Protect Yourself - Get Auto SUM Insurance Coverage

by Attorney Stanley A. Tomkiel, III

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.

Victims turn to Tomkiel & Tomkiel after train derailment accident

RELEASED: May 28, 2013


Train service from New York to Boston was back on schedule May 22, 2013 after a derailment accident in Connecticut, which injured several passengers and damaged local railroad tracks. The transportation line is one of the nation's oldest railways, and it is heavily traveled by commuters every day.

The accident has been deemed the worst passenger train accident in the U.S. since 2008. According to, approximately 700 commuters were aboard the two trains when they collided, and reports that roughly 72 were injured in the incident.

U.S. transportation safety regulators were sent to the scene to investigate the accident. Safety advocates are examining operations, the track, maintenance stats and other relevant factors. The National Transportation Safety Board, Connecticut Office of Emergency Management and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are participating in the investigation.

So far, authorities do not know what caused the incident; however, sources indicate that repair work done in the area just weeks before the incident may have weakened the track. In addition, there are reports that the wheels on the trains might have been too tight.

As investigators search for answers, injured victims are retaining the assistance of experienced attorneys in the area. Some have turned to the law firm of Tomkiel & Tomkiel, P.C., who has over 30 years of experience in the field. The firm is working hard to pursue financial recovery for those who have been harmed in the train accident.

Crane collapse in Queens injured 7 construction workers

For people living in and around New York City, news of dangerous construction accidents has become unsettling commonplace. A seeming rise in the number of crane accidents, in particular, has been noted in recent years. Last month, another crane accident took place, this time on the East River waterfront in Queens, behind the landmark Pepsi sign.

The crane accident occurred in the afternoon on January 9, 2013, when workers reported hearing cables break. The crane - which rose 380 feet in the air - then collapsed and fell onto the construction work being done below. Three workers were reportedly trapped underneath the crane, while another four sustained personal injuries in the accident. All seven injured workers were transported to area hospitals.

The crane was set up four days before the accident and is owned by New York Crane. Many will remember the owner of New York Crane has previously been the source of alleged crane safety issues. In 2008, a crane - owned by New York Crane - collapsed at a construction site on the upper East Side, resulting in two fatalities. The owner was subsequently charged and acquitted of criminally negligent homicide.

Since the incident in January, both the crane operator and contractor have been cited for violations. The crane operator reportedly was lifting twice the allowable weight and was unable to see what he was lifting. In addition, the buildings commissioner stated that the operator's supervisors had failed to ensure they were adhering to the approved plans. Both the crane operator and the contractor - Cross Country Construction LLC - face fines of $64,000 at a minimum.

In addition, the developer and site safety manager received citations for "failing to safeguard people and property during construction," and face fines of $2,400 at minimum.

Crane accidents have been a serious cause for concern in New York since two accidents occurred during a two-month period in 2008. The construction accidents, both of which took place in Manhattan, led to nine fatalities and resulted in an increased focus on crane safety.

The Buildings Department has implemented a number of new safety standards to protect workers on the job. For instance, workers must now attend new training sessions before they are allowed to put together, climb or dismantle a crane. In addition, crane inspectors are now being held to higher standards and are receiving additional training.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a crane accident, you may be entitled to compensation for the harm caused. Consulting with a skilled, New York personal injury attorney will ensure your rights are protected.

NY Nursing Home Inspection Reports Now Online

Making the decision to entrust the care of a loved one to a nursing home can be fraught with emotion and overwhelming concern for his or her continued well-being. As the American population ages and life expectancies increase, the need for permanent assistance to care for parents and grandparents has risen. Since more and more families are looking to nursing homes to care for their loved ones, new tools are emerging to ensure families are able to make educated decisions about the facility they choose.

Most recently, a new online tool was created to allow families to review inspection reports from nursing homes in Manhattan, New York City and across the country. The search engine, called Nursing Home Inspect, was created by ProPublica to allow consumers to use keyword searches to discover deficiencies at facilities all over the United States. For instance, if a potential nursing home consumer were concerned about the incidents of residents with bed sores at facilities in Manhattan, he or she could do a search for “bed sores” or “pressure ulcers” to discover inspection reports regarding such issues.

This tool is also beneficial for families with relatives already living in assisted living facilities. Currently, there are 1.5 million residents in nursing homes across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the 16,100 nursing homes in the country, Nursing Home Inspect has information regarding 14,565 of those facilities. As of September 21, 2012, the search tool had over 144,000 inspection reports available to the public.

Prior to the implementation of this ProPublica online search function, consumers who were interested in safety statistics regarding a particular nursing home had to take additional action. Consumers could file a Freedom of Information Act request to review a home’s inspection reports or they could choose to visit the nursing home in person. While it is still advisable to visit a home before deciding to place a loved one in its care, it is now much simpler to review its safety record.

Some nursing homes have responded that the online search fails to give a complete look at the care provided at the facilities. They contend the inspection reports only account for incidents of poor care, while they fail to consider other quality measures. For instance, the inspection reports do not discuss the satisfaction of residents as a whole in a particular home.

New York Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse

With nursing home residents paying an average of $360 per day — or $131,484 per year — in New York City, it is critical for family members to ensure they are receiving the quality of care they deserve. Whenever there is a suspicion of nursing home neglect or abuse, family members should file a complaint with the New York State Department of Health. Filing a report will initiate an investigation and result in an update to the online search tool.

Nursing home residents are vulnerable adults and are therefore susceptible to substandard care. Patients who are neglected can suffer a variety of dangerous symptoms, including bed sores, malnutrition and dehydration. Nursing home residents can also suffer due to poor care, including failures to diagnose medical conditions and the over-prescription of antipsychotic medications.

Staffing levels at nursing homes are particularly important, as well, since residents with cognitive disorders may not know how to get back to the facility if they are allowed to wander off. This problem, referred to as “elopement,” is a concern in New York. While nursing homes in New Jersey require a certain number of staff members depending on the number of residents at the facility, New York does not have minimum staffing requirements.

If you suspect that your loved one has received improper care at a New York nursing home, consulting with a skilled personal injury attorney will ensure your loved one is properly protected. A New York nursing home injury attorney will fight for just compensation for the injured vulnerable adult.