If you have ever obtained or renewed a policy of automobile insurance, you might remember receiving a list of the various insurance coverages provided by the policy. Among these coverages, along with the total limits of liability, you may see “un-insured/under-insured motorist” coverage listed. This type of coverage is often abbreviated as “UM/UIM” Typically, this type of coverage makes up a small percentage of your total policy premium, often at less than fifty dollars per year for a typical vehicle.
Although this coverage is less expensive, and rarely explained by an insurance agent in the same level of detail as liability or property damage coverage, it is no less important. In some situations, it may ultimately be the most valuable portion of your insurance policy.
In Ohio, licensed drivers are required to be covered by automobile liability insurance, through either a personal policy or by operating a car with a liability coverage that would include them. Of course, this requirement to obtain insurance does not mean every driver on Ohio’s roads is insured. A policy of insurance might have been canceled for nonpayment, an insurance policy exclusion might apply to the situation, or a driver might be aware there is no coverage and simply not care. In short, although this requirement in Ohio results in more drivers being insured, it does not completely prevent uninsured people from driving and, unfortunately, causing collisions and injuries.
A completely un-insured person such as this represents the “UM” in UM/UIM. By adding this coverage to your policy, your insurance company will stand in the shoes of the uninsured driver, and if this driver is legally liable for your injuries or other damages, will compensate you up to either the amount of the liability or the monetary limits of your UM/UIM policy, whichever is lower. As a result, this coverage allows a responsible driver to avoid the unfair consequences of another person’s irresponsible choices.
Sometimes a person who causes a collision is covered by liability insurance, but the limits of this coverage are too small to pay the damage caused by the driver. This type of driver is considered under-insured, which represents the “UIM” in UM/UIM. In Ohio, a driver satisfies the requirement to be insured by purchasing a liability coverage of at least $25,000.00 per injured person or $50,000.00 per total people injured in a collision. In cases where a person is badly hurt or permanently injured, or when a driver injures several or more people, minimum coverage limits can quickly become inadequate to compensate injured people for the harm the driver caused.
In this case, your UM/UIM coverage will compensate you for damage caused by the under-insured driver up to the limits of your UM/UIM policy. This means your UM/UIM policy is not in addition to the at-fault driver’s coverage. So, if the driver carriers the minimum limit of $25,000.00 per injured person, and your UM/UIM policy’s limit is $100,000.00 per injured person, this means your policy would provide up to an additional $75,000.00 in coverage to create a maximum total recovery of $100,000. For this reason, if you purchase minimum UM/UIM coverage and are injured by another driver who carries minimum liability coverage in the same amount, you will not be entitled to any coverage beyond the amount carried by the other driver, even though you have paid for this coverage. For this reason, you should select a UM/UIM limit that reflects the minimum amount you could accept if you were seriously injured through another driver’s fault.
Lastly, your insurance company is entitled to assert any arguments or legal defenses the uninsured or under-insured driver could assert, and this can create an adversarial relationship with your own insurance company. Despite this, however, your insurance company is prohibited by law from retaliating against you for making a claim under this coverage by either raising your premiums or canceling your policy if you did nothing to cause the collision. For this reason, in addition to the relative low cost of the coverage there is no good reason not to carry UM/UIM coverage at high limits.
This post is merely an overview of this type of insurance coverage, and should not be taken as legal advice for any particular situation. Ohio law addressing UM/UIM coverage can become very complicated very quickly, insurance companies often attempt to underpay their own insureds, and as a result, your ability to be compensated fairly for an injury you did not cause can be dependent on the skill, knowledge and experience of your attorney. If you have been injured by a driver who did not carry enough insurance to compensate you for their actions, or if your own insurance company is not treating you fairly, please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys of Green Haines Sgambati, who have helped many clients faced with the same challenges obtain the justice they deserve.