WHAT IS UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE AND WHY DO I NEED IT?
Before you continue reading this blog, look over your Automobile Insurance Policy. The policy will have different limits for different types of coverage, including liability, property damage, collision, medical payments and the ever elusive “Uninsured Motorist Coverage” (UM). Most states, including Connecticut, have minimum insurance requirements in order to register motor vehicles. What coverage is required, and the minimum amount of that coverage will vary from one state to another. But when you are buying a policy do you know what the different coverage is for, and more importantly what coverage limits are appropriate? Connecticut requires liability coverage; that is coverage which protects someone injured by your fault, as well as UM coverage, which protects you if you are injured in an accident caused by an Uninsured or Underinsured motor vehicle. What does that really mean, and how does it work? The best way to explain it is by an example:
Assume you, your spouse, child and child’s friend are in your car and are involved in a serious accident caused by a drunk driver. Everyone in your car suffers serious injuries. You and your spouse are out of work for months, the children are forced to miss school and everyone suffers permanent injuries from the accident. After the accident you learn that the drunk driver only carries the statutorily required minimum liability policy limits of $20,000.00 per person and $40,000.00 per accident. This means that the most any one person can recover from that policy is $20,000.00, and collectively the recovery is limited to $40,000.00. Will your own automobile policy afford you benefits under the UM coverage? Yes, but only if your coverage is greater than that of the drunk driver and only for as much as the coverage limits that you purchased. Connecticut law allows you to buy UM coverage in double the amount of your liability limits, and allows you to elect “conversion” coverage, which lets you recover the full limits of your UM coverage without reduction for payment of the liability policy of the at fault party.
If your policy provides liability limits of $100,000.00 per person and $300,000.00 per accident, with the same limits of UM coverage, those limits will cap your recovery. If you doubled your UM coverage, the available recovery would be $200,000.00 per person and $600,000.00 per accident. If you also elected the “conversion” option, these amounts would be in addition to the liability payments from the party at fault. One other important consideration, the UM coverage protects you even if you are a passenger in a vehicle that you do not own, so your child’s friend can also recover from his family’s own UM coverage.
So, what coverage limits should you buy? First, buy as much liability coverage as you can reasonably afford. Next, double the amount of that coverage to elect your UM limits. Finally, always add the “conversion” option.
Also, don’t forget to explore other possible claims, like DRAM shop claims as noted in a prior blog, “Injured by a Drunk Driver? DRAM.”
Recovery for injuries sustained by the negligent or intentional conduct of another person is often a complex process, and the sooner you consult an attorney after an injury, the better the chances that all potential claims can be properly investigated and preserved.