Young girl spraying dad with water hose while washing car

These odds may drive you to consider disability income insurance

Auto insurance is designed to protect your car against damage and could help pay medical bills if you’re injured in a car accident. Depending on your coverage, it also may pay for lost wages if you’re unable to work. But if you’re driving around thinking most disabilities are caused by accidents, you may be headed for a crash course in reality.

What proportion of disabilities are caused by accidents? Half? More than that? Fasten your seatbelt. According to the Council for Disability Awareness, the number is more like 10 percent.

While car insurance may help with some of your medical bills and lost wages, it offers no protection in the face of illnesses including cancer, heart disease and diabetes, which account for 90 percent of all disabilities.

So you’re taking steps to ensure your car is protected, but how are you protecting yourself and your income against most disabilities?

Will the odds of becoming disabled catch up with you?

If you’re wondering whether this is a big deal, you might want to check your rear-view mirror. The odds could be catching up with you.

One in four Americans entering the workforce today will become disabled before they retire, according to LIMRA, a worldwide insurance research, learning and development organization.

The Social Security Administration reports that 37 million Americans are disabled, and 50 percent of them are in their working years, between the ages of 18 and 64.

The average U.S. disability claim is 31.2 months. Imagine being out of work and not getting paid during that time.

About 65 percent of working Americans could not cover living expenses for one year if their income was lost, and 38 percent couldn’t cover those expenses for even three months.

If you’re like most people, your savings would provide about as much cushion in the event of a disability as your car’s airbag would in a collision. That money would help you survive the initial blow, but not the next two-plus years. And once you use it, it’s gone.

This could be the most important type of insurance

Enough bad news. The good news is, there’s a type of insurance that can protect the money you’ve saved — and the money you’ll earn in the future — in the event that you become disabled.

Disability income insurance provides replacement income when you are unable to work as a result of an extended illness or injury. That income would allow you to pay your mortgage or rent, car payment and daily expenses.

This insurance comes in two main types: employer-sponsored (or group) policies and private policies. Group policies are usually less expensive but they can have gaps in coverage compared to what private policies offer.

If you already have a group policy, that’s great. Just make sure it will provide enough money to meet your spending needs. You may need to supplement group coverage with private coverage. And remember, a group policy usually is tied to your job. A private policy will follow wherever your career takes you.

Riders and other policy details can complicate a decision on disability insurance. Consumer advocates recommend working with an insurance professional to ensure you get the policy that best meets your needs.

It could be argued that disability income insurance is the most important type of insurance you can carry. That’s because disability income insurance protects your most valuable asset: your ability to earn an income.