Why do I need uninsured motorist coverage?
In selecting new auto insurance, it’s often tempting to pick the cheapest option, declining any “optional” coverage that may be offered. Saving a few extra bucks seems like a good choice. However, it might not always be the wisest course of action; saving a few dollars every month can cost you tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road. Here’s why.
In order to drive a vehicle, an owner must carry “liability” coverage in the amount required by law. This coverage protects anyone who might be injured in an accident caused by the driver, such as passengers, other drivers, or pedestrians. It also protects the driver from the liability of being sued personally for damage.
The other most commonly-known provision of auto insurance policies is “collision” coverage. This is the coverage that will repair physical damage to your vehicle after an accident you caused, usually after the payment of a deductible. Collision coverage is optional, and adds to the monthly cost of the policy, but can repair or replace your damaged vehicle.
The law requires auto insurance companies to offer additional types of coverage, such as no-fault coverage or medical benefits and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. All too often, people try to save money by declining uninsured motorist coverage. However, it can be the most important part of the policy if you are injured in an automobile accident that was not your fault.
Ordinarily, if you’re injured in an auto accident through no fault of your own, your car accident attorney will bring a claim against the individual who caused the accident. However, if that person has no auto insurance, either because he was driving without it or forgot to pay his premiums, there could be no recovery at all. Even if your attorney could obtain a judgment for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering, it would be almost impossible to collect against an individual.
This is where uninsured motorist coverage steps in. If you have uninsured coverage on your insurance policy, your auto coverage will act as though it had insured the person who actually caused the accident, and pay for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Uninsured motorist coverage is also triggered in hit-and-run accidents, where the guilty party is missing, and in excess limits cases, where the other individual has auto insurance limits that are much lower than your actual damages.
Most states will not allow you to purchase uninsured motorist coverage in excess of the liability coverage you already carry. This is because you aren’t supposed to be protecting yourself more than you protect the other people on the road. However, it’s a good idea to keep your limits reasonably high in the first place. Even if you don’t think you’re going to cause an accident, you never know when something unexpected might happen, and you don’t want to be sued personally if your liability coverage is not high enough.
Because uninsured motorist coverage comes from your contract, rather than from the actual accident, it can have requirements and rules that don’t apply in most auto accident cases. Just because you are dealing with your own insurance company doesn’t mean they are on your side. You should always consult an attorney like Cohen & Cohen before trying to negotiate an uninsured motorist claim on your own.