Uninsured (UM) Motorist Insurance Coverage/ Underinsured (UIM) Motorist
This coverage, another ala carte item, is basically easy to understand. In this case, the name of the coverage is exactly what it implies.
If you are involved in an accident, and the driver at fault does not carry auto insurance, you must have Uninsured Motorist Coverage to be able to make a claim. This claim is actually made against your own insurance company. Now at this point, many people would cringe at the idea of making a claim against their own carrier; the feeling being that rates would go up if a claim is made. This is what the Insurance industry wants you to think, but it is far from the truth.
Under PA law, your insurance rates cannot go up simply because you made a claim. Only if you are at fault, may the company raise your rates. You also cannot be dropped by your carrier for making a claim (unless, this is your 4th or 5th claim, e.g.)
UM coverage is the only protection you may have against an uninsured driver. Regardless of the type of accident, regardless of the degree of fault, regardless of your injuries. If you do not have UM coverage, you will not be able to make a claim. This coverage extends to your family members or any other passenger in your vehicle.
Just like UM coverage, Underinsured (UIM) coverage is an ala carte item that must be selected by you in order for it to become part of your policy.
Let’s say that you were involved in a terrible accident that resulted in severe injuries, i.e. broken bones, hospitalization, time missed from work, etc. Assume, for this example, that the driver at fault only carried minimum liability insurance ($15,000 for any individual) in his policy. Your injuries are obviously worth more than the minimum coverage. Unless you have UIM coverage in your policy, you will not be able to be compensated any more for your injuries; you’re stuck with the $15,000.
Once again, this would be a claim made against your carrier and once again your rates cannot be increased just for making this claim.
UM/UIM coverage should go hand in hand. The cost for the inclusion of these coverages in your policy is not that expensive. With so many uninsured drivers and minimum policies in effect, this is the only proper way to fully cover yourself and your family. The UM/UIM coverage limits can be as high as your liability limits, or anywhere lower, as you choose.
Before closing, there are a couple of practical points of which you absolutely must be made aware. Ignoring the following could very well prevent you from being adequately compensated for your injuries.
If your auto policy does include Limited Tort (if you haven’t already, please read the Full Tort v. Limited Tort article) as well as Uninsured Motorist coverage, and your are involved in an accident where the driver at fault is uninsured, you are still bound by your Limited Tort option. This may not be easy to comprehend, but it is the law in Pennsylvania. The only way you can fully protect yourself would be to carry Full Tort coverage.
Secondly, any hit and run accident, or an accident where you are, e.g., forced off the road by another driver who then keeps on going, will be deemed to be an uninsured accident. Unless you have Uninsured Motorist coverage, you will be prevented from making any claim. Once again, if you have Limited Tort, you will be bound by that selection.
Another potential problem you should know, is that any accident described above, must be reported to the police within a certain time period. The actual time given is not important…The sooner this is reported to the police, the better it is for your claim. You must remember that when you are making a claim (through your attorney – hopefully our firm), the insurance company is not your friend. Even if the claim is being made through your company, their job is to pay you the least amount of money possible. Accordingly, you do not want your claim tarnished by any suspicion or lack of credibility. If at all possible, stay with your vehicle until the police arrive. If you have any information on the offending vehicle, give it to the police; but do not guess. If your injuries prevent you from remaining at the scene until the police arrive, make sure the EMT personnel are aware of the circumstances. Request the presence of a police officer at the hospital so that a report can be made. This is extremely important!
No comment is necessary regarding UIM coverage and Full Tort. If you have limited tort and the liability adjuster is settling your claim for their policy limits, your injuries will, in all likelihood, get you over the threshold. However, and please remember this; Full Tort coverage will never give you any concern.