Can You Explain the Difference Between Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
The laws regarding uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage are pretty complicated. In fact, the books covering that would fill this room. Uninsured motorist coverage covers you if you’re hit by an at-fault vehicle that does not have any insurance. Underinsured motorist coverage covers you when you’re hit by an at-fault vehicle and they do not have enough insurance. In effect, what really happens is your insurance company steps into the shoes of the other party. That’s where some of it can be a little bit tricky, because in dealing with your insurance company who you really think ought to be on your side, they’re not on your side in that situation; they’re actually on the other person’s side. That’s why if you’re dealing with a situation with either uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, we really think it’s pretty important that you talk with an experienced attorney right at the beginning.
Does this type of Insurance Help in a Hit and Run Accident?
In a hit-and-run accident, either uninsured or underinsured could come into play, depending on whether or not the hit-and-run person is found. Yes, one thing to be particularly careful of is that in a hit-and-run accident, the law in North Carolina is there must be contact in order for your uninsured motorist coverage to apply. The unfortunate thing we see a lot of times is where somebody maybe gets run off the road and you’re taking evasive action actually to minimize the impact of a bad situation. If there’s no impact between the two cars and that hit-and-run driver can’t be found, then there’s not a claim.
If the Hit and Run Driver Can’t be Found, is There Still a Way to Get Compensation?
We get involved in those cases early. Through quick investigation and quick damage workup, lots of time, we’re able to prove that that contact did occur so that the injured party does have an uninsured claim, and we can pursue that to make sure their damages are covered. Because people can get themselves in a really bad situation; high medical bills, lost wages, other losses and damages. You want to be able to pursue a right to recovery.
Is this a Standard Coverage Included with my Insurance Policy?
Uninsured coverage is required, unless you sign a waiver declining it at any level of insurance. Underinsured coverage is required, assuming that you have more than the minimum level of coverage, unless you sign a waiver declining it. The unfortunate thing is many people don’t understand what these coverages are, and sometimes, they waive the coverages to save a little bit of insurance premium. That really isn’t a very good idea. The reason is, unfortunately, there are a large number of drivers out there that don’t have any insurance coverage, which means to protect yourself; you better have the uninsured coverage. Then the majority of people today only have the minimum insurance covered by law. Again, in North Carolina, that’s $30,000 in coverage. If you have a broken bone or an injury that requires surgery, you’ll eat that up extremely quickly. Accordingly, it’s our opinion that underinsured motorist coverage can be very, very important to protect you and your family.
What Level of Coverage Do You Recommend?
We like to look at somebody’s individual financial situation, their ability to pay, and those sort of things. We typically think a minimum amount of coverage that somebody should have should be what’s called $100,000/$300,000 coverage, which means $100,000 per person, $300,000 per accident, no matter how many people are involved. Uninsured and underinsured coverage is available up to $1 million of coverage.