Why Buying Uninsured / Underinsured Insurance Coverage Is Almost Always Worth It
Is there anything worse than being injured in an auto accident caused by someone else’s negligence, resulting in a mountain of medical bills, vehicle repair expenses, and time away from work?
Well, what if the at-fault driver didn’t have enough insurance to cover your damages? …Or, even worse, if they didn’t have any insurance at all?
Sound like an extreme and unlikely scenario? Sadly, it’s much more common than you think.
Beginning with the economic downturn of 2008, the United States saw a sharp increase in the number of drivers operating a vehicle without auto insurance. While the national economy has improved since then, the number of uninsured drivers in our country is still much higher than it once was.
The problem is especially pronounced in places like New York, where the cost of living is high and the average cost of carrying auto insurance is higher than average too.
As Kingston auto accident attorneys, we have helped clients all across the State of New York who have been left to fend for themselves by an irresponsible driver with inadequate insurance coverage.
Fortunately, there is a way you can protect yourself from this not-altogether-unlikely predicament: buy Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage in New York.
There’s a lot to know about this special kind of car insurance coverage and how it works under New York law, which has recently changed. We cover the basics below.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM)?
Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) is a special kind of coverage that kicks in only if the person(s) responsible for your injury weren’t carrying any liability insurance coverage at the time of your accident.
New York currently requires every driver to carry at least $25,000 of UM coverage per person ($50,000 per accident) at a minimum.
This means that, if you currently have an auto insurance policy in New York, you should already have at least the state-required minimum UM coverage (though this might not be enough coverage, especially if your accident causes more than minor damages).
What Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)?
Similarly, Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) applies if the at-fault driver does have enough car insurance to comply with the law but his or her policy limits still aren’t enough to cover your damages.
For example, imagine that a driver carries the state minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage, but he or she leaves you with $100,000 in medical bills. Your UIM would kick in after the other driver’s $25,000 policy limits are exhausted.
Unlike UM coverage, UIM coverage is not required in New York. But it’s still a good idea.
What is SUM Coverage in New York?
In New York, insurance companies offer something called Supplementary Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Coverage (SUM).
Most people refer to this simply as SUM insurance.
SUM insurance is optional. It combines two kinds of coverage:
- Additional UM coverage (beyond the state-required minimum UM coverage)
- UIM coverage
There is tremendous value in purchasing SUM insurance as an optional add-on to your existing auto insurance policy, if you don’t have it already.
What is the New SUM Limits Law in New York?
In the previous section, we mentioned that SUM insurance is optional in New York.
That’s true. But a brand-new law now requires NY car insurance companies to include SUM coverage in your policy by default. If you don’t want it, you’ll have to opt out (by signing a written waiver). But keep reading!
This new NY SUM Limits Law applies to relatively few drivers in our state. It only applies to new car insurance policies that are purchased after June 18, 2018. If you bought your policy prior to that date, you are not covered by the new law — even if you renew the policy after June 18, 2018.
Moreover, the new NY SUM Limits Law is currently set to expire on June 30, 2020 (unless the state legislature extends it before then).
Therefore, you shouldn’t assume that you have SUM coverage by default. Most drivers in New York don’t. For that reason, you should take action by contacting your insurance provider as soon as possible and requesting SUM insurance.
Note: If you are covered by the new law, this SUM coverage will be in an amount equal to your policy’s Bodily Injury limits, by default. If you decide you want SUM coverage in a lesser amount, you’ll need to make that request in a signed writing. But we recommend keeping it as-is.
How Much Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist Coverage Do I Need in New York?
While this answer might differ in certain specific situations, as a general rule, we recommend that all New York drivers should buy SUM coverage where both the UM and UIM policy limits are equal to the Liability limits on your policy.
New York law requires insurance companies to offer SUM coverage that equals your Liability coverage. So take advantage! It’s worth it. (Don’t expect them to suggest this coverage, by the way. Your insurance agent might not mention it until you ask.)
SUM insurance is relatively inexpensive in New York. In fact, you can often add it for only a few extra dollars a month. Moreover, maxing out your SUM coverage might cost only a few dollars more than that.
You can’t control what other drivers do, how much insurance they buy, or whether they follow the law. And while you can be careful, you can’t prevent accidents altogether. But what you can do is purchase affordable insurance coverage to protect you in a nightmare scenario.
If I Have UM/UIM or SUM and Get Hit by an Uninsured Driver, Does My Insurance Company Have to Pay Me? Will They Raise My Rates?
Auto insurance companies are required to pay UM/UIM benefits (or SUM benefits) to their policyholders up to their policy limits.
Unfortunately, insurers are notorious for fighting these claims. (Sadly, that’s true for almost every type of claim.) They are notorious for attempting to pay their own policyholders less than they should. In some cases, they have also been known to hike a policyholder’s premium after filing a UM/UIM or SUM claim — even though the policyholder didn’t do anything wrong!
An experienced Kingston auto accident attorney can fight back against these practices, making an aggressive demand for full and fair compensation under the terms of your policy.
In many cases, auto accident victims find that the insurance company does not give them a fair shake until they get an experienced law firm on their side.
The attorneys at O’Connor & Partners have many years of experience in maximizing compensation for injured New Yorkers who’ve been hit by an uninsured/underinsured motorist. We can help.
If your insurance company has refused to offer you fair compensation, or if they’ve raised your rates unfairly after a SUM coverage claim, you might have a case for damages and/or insurance bad faith. Please contact our office to discuss the specifics right away. We offer consultations at no cost and with no obligations.
Schedule a Free Consultation with O’Connor & Partners
Have you been injured in an auto accident only to learn that the negligent parties weren’t adequately insured? You aren’t alone.
Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Most drivers in New York already have Uninsured Motorist Coverage. Some also have SUM coverage (including additional UM coverage plus voluntary UIM coverage). If you don’t have SUM coverage already, you should get it right away.
Our law firm can help you explore these and other sources of compensation (depending on the facts and circumstances of your case) to make sure you are getting the largest amount of money possible.
Insurance companies in New York make a lot of money each year by denying claims unfairly or by paying their injured policyholders less than they deserve. Don’t let it happen to you. Before you accept a settlement from an insurance provider, talk about your rights with an experienced Kingston car accident lawyer.
At O’Connor & Partners, we are proud to offer no-cost, no-risk consultations. And if you do end up hiring us after the consultation, we will not charge a fee unless we get you money first.
We serve injured victims throughout the Hudson Valley and beyond, including Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, New York City, and the surrounding areas. If you can’t come to us, we’ll come to you!