It’s bad enough if you or a loved one should be injured in a car accident, but then to find out that the negligent driver who caused the injuries has inadequate insurance coverage is further debilitating, both financially and emotionally.
Under New York State Insurance Law, the minimum amount required for liability for bodily injury for almost all motor vehicles is only $25,000. This means that if you are seriously injured due to another driver’s negligence, $25,000.00 is the most you can collect from the negligent driver’s auto policy if he or she only has the minimum required coverage, no matter how severe your injury. In death cases, the minimum coverage required is $50,000. (In New York City there are higher insurance requirements for taxis, limousines, commercial vans and buses.)
Even if you should get a judgment for more than a $25,000 policy limit, the chances of actually recovering more than that are very slim. People with no assets typically buy the minimum required insurance, while people who have money in the bank or other property usually have higher limits of insurance coverage to protect those assets in the event that they are held responsible for another person’s injury.
But there is something you can and should do to protect yourself. It is called Supplemental Underinsured Motorist coverage, or SUM for short. Under this coverage, if the negligent driver has insufficient insurance to fairly compensate you for your injuries, you can collect under your own insurance policy up to the limits of the SUM coverage to supplement the wrongdoer’s insurance.
For example, if you have $300,000 SUM coverage on your policy and you are seriously injured by a negligent driver with the minimum insurance ($25,000), you would be able to recover the wrongdoer’s insurance plus another $275,000 under your own policy, for a total recovery of $300,000, assuming your injuries are serious enough. Without the SUM you would be limited to $25,000.
The SUM coverage also covers relatives who live with you (referred to as “resident relatives”), and occupants of your vehicle involved in an accident. The coverage for you and your resident relatives can apply to accidents even if your car is not involved in the crash.
You can purchase as much SUM coverage as you have liability coverage under your policy. Many insurers do not push SUM coverage because the premiums they are allowed to charge under insurance regulations are not very high. Don’t be confused with Uninsured Motorist coverage (UM). UM is required in all auto insurance policies, but it is very different. UM covers only up to $25,000, and only if the negligent driver has no auto insurance. UM and SUM are often confused, so make sure you get the SUM too. You are not protected against an underinsured motorist just because you have uninsured motorist coverage.
Make sure you insist on the SUM coverage up to your liability limits. After all, if you purchase coverage to insure against another person being injured, it only makes sense to purchase coverage to protect yourself, especially since the cost for SUM coverage is very low.
I am not an insurance agent, I do not sell insurance. I am coming at this from the point of view of a personal injury lawyer. I have seen too many times over my many years in practice where a terribly injured person is unable to receive even close to an adequate recovery because the negligent driver had the minimum insurance.
When I have reviewed the declaration pages of the auto insurance policies I have seen where the liability coverage is high, but there is no SUM coverage. That is very unfortunate for that injured person where the negligent driver who caused serious injuries has the minimum required coverage.
Call your motor vehicle insurance company or agent today and make sure your SUM coverage is as high as your bodily injury coverage. You don’t have to wait for the renewal date, call today and have the coverage added now.
It’s up to you to protect yourself and your loved ones.