The Importance of Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Benefits

In our law practice, I have found that one of the biggest mistakes our clients make is by choosing to purchase the lowest coverage offered to them for uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits. Most people never expect to be involved in an automobile accident, let alone be injured due to the negligence of someone who was either driving uninsured or with very limited liability coverage. To make matters worse, many insurance agents try to beat a competing agent’s price quote and never explain to you the real reason why their coverage is so inexpensive. As a result of this lack of communication, we find that our clients frequently purchase inferior insurance coverage.

What you need to understand is that serious automobile accidents happen more often than you would like to think. I can’t tell you how many clients we have represented who have been injured due to the negligence of an uninsured driver, or an individual who was driving with the minimum liability coverage allowed under Maryland law – which is just $30,000.00 per person for bodily injuries. If you are seriously injured in an automobile accident and required to stay in a hospital for more than just a day or two, the likelihood is that your medical bills will greatly exceed the $30,000.00 that many drivers carry in liability coverage. Under these circumstances, you better have adequate health insurance coverage to pay your bills. Even then, you may receive no compensation at all for the pain, suffering, disability and lost wages that you incur due to such an accident.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage allow you to recover money from your own insurance company if you are hurt due to the negligence of a driver who either has no insurance at all, or carries inadequate liability coverage. Some insurance companies will allow you to purchase this type of coverage in amounts of up to 1 million dollars. Our office recommends that you carry a minimum of $200,000.00 per person in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Remember, you want this $200,000.00 coverage to apply per person, not per accident.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you are involved in a very serious collision with a negligent, uninsured driver. As a result of the injuries you have sustained, you incur $40,000.00 in medical bills and $10,000.00 in lost wages. If you carry the minimum policy allowed in Maryland, you would only have $30,000.00 in uninsured motorist benefits available to you. These benefits would only be enough to pay half of your medical bills and none of your lost wages. The rest of your losses would have to come out of your pocket. If you carried the $200,000.00 we suggest in uninsured motorist benefits, your medical bills and lost wages would be easily covered and you would likely also receive a substantial amount for your pain, suffering and permanent injury. It really does make a huge difference and it happens more often than you would think.

You may think, “what’s the likelihood that I’ll ever be in an accident with an uninsured driver?” Well, let’s assume that the same accident discussed above occurred, but that the at-fault driver actually did carry liability coverage in the minimum amount allowed under Maryland law – $30,000.00 per person. The result would not change one bit. If you carried the State minimum in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (which is $30,000.00), the other driver’s insurance company would pay its $30,000.00 policy limit and your insurance company would pay you NOTHING! This is because Maryland law allows your insurance company to take a dollar for dollar set-off from your policy to recognize the benefits paid by the other driver’s insurance company. Since your uninsured/underinsured policy is only $30,000.00, and the other driver’s liability policy is $30,000.00 in this example, your insurance company pays nothing at all, and you are left with the same financial obligations.

This is important information to consider. Most people do not become aware of just how important it is until it’s too late to do anything about it. Call your agent and tell him you want to raise your uninsured/underinsured policy limit to $200,000.00 per person. He will probably warn you of the increased cost and the fact that this will also raise your liability coverage to the same levels; however, the extra coverage you obtain will serve you well in the future and the cost will seem small in comparison to the risk you have been taking carrying a minimum policy.