How to protect yourself from drivers without insurance or not enough insurance
Auto accidents can devastate lives. A collision can lead to death or life altering injuries in the blink of an eye. What happens if the person who has changed your life forever does not have insurance? What if they speed away without a word while you are incapacitated? What if you’ve been severely injured and they have minimum insurance coverage?, Fortunately, there are insurance policies designed for these events.
In Massachusetts, insurers offer two types of coverage options to provide individuals injured in auto accidents a means of recovery when the driver causing the accident is unavailable, uninsured, or underinsured. Ensuring you have enough coverage under both types of policies is imperative to protect you in the event of an accident involving one of these types of drivers.
Uninsured Motorist insurance, referred to as ‘UM’ coverage, is mandatory under Massachusetts General Law c.90, s.34A-34R regarding Compulsory Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance. If you are injured by a driver that does not carry insurance, which is against the law, your UM coverage will provide you benefits for bodily injury. Similarly, if after an accident, the responsible party drives off before being identified, the UM coverage stands in the shoes of the absent party, paying claims for bodily injuries.
The minimum amount of coverage is $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident, usually paraphrased as ‘20/40.’ This means that if you are struck by an uninsured motorist, you can recover up to $20,000. If you and one passenger are injured, you can both claim up to $20,000 each. However, if there are more than three individuals are injured, the total amount recoverable between them is $40,000 regardless of the extent of their injuries.
Underinsured Motorist coverage, referred to as UIM coverage, is not mandatory. However, it is strongly recommended. UIM coverage comes into play when your injuries exceed the coverage carried by the at-fault driver. For instance, if are severely injured in a car accident by a driver carrying the minimum required coverage—typically 20/40 as described above—the most the at-fault driver’s insurance will pay is $20,000 (or up to $40,000 for multiple injured parties). While you could pursue the driver for the remaining balance of any judgement, most often people carrying minimum coverage do not have many assets from which to collect.
This is where UIM coverage steps in to cover the remaining balance. If you were to carry 100/300 UIM coverage in the example above, after the at-fault driver’s insurance pays the policy limit, UIM coverage will pay the remainder of any judgment or settlement up to the UIM policy limit. While the UIM insurer will then have a right to pursue the at-fault driver for any amount paid under the UIM policy, it will face the same obstacles that you would in the same circumstances.
A note about UIM coverage calculations. If the driver above was awarded in excess of $100,000 for his or her injuries, the UIM policy would combine with the at-fault driver’s bodily injury policy to a total of $100,000. So, the at-fault driver’s insurance would pay $20,000 and the UIM carrier would pay an additional $80,000 for a total of $100,000—not an additional $100,000 on top of the $20,000 payment.
In Massachusetts, you cannot purchase more UIM coverage than the amount of bodily injury coverage you carry. Otherwise, you would be able to recover more from being hit by another driver than you would pay if you hit someone. The legislature decided this would not be fair or equitable and put this controlling feature into the statute.
If you’ve been injured in an automobile accident, taking action is imperative. You will need to put your insurer on notice as soon as possible, particularly if you are going to need to access UM or UIM coverage. The experienced automobile accident attorneys at Neumann Law Group are familiar with all the procedural requirements that must be filed to protect your claim. If you make a mistake, such as settling your claim against the at fault driver without obtaining your UIM insurers consent, you may lose some or all of your coverage.
The process of negotiating a settlement can be complex. Neumann Law Group has experience determining the value of a claim. When deciding whether or not to accept a settlement, Neumann Law Group can help determine whether the insurance company is not offering a fair amount. Further, if a settlement cannot be reached, having experienced counsel through the arbitration or litigation process is invaluable.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a motor vehicle accident, contact the experienced automobile accident attorneys at Neumann Law Group for a free consultation. You may be entitled to financial compensation. We will evaluate your claim without charge.