.
  • Find a personal injury lawyer by asking other attorneys for recommendations.
  • If you have an attorney, your claims adjuster will use the Colossus software system to factor in the number of successful cases the lawyer has had against the insurance companies.
    Your settlement amount might increase if the attorney has been successful many times before.
  • Check with your local bar association, which has free referral services that include a free consultation with an attorney.

Don`t rush into a settlement.
While it may be tempting to hurry your settlement along, rushing can result in a lower settlement.
You may not receive the full amount of compensation to which you are entitled.
Make sure you take care of yourself and address any medical issues relating to your accident before agreeing to a settlement offer.

Protecting Yourself with Car Insurance Coverage

Make sure you have car insurance.
All states require every registered vehicle or licensed driver to have some vehicle liability insurance.

  • Even if it was not required by law, drivers should purchase liability coverage to protect them in the event of a car accident.
  • Twelve states have no fault auto insurance.
    In most cases, in these states, you will only be making claims to your insurance companies.

Look at the types of damages covered by your policy.
If you are at fault in a car accident, your car insurance pays for the damages that you cause to the other driver through liability insurance and pays for any damage to your car or yourself through collision insurance.

  • Liability insurance covers bodily injury expenses including medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, and lost wages.
    It also covers property damage expenses including the repair or replacement of anything belonging to the other driver of the car.
  • While usually only the car itself is damaged in an accident, property damage can include items that were damaged in the car.
  • Most people have a comprehensive plan that incorporates both of these types of insurance.

Avoid negligent driving.
You cannot recover money from an insurance company unless “liability” exists.
To show liability, you must show that the other driver was “negligent,” which means the other driver was careless.
You don`t want to be the negligent driver.
8Some examples of driver negligence are:

  • Not seeing another vehicle that should have been seen
  • Following too closely
  • Driving too fast for the circumstances (weather, visibility, etc.
    )
  • Making an unsafe turn
  • Disobeying traffic signals or signs
  • Talking on the phone/texting while driving
  • Rear-ending another car
  • Some states have negligence laws that may reduce your claim.
    If both you and the other driver contributed to the cause of the accident, your claim may be completely defeated and the insurance company will not have to pay anything, or reduced in amount.
  • In states that operate under contributory negligence laws, you cannot win a claim if you were the least bit negligent, even as little as 1%.
    9 The states that use contributory negligence are Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
  • Most states operate under comparative negligence laws.
    Under this law, your claim will be reduced in proportion to your fault.
    For example, if you were 30% at fault and the other driver was 70% at fault, the amount of your settlement will be reduced by 30%.
  • Check your state`s negligence laws for exact information.

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