AUTO INSURANCE-ARE YOU REALLY PROTECTED?
By: Lawrence Hoffman, Esq.
People don’t realize there is much more to auto insurance than finding the company with the lowest premium. There are many contingencies for which you must be prepared.
What happens when you are in an accident in and the vehicle at fault has no insurance?
Although New York State law mandates that all motor vehicles maintain liability insurance coverage, we all know that many uninsured vehicles operate on our roadways. So what happens when an uninsured vehicle plows into your car from behind causing you to sustain a broken leg which requires surgery with metal rods and screws inserted into your leg to repair the damage? You can’t collect insurance money from the uninsured vehicle. The simple answer is that in New York your automobile liability policy automatically includes uninsured motorist coverage to protect you in such an event. You may file a claim against your insurance company to pay for your pain and suffering damages. Making such a claim should not cause your insurance rates to rise.
How much money can you collect for your pain and suffering, lost wages etc., while making an uninsured motorist claim against your own policy?
This is all determined by the amount of uninsured coverage you maintain on your policy. Again, this coverage is mandatory in the State of New York. However, this coverage is only mandatory for $25,000.00. This amount is quite insufficient if you suffer serious injuries. You should maintain a much larger policy to protect yourself. Under New York law, you may purchase uninsured protection equal to the amount of your liability protection. If you maintain a $500,000.00 liability policy (which you should, at a minimum, if you own assets) you are eligible to purchase up to $500,000.00 in uninsured protection. The cost of this additional protection is low compared with the overall cost of your policy. Additionally, this coverage protects you and any family members who live with you even if your car is not involved in the accident. As an example, if you are a pedestrian crossing the street when you are hit by a car which is uninsured, you can make a claim against your insurance policy.
What happens if the at fault vehicle has minimal insurance which is inadequate to pay for your damages?
As we discussed, NYS law only mandates that automobiles are insured to a minimum of $25,000.00. In the scenario above where you have a broken leg which required surgery you would likely wish to recover an amount substantially greater than the $25,000.00 from the offending vehicle’s insurance company. The easiest way to protect yourself in this scenario is to maintain a large underinsured provision on your insurance policy. Underinsured coverage allows you to make claims against your policy for your injuries in excess of the offending vehicle policy limits.In our fact pattern, you could collect $25,000.00 from the offending vehicle. Any damages you sustain above that amount you can claim against your own policy up to the limits of your underinsured clause. The total you can collect is reduced by the amount maintained by the offending vehicle. So, in New York, if the offending vehicle maintains $25,000.00 and you maintain $300,000.00 in underinsured coverage, you will be eligible to collect up to $25,000.00 from the offending vehicle and after that, up to $275,000.00 from your insurance company.
The benefits of underinsured motorist protection are very similar to those discussed above related to underinsured protection.
Make sure you discuss uninsured/underinsured protection with your insurance broker.
Also, you are most likely better off hiring an attorney to deal with insurance company issues versus trying to do it yourself. Insurance companies like GEICO, State Farm, Allstate, Liberty Mutual, Travelers,Nationwide have lawyers on their side. You should have a lawyer fighting for you.
Call Larry Hoffman now at (516) 216-4353 or 1-800-260-0419 or 718-766-7985or e-mail LHoffman@LarrytheLawyer.net to discuss your legal case for free