Insuring Yourself Against the World: Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance and Why It Pays
Every day we put ourselves at risk when we drive away in our car. It is simply a necessary means to living in today’s world. However, most folks do not truly realize just how exposed we are every time we are in a car. In the event you are in an accident and find yourself injured as a result of a collision caused by either an uninsured or underinsured driver, you could not only be facing a serious health situation but massive medical expenses and essentially, financial jeopardy.
In a perfect world, everyone would be a responsible driver and carry the necessary insurance to protect themselves and drivers and passengers around them. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact, the Insurance Information Institute reported in July 2017 the percentage of uninsured motorists nationwide was 12.6 percent or one-in-eight drivers. Think about that the next time you are in rush hour traffic on Abercorn.
If you do not have a good uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance policy (UM/UIM), it is time to get one.
What is UM/UIM coverage?
UM/UIM coverage provides insurance benefits to you (and certain others) in the event you are injured as a result of a collision caused by either an uninsured or underinsured motorist. That is, UM/UIM coverage is coverage you purchase to pay you if an at-fault driver's insurance coverage is insufficient to compensate you for your damages.
For example, some states only require drivers to carry minimal coverage, with some coverage limits as low as $15,000 per person and $30,000 per incident of bodily injury liability coverage. Georgia only requires drivers to carry bodily injury liability limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident. If a negligent driver has low coverage limits and you sustain serious injury in an accident, it is highly likely the available insurance benefit will not cover all of your medical expenses and other damages.
There are different options to be considered when obtaining UM/UIM insurance such as the amount of coverage and the type of policy. For instance, traditional UM/UIM insurance is “set-off” by the amount of available liability coverage. Most insurers offer an “added-on” UM/UIM policy which keeps your full coverage available to you regardless of the amount of liability insurance available.
Who is covered by your UM/UIM policy?
You should always read your specific insurance policy carefully to determine exactly what, who, and who is not covered by that policy. In general terms, a UM/UIM policy will cover anyone who is occupying an insured vehicle and is injured in a collision caused by another driver with an insurance policy that is insufficient to pay for the damages caused by the wreck. A UM/UIM policy also provides coverage for resident relatives of the named insured on the policy - even if that person is not in the insured vehicle when they are injured.
How much does UM/UIM coverage cost?
UM/UIM coverage is relatively inexpensive. An added-on policy usually costs slightly more than a set-off policy, but will potentially provide you with the full extent of your UM/UIM policy in the event you are injured in a wreck with an underinsured driver. When someone comes to me with injuries from a wreck caused by a driver with low or no insurance, it is too late for them to obtain the UM/UIM policy that could have provided them with a larger pool of insurance proceeds to compensate them for their injuries.
I always give my clients this advice: get as much UM/UIM coverage as you are able to obtain and can afford for the future. If you have a high-limit liability policy to cover others in the event you cause their injuries, why would you not want the same high limit in a UM/UIM policy that covers you if injured by someone else? UM/UIM insurance is a no-brainer and one the best investments you can make for the protection of you and your loved ones.
George Major is a partner at Oliver Maner LLP and concentrates his practice in litigation. His areas of expertise include plaintiff's personal injury, wrongful death and products liability litigation, and the defense of medical malpractice cases. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by phone at 912.236.3311.