Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Don’t Leave Home Without (Plenty) Of It
by Attorney Ronald M Papell
While most people know that they must carry liability insurance coverage in California or risk losing their driving privilege, few people realize that while liability insurance protects you in cases where you are at fault, it provides you no benefit where, as is often the case, you are the victim of somebody’s else’s negligence. The coverage that will provide you with invaluable protection and in an amount you choose to purchase, is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage.
In recent studies, California has the highest number of Uninsured Motorists, over 4 million people in a recent study were driving without insurance coverage. While this figure is alarming, you can purchase Uninsured Motorist coverage to protect you, your family and your friends and passengers by purchasing this coverage which, while it must be offered, is all too often waived by drivers who are told by representatives of insurance companies that they don’t need it as they already carry health insurance. Nothing could be further from the truth nor could you make a more costly decision than waiving Uninsured Motorist Coverage!
It should come as no surprise that those irresponsible people who do not comply with the law and purchase insurance coverage are the same drivers who often cause accidents. Consequently there is a proportionally large number of collisions caused by uninsured motorists. To make matters worse, as the minimum amount of coverage that must be purchased is only $15,000 per person and $30,000 per occurrence, even those at fault drivers who are insured often carry limits that will only pay for a fraction of the injuries and damages they cause. The solution, Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage which is provided by your insurance company and for a surprisingly small premium. By purchasing Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage in an amount sufficient to compensate you and your family for all damages incurred you are protecting both your right to recover for the injuries received but also to be reimbursed for out of pocket losses you suffer including medical bills, loss of earnings and related charges you might incur.
The amount you should purchase varies according to your personal situation but it is highly recommended that you purchase as much as you can especially with the average cost for $250,000.00 of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (UM/UIM) Coverage being as little as $5-$10 per month! To be clear, if the other driver is not insured you can make an uninsured motorist claim against your own insurance company and collect an amount up to your UM/UIM limits. The claim is not chargeable against you as the other driver is necessarily found to be at fault and you cannot be charged or surcharged for making a claim where you are not at fault. Where the other driver is insured for the minimum limits of $15/$30 your uninsured motorist coverage automatically becomes “underinsured” motorist coverage and provides you with the difference between your UM/UIM coverage and the amount of the at fault drivers coverage. In the case above, your $250,000 of coverage will provide an additional $235,000 of coverage! Were the other driver to carry $100,000 of coverage you would still be able to make a claim under your own policy for an additional $150,000 and so on.
I would strongly suggest you review your policy today or call your insurance representative to find out how much Uninsured/Uninsured Motorist coverage you are carrying. You may be surprised (and disappointed) to learn how much UM/UIM coverage you have, especially when you learn how little adequate coverage would have cost. To those high wealth individuals who want to carry even greater limits, excess/umbrella policies are available that can raise your UM/UIM limits into seven figures. It is imperative, however, that you demand a copy of your policy declarations page showing that your excess policy raises your UM/UIM coverage as well as your liability coverage as many companies do not offer UM/UIM coverage with higher limits.)
As with all claims involving injuries or death, consulting with an attorney who can give you advice early in the claim process could protect your rights and insure that you maximize your recovery and is always a good idea. Attorneys representing victims charge a contingent fee of approximately 30% and will not charge any fee at all unless a recovery is obtained. Numerous studies have demonstrated that the financial recoveries of injured people are far greater when the injured are represented by counsel and this means the net recovery after the attorney’s fee is deducted. As with all claims for personal injury in California, you must file an action within 2 years of the date of accident and in some cases a shorter period where, as an example a public entity (city, county or state or other public institution) is involved.
Speaking with an experienced qualified attorney before you speak with an insurance company, theirs or yours, is always sound advice. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Speaking to an insurance company before speaking with an attorney may result in your losing your right to recover the full and complete damages you have suffered and may suffer into the future. Protecting your rights with adequate Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage is good advice and will provide peace of mind and the knowledge that you have taken appropriate steps to protect your rights and those of your loved ones.