As the New Year approaches and we begin to think about changes we are going to make in our lives, one of those might be your motor vehicle insurance coverage. Unfortunately, this year I represented several people who were involved in serious accidents, caused by the fault of another, who had minimum limits of liability which were insufficient to pay for their damages.
To compound matters, these injured clients also had low limits of underinsured motorist coverage. So despite their serious injuries, and the lack of fault on their part, there was not enough insurance to properly compensate them for their damages.
In Connecticut, drivers are only required to carry minimum limits of motor vehicle liability insurance coverage of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident for all injured parties. Many people only look at the premium involved when buying insurance and only purchase the minimum limits. Unfortunately, a great number of people also operate motor vehicles that carry no liability insurance at all.
One of the best ways you can protect yourself and your family, if you are involved in an accident where the at fault driver either doesn’t have any insurance or who has insufficient limits of liability to compensate you for your injuries, is to carrying significant uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your own motor vehicle.
UM/UIM coverage, as it is referred to, pays for injuries to you, your passengers, and family members who are injured by an at fault driver who does not have any liability coverage (an uninsured motorist, or UM claim) or does not have sufficient insurance limits to pay for all of your losses (an underinsured motorist, or UIM claim).
UM/UIM is one of the most important types of coverage you can carry. It is like buying insurance liability coverage for every driver on the road. Surprisingly, the cost for this kind of coverage is modest in comparison to the protection it provides.
There are two types of UM/UIM coverage: conversion coverage; and straight coverage. Conversion coverage allows you to utilize your UIM limits regardless of the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage, without a deduction for the at fault party's limits, while straight UM/UIM coverage allows you to access your limits only if your UIM coverage is greater than the insurance coverage carried by the driver causing the accident.
By way of example, you are in an accident and the at fault party has $20,000 in bodily injury coverage, you have UIM limits of $50,000 and your case has a value of $70,000. If you had straight UIM coverage, you would get $20,000 from the at fault party’s carrier and $30,000 from your carrier-that is, $50,000 (your UIM limits) less $20,000 (the at fault party’s limits), for a total of $50,000. If you had conversion UIM coverage, you would recover $20,000 from the at fault party and $50,000 from your carrier for a total of $70,000.
We strongly recommend that you carry at least $500,000 of UM/UIM conversion coverage, if not more. You should have UM/UIM limits equal to your liability insurance coverage. You should also obtain an umbrella policy, or excess liability policy, of at least $1,000,000, if not more. Again you would be surprised at how little this coverage will cost in relation to the great coverage, and peace of mind, it affords.
My recommendation to you for this coming year is to review your insurance coverage and increase you limits to, at least, the amounts suggested. So please, take an hour out of your time this holiday season to review your insurance policy and speak with your insurance agent. Take the needed step to protect yourself and your loved ones from irresponsible drivers. Hopefully, you will never need to access this important coverage but if you do, you could avoid an economic disaster for you and your family.
Have a happy and safe New Year!
Richard P. Hastings is a Connecticut personal injury lawyer at Hastings, Cohan & Walsh, LLP, with offices throughout the state. A graduate of Fordham Law School, he has been named a New England Super Lawyer and is the author of the books: "The Crash Course on Child Injury Claims"; "The Crash Course on Personal Injury Claims in Connecticut" and "The Crash Course on Motorcycle Accidents." He has also co-authored the best selling book "Wolf in Sheep's Clothing- What Your Insurance Company Doesn't Want You to Know and Won't Tell You Until It's Too Late!" He can be reached at 1(888)CTLAW-00 or by visiting www.hcwlaw.com.