By David Peel
Not a week goes by that my office phone does not ring with someone who’s been injured by an uninsured motorist. Now I handle those cases on a regular basis. They are called “uninsured motorist claims” and they are covered by your own policy, but actually insure the other person for all intents and purposes. So for instance, if you have $100,000 per person uninsured motorist, everyone who hits you and is at fault is actually insured for $100,000 even if they had no insurance at all.
What is sad is how many people who were injured by an uninsured motorist finds out only after the accident that they had no uninsured motorist coverage for such an event. This is always surprising to them.
What’s really interesting is how many people get angry that an uninsured motorist hit them and did not have insurance. They will sometimes get very incensed and say, “they should’ve had insurance.” But then when I ask him how much uninsured motorist they have, turns out they weren’t carrying insurance either. This hypocrisy in relation to car insurance is very common.
Often times, the failure to carry uninsured motorist is more of an oversight, rather than a deliberate decision. On older cars and trucks, we will tend to say “just give me liability because I don’t want to replace the vehicle if something happens to it.” But regular readers of my writings know that you should always say just “give me liability and uninsured motorists” so that you know that your injuries can be compensated if someone else hits your family.
And as I usually remind folks, uninsured motorists also covers you if you are a pedestrian walking or your children are riding home with someone else. It is not required that the person be in the car or be a licensed driver for uninsured motorists to protect your family.
Even though uninsured motorists is so versatile, it is actually very inexpensive coverage. This is because it is unlikely to be used. It takes an at fault accident with another party involved, injuries sustained, and no proof of insurance from the other driver to even trigger benefits. But if those happen, there is nothing under the sun that will help you better than uninsured motorists.
Sometimes another motorist is the cause of an accident and will actually have proof of insurance on them at the time of the incident. It is only later that you find out that their policy was not paid up, or someone had been excluded from driving the vehicle. This even happened to our family. My son was rear ended by someone who had proof of insurance but it turned out the policy had long ago been canceled. The card was up to date, but the policy was not.
You have to protect yourself. Even though insurance is now mandatory in the state of Tennessee for drivers, the penalties have still not risen to the point to really change behavior. In addition, some families really do have to choose between eating and paying car insurance. Finally, there are areas of town that have a majority of uninsured drivers. Worse than that, uninsured drivers tend to disproportionately cause a lot of accidents. So the numbers are against us if we don’t have an uninsured motorist policy.
I recommend at least $100,000 coverage if you can possibly afford it. You will find it an inexpensive part of your policy, however bringing your other coverages up to that level may run into a little bit of money. All I can tell you, it is worth it. Too many of my clients wake up in the trauma unit at Regional One hospital having just had a helicopter ride they don’t even remember, and their bills are almost to $100,000 just to start off with.
So make sure that you have uninsured motorist and verify the amounts that you’re comfortable with. The first number listed such as $25,000 will mean that it’s a per person bodily injury limit. The second number such as $50,000 will indicate that is the total amount that bodily-injured individuals can receive under the uninsured motorists policy. No one person could get over $25,000 in that example and no group of people regardless of how large could ever receive a total of more than $50,000. It works the same whether it is a 100/300 policy or a 250/500 Policy.
So tell your agent you want to buy plenty of uninsured motorists. He or she may thank you but your family will be deeply indebted to you if you have one of these accidents. If you have any questions contact me but please share this information with folks making decisions on their car insurance. You don’t want to be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to cutting your benefits.
Peel seeks justice for those injured in car accidents, medical malpractice, and nursing homes. He often addresses churches, clubs and groups without charge. Peel may be reached through PeelLawFirm.com wherein other articles may be accessed.
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