Auto Accident Law – Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Auto Accident Law – Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Auto Accident Law in Pennsylvania: Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage – What You Don’t Know (And Don’t Buy) Could Hurt You

Among all the various types of insurance which individuals can buy – long term disability, life insurance, home homeowner’s insurance, etc. – uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages are among the most important coverages individuals can acquire to protect themselves and their families. Uninsured motorist coverage (UM coverage) provides a source of benefits in the event that an individual is injured by another driver who does not have automobile liability insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage provides a source of benefits in the event that an individual is injured by another driver whose insurance coverage is insufficient to adequately compensate the individual for his or her injuries and losses.

A simple hypothetical example illustrates the importance of these coverages. Picture yourself driving down the road carefully and within the posted speed limit. An oncoming driver crosses the center line and strikes your means head-on. You suffer serious bodily injuries and miss a year from work. You are economically devastated by the accident, and you confront a lifetime of pain and experiencing and reduced function due to your injuries. Now assume that the driver who caused all of this has no automobile insurance at all. If you have no UM coverage on your own auto policy, you will retrieve nothing, and you will be left to confront the economic consequences of this other driver’s irresponsible conduct without legal recourse. Now assume that the other driver has insurance, but that the policy is for the Pennsylvania statutory minimum of $15,000. If you do not have UIM coverage, you will be limited to the $15,000 recovery, which will not already begin to compensate you for what you’ve lost.

If you had purchased UM and/or UIM coverage on your own policy, you would be entitled to make a claim against your own insurance policy to seek compensation for your injuries and your financial losses, up to the limit of the amount of the coverage you buy. For example, if you purchased $500,000 of UM coverage and the other driver had no insurance, you would be able to retrieve up to $500,000 as a consequence of the accident. If the other driver was insured for only $15,000, you would have a possible fund of $500,000 over and above the other driver’s $15,000 in coverage, which method you would be able to potentially retrieve a total of $515,000.

Insurance agents and brokers do not always explain the vital importance of UM and UIM insurance. When auto insurance is purchased online, the information supplied to the consumer is often already less comprehensive. Uninformed insurance consumers are frequently victimized twice, once by the negligence of the uninsured or underinsured driver, and then again by the inadequate coverage provided on their own insurance policies.

Pennsylvania law provides limits on the amount of UM/UIM coverage which can be purchased. Simply put, the amount of the UM/UIM coverage cannot go beyond the amount of liability coverage on the same policy. In other words, consumers are not allowed to protect themselves more than they protect others against their own negligence. However, “stacking” of coverage is allowed. For example, if an individual has three vehicles insured on the same policy, that individual can buy $500,000 of liability coverage and $500,000 of UM/UIM coverage. By choosing the “stacking” option, the consumer effectively multiplies the $500,000 in UM/UIM coverage by the number of vehicles on the policy, to reach a total of $1,500,000 in UM/UIM coverage. Carefully analyzing one’s automobile insurance coverages, and paying a little more for adequate UM/UIM coverage, is among the wisest things we can all do to protect ourselves and our families against the effects of negligent uninsured and underinsured drivers.

By: Dan O’Brien
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