Pennsylvania law requires auto insurance companies to offer under insured and uninsured motorist coverage on all policies. At our law firm, we tell all of our friends and family to purchase UM/UIM coverage and “stacking” if they have multiple vehicles. Otherwise, you are putting yourself and your family at risk of being injured on the road with no way to fully recover for their injuries.
Check your “Declarations Page” on your auto-policy to determine your coverage limits. All of the important details are summarized on that document, which you should carry in your glove-box. You have the opportunity to purchase additional bodily injury, UM/UIM coverage every renewal period.
WHY DO I NEED UM/UIM COVERAGE?
Uninsured motorist coverage protects you from being injured by another motorist that does not have any auto insurance. Although it is illegal to drive without “financial responsibility,” there are still many people that do not purchase auto insurance, or they allow their auto insurance policy to lapse by mistake. If you or a loved one are injured by one of these driver’s, your UM policy will pay for your damages. Otherwise, you will not be able to recover for medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering or disfigurement.
Under insured motorist coverage is even more essential, because it comes in to play more frequently. UIM coverage protects your family against the risk of being injured by a driver that only purchased a small or minimum amount of “bodily injury” liability coverage. Bodily injury liability coverage is the money that the insurance company has to cover if the at-fault driver injures someone else. The minimum amount of bodily injury limits required by law is $15,000.00 per individual and a maximum pay-out of $30,000.00 per accident.
For example, if John is injured in an accident, and the at-fault driver has minimum coverage, and John does not have UIM, he will only be able to recover $15,000 total. If John and one or more family members are injured in the same accident, they will only be able to recover $30,000 total.
Most of the time, if one or more persons has a serious bodily injury the medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering will far exceed $30,000.00. Unless you have UIM coverage, there will be no way to have a meaningful recovery.
HOW MUCH UM/UIM COVERAGE SHOULD I PURCHASE?
UM/UIM motorist coverage always comes as a package-deal. The coverages may be equal to, less than, but never more than the “bodily injury” liability limits purchased on your policy. For example, if you only purchased the minimum of $15,000/$30,000 bodily injury coverage, then your insurer can only sell you an amount of UM/UIM coverage that is equal or less than $15,000/$30,000.
Ideally, you should carry a minimum of $100,000.00 per person and $300,000.00 per incident bodily injury coverage. You should buy an equal amount of UM/UIM coverage. Your personal assets are protected if you injure someone else. If you match the UM/UIM coverage, your family will have a good chance of recovering if they are injured by a motorist that has no insurance or inadequate bodily injury coverage.
For example, John has three covered vehicles on his policy. He purchased bodily injury coverage of $100,000/$300,000.00. He also purchased UM/UIM coverage of $100,000/$300,000. He is injured by a driver with minimum $15,000 coverage. His injuries are worth $500,000. He can recover the $15,000 from the at-fault driver, and he can recover an additional $100,000 from his own auto insurer under the UIM policy. If John and his wife were both injured, they could recover $15,000 plus $200,000.
If John, his wife, and one child were all injured and the claim is worth $1,000,000. They could recover $30,000 from the at-fault driver, plus $300,000 in UIM.
WHY SHOULD I ALSO BUY STACKING?
“Stacking” of UM/UIM coverage is an option that you can purchase to multiply the amount of UM/UIM coverage by the number of vehicle you have on the same policy. It only applies to “class one insureds,” meaning the named insurer and blood relatives that live in the home. It does not apply to commercial policies or guests in a family vehicle. If you have multiple family vehicles on your policy, you should stack UM/UIM coverage.
For example, John has three covered vehicles on his policy (his, his wife’s and his son’s). He purchased UM/UIM coverage of $100,000/$300,000, and elected the stacking option.
If John is injured by a driver with the minimum $15,000/$30,000, he can recover $15,000 from the at-fault driver, and $300,000 from his UM/UIM policy.
If John and one or more family members is injured in the same scenario, they can recover $30,000 from the at-fault driver, and $900,000 from John’s own UM/UIM policy.
It is easy to see how UM/UIM coverage with stacking can make all the difference if a family member is injured or killed. There will be meaningful money on the table to protect your family in case there is a roadway tragedy.
If you have an UM/UIM claim please contact one of our experienced attorneys today. There are complex coverage issues with respect to one or more insurers, do not try to attempt to negotiate with an insurance company without the advice of an attorney.