The only way to insure that you will be fairly compensated for all injuries and damages you may suffer in a motor vehicle accident caused by an uninsured driver or underinsured driver is to purchase a sufficient amount of uninsured motorist (UM) insurance coverage and underinsured motorist (UIM) insurance coverage on your own auto insurance policy. You should be aware that you are not required to purchase any amount UM or UIM coverage on your auto insurance policy in Pennsylvania. You should also be award that many insurance agents will not fully explain these coverages to you and/or attempt to persuade you against purchasing such coverages and/or high levels of such coverage. However, the only way to adequately protect you and your family against serious injuries caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver is to maintain a sufficient amount of UM and UIM insurance coverages on your auto insurance policy.
Your auto insurance carrier must allow you to purchase these coverages in an amount up to the amount of your liability coverage (liability coverage is coverage which protects you for damages you cause to others). In order to adequately protect yourself, you should purchase UM/UIM coverage in an amount equal to you liability limits. Indeed, there is no reason for you to purchase a higher amount of coverage to cover damages suffered by others than to cover damages suffered by you. For example, if you maintain $100,000 in liability coverage, you should also maintain $100,000 in UM and UIM coverage.
As mentioned above, UM and UIM coverages are optional, not mandatory. However, in order to be deemed to have waived UM and UIM coverages entirely, your insurance company must have had you sign statutory specific UM and UIM waiver/rejection of coverage forms (a separate form for UM and a separate form for UIM). If you did not sign such forms, you will be deemed to have UM and UIM coverages in an amount equal to your liability limits (even though you never paid a premium for such coverages). Similarly, in order to be deemed to have selected UM and UIM coverages in amount less than your liability limits, your insurance company must be able to produce a “writing” signed by you (as “the named insured” on the policy) wherein you acknowledge requesting lower limits. If your insurance company can not produce a “writing” whereby you requested lower limits of UM and UIM coverage than your liability coverage, even though you did not pay a premium for such amount of coverage, you will be deemed to have UM and UIM coverage in an amount equal to your liability coverage limits.
If you (or a family member) have been injured in an auto accident and the driver who caused the accident either had no insurance or minimal insurance which is not sufficient to compensate you for your injuries and damages, contact DLP for a free consultation re: the amount of UM and/or UIM coverage you have on your auto policy. Remember, even if you auto policy declarations state that your UM and/or UIM coverage is less than your liability limits or that you rejected such coverages entirely, you may be deemed to have UM and UIM coverages in an amount equal to your policy’s liability limits if your insurance company can not produce documentation on proper forms indicating you either rejected UM/UIM coverage entirely or that you requested limits lower than your liability coverage.
Another term you should be aware of when purchasing UM/UIM coverage is stacking. Stacking allows you to exponentially increase your UM/UIM coverage by multiplying the number of vehicles insured on your policy by the stated UM/UIM policy limit amount. In contrast, if you waive stacking, your UM/UIM policy limit is limited to the stated UM/UIM policy limit amount. For example, if you have three vehicles insured on your policy, your stated UM/UIM per person limit is $100,000 and stacking applies, your UM/UIM coverage is $300,000 per person. However, using this same example, had you waived stacking, your UM/UIM coverage would be limited to $100,000 per person. The cost to stack UM/UIM benefits is relatively cheap so you should definitely purchase this coverage in order to adequately protect yourself.
You should periodically check your auto insurance coverage to make sure your coverages are adequate for your current situation in life. If you have any questions regarding what various coverages are or what various coverage amounts should be considered, feel free to contact DLP team of Pennsylvania Personal Injury Attorneys for a free no obligation consultation.
John P. Finnerty, Esquire