What is uninsured motorist coverage, and how much do I need?

uninsured motorist coverage lawyer auto accidentUnder Tennessee law, a driver is required to maintain liability insurance to cover any damages that the driver might cause in a car wreck or related accident.  That way, innocent victims are protected. Unfortunately, though, the minimum legal limit required under Tennessee law for liability coverage is only $25,000 — which is extremely low.  A car wreck can easily exhaust $25,000 in coverage.  And, of course, many drivers choose to violate the law by not carrying any auto insurance at all.  We see it all the time here in Memphis. This is why you need uninsured motorist coverage or “UM” coverage.

What happens if I get hit by a driver with little or no liability insurance?

This is where your own uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage would kick in to protect you.

In insurance lingo, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is typically referred to as “UM coverage.”  UM coverage is included as part of your own liability policy, and it is usually the same amount as your liability coverage.  So, if you have $50,000 in liability coverage, then you also have $50,000 in UM coverage.  The UM component of your policy essentially makes up the difference for any deficiency in the liability coverage of the negligent driver.

But there’s a catch:  UM coverage is only available to the extent your own policy limit is greater than the policy limit of the negligent driver in the auto accident.

Examples of How Uninsured Motorist Coverage Works

Example 1:  Our client suffered spinal injuries and a broken pelvis in a car crash requiring significant surgeries and medical treatment.  The negligent driver only had $50,000 in insurance coverage, but fortunately, our client carried $250,000 coverage of her own.  We were therefore able to negotiate a total settlement of $250,000 (the first $50,000 from negligent party’s insurance company and the remaining $200,000 from our client’s own insurance company).  

Example 2:  Our client was partially paralyzed in a car crash. Unfortunately, the negligent driver only had $25,000 in liability insurance coverage, and the client only had $50,000 herself.  As a result, the client was only able to recover a total of $50,000 ($25,000 from negligent party’s insurance company plus an additional $25,000 from her own insurance company).  The negligent driver had no assets to pursue.

Review your insurance policy today and check your coverage.

The examples above highlight a very important LESSON.   While it may be tempting when buying your own insurance to choose the cheaper option of low liability limits, you must remember that you are not just choosing liability protection for others, or making a risk calculation about whether you think you are a safe driver who may never  cause an accident or need liability coverage.  Indeed, when choosing your coverage limits, you are — in effect — also choosing the insurance limits that will cover your own family if a potential UM coverage situation occurs where an uninsured driver negligently crashes into you or another member of your family.  In other words, low liability limits may seem like a bargain until someone with little or no insurance causes a catastrophic injury to you or someone in your family.  Often, the marginal price for an increase in coverage is quite minimal.  And well worth it!

If you need a car accident lawyer

If you’ve been in a car crash, even relatively minor injuries can be overwhelming. Medical treatment can be  expensive, and injuries often result in lost wages. We would be honored to review your case free of charge.  Please either submit an online request for a Free Case Review, or call to speak with one of our car accident lawyers at 901-372-5003.