So you’re in an auto accident in Sacramento or Placer County and the other driver is uninsured or underinsured, will you be covered? If you have uninsured/underinsured motorist protection, the answer is probably “yes.” Many auto insurance industry experts recommend choosing this option.
What is UM or UIM?
Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage can pay for injuries to you and your passengers, and in some cases damage to your property, when there is an accident and the other driver is both legally responsible for the accident and considered “uninsured” or “underinsured.”
An uninsured driver is someone who did not have any insurance, had insurance that did not meet state-mandated minimum liability requirements, or whose insurance company denied their claim, or was not financially able to pay it. A hit-and-run driver also counts as uninsured as it relates to bodily injury.
An underinsured driver is someone who met minimum legal financial responsibility requirements, but did not have payment limits high enough to cover the damage they caused. In these cases, UM or UIM can pay you for your damages. It is important to note that uninsured and underinsured motorist protections are separate, although in many states they can or must be purchased together.
Why would you want it?
It’s usually relatively cheap to add uninsured/underinsured motorist protection to your car insurance policy, especially considering the amount of protection it offers. It could pay your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If someone hits you or your car and is legally responsible for the damages, you won’t get any money from them if they don’t have money to give you. Especially during times when people are struggling economically, many drivers either don’t have insurance or don’t have enough. If you have UM/UIM coverage, you can get money even if the other driver can’t pay.
Underinsured motorist protection
Underinsured motorist protection pays you for damages that exceed the payment limits carried by a driver who is considered underinsured. UIM will only pay up to the limits of your policy after subtracting the amount paid by the other driver’s insurance. Both UM and UIM apply to you and any passengers in your car, and to you and others listed on your insurance policy (including family members) when in other cars.
Uninsured motorist bodily injury
Uninsured motorist bodily injury protection can help you in another way. Let’s say you’re a pedestrian. If you carry this coverage and you get hit by a car while you’re trying to cross the street, the coverage could pay your medical expenses and lost wages. That could be important, because even if you have medical payments coverage and health insurance, those still won’t pay for lost wages. You could get coverage for your lost wages by purchasing disability insurance, which many people have through their employer, but it would not cover your passengers or family members, and could disappear if you switch jobs. In addition to protecting you as a pedestrian, UM/UIM can also protect you and your family members traveling in other cars. As Nicole Mahrt of the American Insurance Association says, “You probably can’t afford to drive without it.”
Uninsured Motorist Coverage, Underinsured Motorist Coverage, and Making a Claim
If you are seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident, you will incur medical expenses. In fact, the bills you receive may be substantially more that you earn in a year or two of full-time employment. You may not be able to work and provide for your family.
As if to add insult to injury, you may learn that the careless driver who caused the accident did not have insurance. Or, you may learn that the driver only had minimal coverage. Unfortunately, even though state legislatures have made it a crime to drive without insurance and have enacted financial responsibility laws, a significant number of drivers do not carry any liability insurance.
What do you do if one of these drivers just ran into you and you are staring at $100,000 in medical bills and have lost your ability to earn a living to support yourself and your family?
Odds are that you won’t be making a claim against the person who caused the accident because most people who drive without insurance don’t have enough money to justify the time and expense of making a claim against them. Generally, people who carry minimal liability insurance do not have the personal resources to satisfy a large judgment.
Insurance companies are in business to make money. They are not charitable organizations. Uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage is not a gift from your insurance company. You paid a premium for this protection. Don’t be of the mind set that you are punishing your own insurance company and/or that you are in some fashion “taking advantage” of your insurance company because you need to make a claim against your uninsured motorist coverage or your underinsured motorist coverage.
Our firm can assist you with these complex issues, but only if you are adequately insured.