Massachusetts Uninsured and Underinsured Automobile Coverages: Making Your Automobile Insurance Work for You

Imagine this: You or a person you love is seriously hurt in a car accident. But the person who hit you is driving a stolen car. Or they don’t have insurance. Or they have only a very small insurance policy. Are you left with little or no money to compensate you for very serious injuries? The answer is no, if you protect yourself through a good car insurance policy of your own. There are 2 parts of your insurance policy that you should seriously consider talking with your agent or your insurance company about: the Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist coverage. This coverage protects you if another person, who had little or no insurance, injures you. Here’s an explanation of how it works.

If you own a car or if someone in your household owns a car, you can buy insurance coverage to compensate yourself for your harms and losses if you are injured in an accident through the fault of someone else. If the person who hurts you has no insurance, the coverage you can buy is called uninsured motorist coverage. If the person who is at fault for the accident does not have enough insurance to fully compensate you for all of your injuries and losses, then you can carry underinsured motorist coverage on your automobile insurance. With this coverage, when the value of your injury exceeds the amount of insurance available on the at fault driver’s car, you can receive from your insurance company the amounts you are owed up to the amount of insurance you purchase for this coverage.

For example, if you are injured in an automobile accident and the total value of your case is $50,000, you would first look to the insurance company for the at fault car to receive compensation. If that car has only $20,000 in liability coverage, then you would look to your own automobile insurer to receive full compensation for your injury provided you have purchased enough underinsured motorist coverage. If the at fault car has no insurance then you can recover the full value of your case from your insurance company (again, provided you have purchased enough uninsured motorist coverage).

Also, it is important to note that if you do not receive adequate compensation from the at fault driver’s automobile insurer and if you have your own insurance available to make up the difference, the process for attempting to receive that money is much simpler and friendlier than the lengthy court process. If you and your automobile insurance company do not agree on the amount you are entitled to receive under your insurance, you are allowed to arbitrate your case rather than going to court. Arbitration of such claims is a process where your lawyer and the lawyer for the insurance company pick a person, usually a practicing attorney or former judge, to decide the case. The parties then appear at the arbitrator’s office and present their case without the need to follow the usual formal rules for submitting evidence. The benefits to arbitration are many but two of the greatest benefits are first that your lawyer is able to participate in choosing the arbitrator which typically results in an arbitrator who is known to your lawyer. This is far better than asking twelve jurors, who no one knows, to decide your case. A second benefit is that the entire arbitration process will likely last months as opposed to having your case linger for years in the court system. Since you paid the premium for the insurance coverage, you will have quicker access to your money and the compensation you deserve.

The decision as to how much uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is enough for you and your family is a difficult one and depends on a number of factors including your lifestyle, your tolerance for risk and the amount of money available to purchase insurance. Ultimately, you should consult with your insurance agent or broker when making this decision.

The lawyers at HBMHlaw combined have decades of experience in dealing with automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian injuries and cases where issues arise concerning the amounts of insurance coverage available. If you have questions about your insurance coverage or about what to do if you are involved in the accident, please contact one of our lawyers at (508) 626-8500 or visit us at hbmhlaw.com.