Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
For twenty-seven years I have practiced personal injury law, much of that having to do with automobile accidents. I am always amazed by how poorly my clients protect themselves. And this is not just my clients of limited means. I have represented owners of large businesses and people of some wealth who came to me looking for help because the person who caused them injury, whether it was a broken bone or whiplash, did not carry any automobile insurance. In other words, they were hurt an uninsured driver.
One of the first things I always do in automobile or motorcycle injury case is to ask my client to bring in their “Declarations Page” to their own insurance coverage. This is the paper, usually the first page of your insurance policy, that lists the type, limits and cost of all your various coverages. What I am typically looking for is verification that my client carries “Uninsured” and “Underinsured” Motorist coverage.
Too many times, I find that they do not. Much to my surprise, on many occasions, they do not carry any type of “UIM” coverage. This means they will, most likely, not receive ANY compensation for their injuries and worse yet, they left to pay their medical bills.
Look, depending on what you read, it is estimated that anywhere from 10% to 33% of Arizona drivers are uninsured. Think of it this way, if you are stuck in a traffic jam on the highway, with a car in front of you, behind you and on either side of you, chances are that, at least, one of those cars carries no insurance at all. Further, the minimum insurance that an Arizona driver can carry, is only $15,000.00. So of those cars surrounding you in the traffic jam, chances are another one carries only the minimum insurance amount.
Now, $15,000.00 sounds like a lot of money, and it is if you were to receive it in a check with no strings attached but if you are in an accident and hurt your neck, your back, or break bones in your legs and have to be taken from the scene of the accident to a hospital, that ambulance drive alone, is at least $1,000.00 and if they need to use a helicopter, forget it, most of that $15,000.00 is gone – with the wind.
So, how do you protect yourself from these uninsured and underinsured drivers? Easy, BUY UNINSURED AND UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE. It is comparatively inexpensive and in my opinion, both should be mandatory coverages. How much should you buy? Usually it is the same amount as your liability coverage and, since in my last blog I explained why you should buy more insurance than you think you should, that should be enough to cover you. So, if you buy $100,000.00 in liability coverage – you should also buy $100,000.00 in “UIM” coverage.
Two final things: NO ONE IS GOING TO PROTECT YOU – YOU HAVE TO PROTECT YOURSELF. I know it is uncomfortable and no one likes spending money they do not have to but it is the way our system works – in America, WE HAVE TO PROTECT OURSELVES. PERIOD.
Second, many clients do not like using their UIM protection because, for some reason, they feel emotional about their insurance company. They will say: “Why does my insurance company have to pay, the accident wasn’t my fault?!” Well, because you paid for the coverage. An insurance company is a business and it is not your business. If you make a claim, they will treat you like any other claimant – an insurance company certainly does not get emotionally attached to you! It is a business, and their business is to collect premiums. They do not like paying claims.
Additionally, most of my Gilbert personal injury clients are afraid that if they use their UIM coverage their rates will go up. Well, not in Arizona. One of the few laws that are actually good for you prohibits your insurance company from raising your rates just for using your UM or UIM coverage. Arizona Revised Statutes § 20-263 states: “A. No insurer shall increase the motor vehicle insurance premium of an insured as a result of an accident not caused or significantly contributed to by the actions of the insured. Any insurer which increases the premium as a result of accident involvement shall notify the insured of the reason for such increase.”
In other words, they cannot raise your rates unless you are more than 50% at fault in an accident.
So, BUY UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE AND UNDERINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE. No one else will protect you, especially the other drivers on the road, who really could not care less about you.
Daniel Marco – Marco Injury Law
1166 E Warner Rd #101
Gilbert, AZ 85296
Email: [email protected]