WHAT IS UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE?
Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James O. Cunningham has represented many clients who were seriously injured in motor vehicle accidents (e g. auto, truck, motorcycle). One of the most common tragedies we see involves clients who are seriously injured as a result of the negligence of an uninsured motorist.
In a recent study, it was estimated that 30-40% of all motorists in Central Florida are either uninsured or carry only minimal bodily injury (BI) liability insurance limits (i.e. $10,000.00). These studies also suggest that those people who do not purchase bodily injury liability insurance are the most likely to be careless in the operation of their vehicles. Thus, if you are involved in an accident, it is statistically more likely that the accident will have been caused by the negligence of a person with little or no bodily injury liability insurance to compensate you or your family for your loss, injury or damage.
One of the best and cheapest ways that you can protect yourself and your family from the negligence of an uninsured driver is by purchasing uninsured motorist (UM) insurance coverage. Sadly, many people are not told of the importance of UM coverage by their insurance agents. For that reason, they often reject the opportunity to purchase UM coverage. A decision to reject UM coverage could be described as "penny wise and pound foolish." It is true that you can save a few dollars by rejecting UM coverage. However, if you are ever involved in a serious motor vehicle accident, you or your loved ones may bitterly regret that decision.
How UM Works
This issue usually arises when a client is seriously injured by the negligence of an uninsured motorist. In those circumstances, the client is likely to make no financial recovery...unless the client had the foresight to purchase his/her own UM coverage. If the client purchased UM coverage, then they are eligible to receive compensation up to the maximum of their UM limits. For example, if a client is seriously injured by an uninsured driver...but the client purchased $100,000.00 in UM insurance coverage...then the client could receive up to $100,000.00 in settlement of their injury claim.
Another benefit of UM coverage is that it also applies in cases where the at-fault driver has minimal BI coverage (i.e. $10,000.00). In those situations, a client's UM coverage functions as underinsured motorist coverage. Depending on the severity of the injuries, the client can obtain the BI limits from the at-fault driver's insurance company plus their own UM limits. For example, a seriously injured client could obtain a settlement of $10,000.00 in BI limits from the negligent driver plus $100,000.00 in UM limits from his/her own insurance company.
Everyone's situation is different but we often recommend that our clients purchase UM limits equal to their BI limits. We also frequently suggest that clients consider purchasing stackable UM coverage. Stackable coverage permits the client to stack the UM limits of each vehicle insured under the policy on top of one another so as to increase the total UM limits. For example, let's say that you have three cars insured on your policy with $50,000.00 in UM coverage on each vehicle. If you purchased stackable coverage, then you would be permitted to add the total coverage on each vehicle together to obtain a grand total of $150,000.00 in available UM coverage. This is an inexpensive way to greatly increase your family's protection against uninsured or underinsured drivers.
Many of out clients bought their truck, auto or motorcycle insurance years ago and have not checked their policy since it was purchased. If this sounds like you, this might be a good time to check your policy or get with your agent to see where you stand with respect to your UM coverage. Increasing your coverage may cost a little bit more now but it could look like a very wise choice if you or a loved one are ever seriously injured as a result of the negligence of an uninsured motorist.
James O. Cunningham is a board certified civil trial lawyer who has been handling personal injury and wrongful death claims since 1977. If you have any questions concerning either UM coverage or motor vehicle accidents in general, you can call us at: 1-888-FLA-Auto (1-888-352-2886) to schedule a free consultation. For more information, please email us here.