Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Insurance Coverage

Uninsured and underinsured motorist insurance coverage (UM/UIM) are optional insurance benefits that can be selected in a personal or commercial auto policy. UM/UIM coverage will pay an injury victim or the family of someone wrongfully killed in a motor vehicle accident when the other driver is at fault and either has no auto insurance, or does not have enough to fully compensate the victim or family. Monetary compensation can be received for medical bills, lost wages, disfigurement, pain and suffering and loss of life’s pleasures.

The amount of UM/UIM coverage is selected by the named insured under the policy of insurance. The limits can be equal to or less than the limits of bodily injury liability coverage selected under the same policy. In some cases, UM/UIM can be waived entirely because it is not mandatory under certain personal or commercial policies issued in Pennsylvania or New Jersey. However, purchasing uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is usually a smart choice if you wish to protect yourself and your family.

uninsured motorist insurance

Pennsylvania and New Jersey laws require most drivers to maintain a minimum of $15,000 per person, $30,00 per accident, and $5,000 per accident for property damage. This is normally abbreviated as $15/30/5. New Jersey, though, has exceptions for low income drivers who may purchase what is known as a “dollar per day policy.” As most drivers know, even though auto insurance is mandatory, there are still thousands of vehicles being driven that are uninsured. For more specific information on the auto insurance laws of the State of New Jersey, Click Here.

Uninsured motorists usually have fewer assets and less income than motorists maintaining a policy of auto insurance. Unfortunately, this leads to injury victims being unable to recover fair monetary compensation for their losses unless they protect themselves under their own auto policy with sufficient policy limits for UM/UIM benefits coverage.

Here is a group of questions to help you understand the dynamics of uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages: (Click Questions for Answers)

What is the definition of uninsured motorist coverage?

Uninsured motor coverage (UM) is part of a class of coverages known as “first party” insurance benefits. This means the insurance premium for UM has been paid by the injury victim or a family member, who selected the coverage under their policy of auto insurance. Other examples of first party insurance include collision, car rental or medical benefits coverage. Basically, it is an insurance benefit that someone purchases to protect themselves and their family in the event of a claim in which they need to be reimbursed. For example, your vehicle is damaged in a crash and your auto insurance company will pay you to have your vehicle repaired.

The other type of insurance coverage is known as “third party” liability insurance coverage. This protects an insured when they are at fault for a motor vehicle crash and need to pay another person’s claim. This other person is known as the “third party.” An example of this would be when you drive through a red light and crash into another auto. Your auto insurance company will pay on your behalf to have the other vehicle repaired so you do not have to personally pay it. Your property damage liability coverage would pay this type of claim. If you also injured someone in the crash, then your bodily injury liability coverage would on your behalf pay the injury victim for their bodily injury damages.

In Pennsylvania, you can only purchase UM for bodily (personal) injury claims. However, in New Jersey, you can purchase UM for property damage and bodily injury claims. This option in New Jersey allows an insured to not have to pay their collision deductible if the crash was caused by an uninsured or a hit and run motorist. For UM claims, the simplest way to understand the process would be for you to pretend that your personal or commercial auto insurance company insures the uninsured or hit and run motorist causing the collision.

What are the differences between uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages?

Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage is basically the same as UM coverage but with a slightly different dynamic. Simply put, it covers an insured and his family when another driver negligently causes an accident and does not have enough insurance to cover the claim.

In Pennsylvania and New Jersey (with low income exceptions in NJ), the bodily injury liability limits in an auto policy must be $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident (total for all people injured in the crash), and property damage liability limits of $5,000. Absent a complete waiver, UM and UIM have the same minimum requirements as the limits for bodily injury liability coverage.

As explained in more detail below, Pennsylvania and New Jersey have a significant difference in how the available limits of UIM are calculated. Pennsylvania is considered a “stacking” jurisdiction, meaning liability and UIM limits can be stacked (added) on top of each other to provide greater amounts of coverage. Wheres New Jersey is a “gap” jurisdiction, meaning the UIM coverage fills in the gap between the amounts of liability limits and UIM limits. This provides significantly less insurance coverage to pay a claim in New Jersey under most circumstances as described below.

What types of situations do uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits cover?

Bodily Injury Hypothetical

Dan drives through a red light and strikes another vehicle causing injuries to the other driver, Barry. Dan has the minimum bodily injury liability limits of $15/30 and Barry has UIM limits of $100/300.

In Pennsylvania, which is a “stacking” jurisdiction, Barry would have $115,000 in available insurance limits to cover his bodily injury claim. ($15,000 + $100,000). In addition, if Barry chose “stacking” under his auto policy and had three insured vehicles, he would have $315,000 in available insurance limits. ($15,000 + $100,000 + $100,000 + $100,00).

Uninsured motorist coverage

In New Jersey, which is a “gap” jurisdiction, Barry would have $100,000 in available insurance limits to cover his bodily injury claim. He would have $15,000 in bodily injury limits plus $85,000 in UIM limits. ($100,000 – $15,000 is the “gap” between the two types of coverages). However, unlike Pennsylvania, Barry could not choose “stacking” under his New Jersey policy, which also insured three vehicles. He would be limited to the same $100,000. ($15,000 + $85,000). Further, if Barry had only $15/30 in UIM limits, he would not in New Jersey be entitled to any UIM coverage. ($15,000 – $15,000 = $0). He would be limited to the $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage.

Property Damage Hypothetical

Jesse rear ends an auto owned by Sam and causes $6,000 in damage.

In Pennsylvania, Sam would have to use his collision coverage to cover the full amount of the repairs. Pennsylvania does not have UM/UIM for property damage claims. Ultimately, Sam’s auto insurance company could try to collect the $6,000 from Jesse. Jesse’s insurance company would pay $5,000 and Jesse would personally have to pay $1,000. Sam would then be reimbursed for any deductible he had to pay.

In New Jersey, Sam could use his UIM property damage coverage to pay the full $6,000, and he would not be subject to his collision coverage deductible. Again, Sam’s insurance company could try to collect the full $6,000 from Jesse and his insurance company.

Why do I need UM/UIM coverage if I have personal health insurance?

In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, auto policies are sold with health insurance known as medical benefits coverage or Personal Injury Protection (PIP). Most Pennsylvania policies provide the minimum PIP limits of $5,000. It varies more in New Jersey but a standard policy typically has $250,000 in PIP benefits. PIP coverage is considered primary, meaning it pays medical bills before private health insurance or governmental programs like Medicare.

This may seem like a fair amount of coverage to pay medical bills if you or a family member are injured in an motor vehicle accident; however, Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid plans are legally able to assert a lien over personal injury settlements. This is also true for many private health insurance plans especially if you are employed by a large company or have a union health and welfare plan.

Moreover, many health insurance plans have high deductibles and co-payments that you would still be responsible to pay. In addition, they often do not cover services such as acupuncture or chiropractic treatments. Fortunately, though, UM and UIM benefits can be used to cover these expenses and pay off any applicable liens.

What limits of UM/UIM coverage are sufficient to protect my family?

In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, you can purchase UM/UIM benefits with limits that are equal to or lower than the limits of the policy’s bodily injury liability coverage. In addition, Pennsylvania allows a stacking option for these coverages. If there are three vehicles insured under the policy, then the insured and his family will have triple the amount of the stated limits for UM/UIM benefits.

As a general rule you should always select UM/UIM limits that equal to the limits of the bodily injury liability coverage. The insurance premiums for these coverages are not cost prohibitive. For instance, if an insured purchases $50/100 limits for bodily injury liability coverage, they should also purchase $50/100 limits for UM/UIM benefits to cover crashes caused by other drivers who are uninsured or underinsured. In Pennsylvania, stacking should always be chosen as well. Having adequate limits is the only way to protect your family to receive fair compensation in a motor vehicle crash.

selecting auto insurance

A smart way to protect yourself and your family is to purchase an umbrella policy with limits of $1,000,000 or more. When doing so, you will need to make sure the insurance company offering the umbrella policy also offers it with UM/UIM coverages. Not all companies do. Overall, umbrella policies are relatively inexpensive and cover not only auto claims but homeowner and other negligence claims as well.

You should always discuss your insurance needs with an experienced insurance broker, preferably an independent broker. You can also call or text me at 215-546-3166 or 609-277-3166 for a Free Consultation regarding the policies and coverages being offered to you by the agent.

How do you start a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits?

Like other insurance claims, the first step to begin an uninsured or underinsured motorist benefits claim is to report it to your auto insurance company. In addition, if not already accomplished on the day of the accident, the insured needs to report the crash to the police within thirty days if it was caused by a hit and run vehicle or phantom driver. She also needs to report the claim to her insurance company within 30 days in hit and run or phantom driver cases. This allows the insurance company to start an early investigation of the claim including trying to locate the striking vehicle and/or driver. If timely notice is not given, the insurance company could argue that they were prejudiced because its investigation was delayed. Proving prejudice would likely result in the UM or UIM claim being barred.

Once the insurance company completes its investigation it will either accept or deny the UM/UIM claim. That’s why it is important to hire an experienced uninsured motorist lawyer to represent you as soon as possible. The insurance company will likely take statements of everyone involved including the insured and other witnesses as part of its investigation. Having a trial lawyer on your side at the beginning of the process will go a long way in protecting your rights. If the claim is ultimately denied or a fair settlement offer is not forthcoming , your underinsured motorist benefits lawyer can file a lawsuit on your behalf. Call or text me at 609-277-3166, 215-546-3166 or 717-996-4411 to learn your rights from an uninsured motorist lawyer with over thirty years of experience.

Do uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits apply in a hit and run accident?

Hit and run or phantom vehicle cases can take on several different scenarios.

Hypotheticals

  • John is stopped at a red light and gets rear ended. The other vehicle flees the scene without any identifying information being obtained.
  • John is stopped at a red light and gets rear ended by a stolen vehicle. The driver of the stolen vehicle flees the scene on foot without any identifying information being obtained.
  • John is stopped at a red light and gets rear ended. The driver of the other vehicle remains at the scene but provides false information.
  • John has a vehicle parked in front of his home. It gets struck by an unknown vehicle that does not leave behind any contact information.
  • John is crossing the street as a pedestrian and gets struck by a vehicle disregarding a red light. Any of the above scenarios regarding the striking vehicle can apply here as well.

In Pennsylvania, Title 75, Section 3743 requires drivers to remain at the scene of an accident to exchange information and render aid. If the crash involves injuries, death or renders a vehicle inoperable, Section 3746 also requires that the accident be reported to the police immediately.

In New Jersey, Title 38, Section 4-129 requires drivers to remain at the scene to exchange information and to provide any injured person with assistance including carrying that person to a hospital or physician. If the crash involves injuries, death or property damage above $500, Title 39, Section 4-130 requires in addition that the accident be reported to the police immediately.

Unfortunately, when an unidentified driver leaves the scene of a crash, there is not much the victim can do except bring a claim against his own insurance company for first party benefits. These include collision, medical benefits and uninsured motorist coverages.

As discussed previously, in New Jersey, an insured can use his uninsured motorist property damage coverage to pay for his vehicle when involved in a hit and run crash. Plus, he would not be subject to his collision deductible. However, in Pennsylvania, the insured would be required to use her collision coverage including paying the deductible.

If a vehicle occupant is injured in the phantom vehicle crash, they can utilize the medical benefits coverage and the UM benefits to monetarily compensate them for pain and suffering, loss of life’s pleasures, lost wages and unpaid medical bills. Call or text me, Joseph Monaco, to learn the full extent of your rights: 215-546-3166, 609-277-3166 or 717-996-4411.

Do uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits apply in a pedestrian accident?

The simple answer to this question is yes. Uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits cover the named insured under the auto policy as well as any resident relative involved in a pedestrian auto accident. Plus, the pedestrian accident can happen anywhere in the United States and its territories.

Joseph Monaco – Trial Lawyer
uninsured motorist court room

Call or text me, Joseph Monaco, at 215-546-3166, 609-277-3166 or 717-996-4411 to determine whether you are eligible for compensation.  As an uninsured motorist trial lawyer,  I will provide you with a Free Consultation offering my over 30 years of experience.   If you hire me, my firm will provide you with the No Recovery, No Fee Guarantee.

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