Understanding Uninsured and Underinsured Motorists Coverage

Do you have the proper automobile insurance in place to protect you in the event of an injury or accident caused by another person’s negligence? This pertains to accidents involving the ability to be compensated in an accident in which you were injured by the negligence of another person in an automobile. It does not matter whether you were in the other car, your own car, a pedestrian on the street, on a motorcycle, on a bicycle or in any other way injured by another person’s negligence driving their car. There are various types of insurance available in the State of Ohio.

  1. There is liability insurance. This is the insurance which only covers an accident in which you the driver are at fault and your insurance will pay up to the limits of your policy for the other person’s injuries and/or property damage.
  2. There is full coverage in which your insurance company will pay for injuries that you caused to another person and their property, and if you were at fault will cover the damages to your own vehicle.
  3. There is also uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage.

The point of this blog is to give you a full understanding of the meaning of uninsured and underinsured coverage. It is essential that you not only have liability insurance but that you also have uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage.

In the State of Ohio, the Ohio Financial Responsibility Act requires that any driver must have at least $25,000 per accident or $50,000 in the conglomerate in order to drive legally in the State of Ohio. This only means that you must only have $25,000 per person or $50,000 per incident which would cover the harm that you might cause to another individual as a result of your own negligent driving. This article seeks to explain why it is imperative that everyone has additional insurance in the form of uninsured and underinsured coverage.

Example No. 1

Mr. Smith is driving down I-75 when Mr. Jones runs into the back of Mr. Smith’s car and is considered at fault for hitting Mr. Smith in the rear end and for failing to keep an assured clear distance. Mr. Jones does have insurance in the amount of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident. After going to the hospital, Mr. Smith learns that he has fractured vertebrae and a fractured hip as a result of the accident. Mr. Smith’s bills alone are $25,000 for surgery to repair his injuries. Mr. Smith was wise enough to purchase $100,000 of uninsured and/or underinsured motorists coverage. This will allow Mr. Smith to collect up to $100,000 in compensation for his injuries after he first obtains consent from Mr. Jones’ insurance carrier to pay the limits of the policy and he obtains consent from his own insurance company to accept that policy limit from Mr. Jones. Mr. Smith can then proceed against his own insurance company to obtain the balance of what is available which would be $75,000. The method by which this is done must be precise or your ability to access your UIM/UM insurance will be voided.

In Ohio, it is not possible to stack insurance coverages. So in the example above, Mr. Smith cannot obtain $125,000 as full compensation because Mr. Smith’s insurance company gets credit for the first $25,000 and since Mr. Smith has $100,000, there is an additional $75,000.

In the example above, Mr. Smith can probably be compensated for his injuries. But what if Mr. Smith’s injuries put him into a wheel chair for life? Under the scenario above Mr. Smith would only be entitled $100,000.00 no matter how serious his injuries had become. This is why it is so very important to carry as much uninsured or underinsured automobile insurance coverage as one can possibly afford. I hear many of my clients complain that they can’t afford to pay for the extra coverage. I tell them that they cannot afford to not have this coverage. Most insurance companies will provide uninsured or underinsured motorists coverage for, at most, $50 – $100 extra per year to obtain $100,000.00 coverage. Obviously, higher amounts of insurance are more expensive and I encourage my client’s to purchase as much as they can. In light of the fact that there are 12.4% of Ohio Drivers who drive without insurance as of 2015, the chances of this happening are significant.

What happens if you are struck by an automobile driver who has no insurance? The answer is that if you do not have uninsured motorist coverage, you will receive absolutely nothing for your damages to your car or your personal injury. Additionally, you may still owe money on the car you are driving and you will wind up in a situation in which your car is a total loss, the negligent driver has no insurance and you are stuck paying for a car you no longer have.

This brings up another critical point regarding uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. While it is important to have this coverage it is also important to have gap insurance. Insurance is divided into 2 categories, property damage and bodily injury damage. While your underinsured coverage may cover you for bodily injury in excess of what the person at fault has in terms of insurance it will not cover property damage beyond the fair market value of the car at date of accident. Gap insurance can be purchased from your insurance company or through the dealership from whom you purchased your car. This will cover the difference between the current fair market value, which is all the at fault party is required to pay and the actual payoff of the loan on your now totally destroyed car. This can save you a huge headache and problem in the event of an accident.

It is also important to note that insurance companies are not required to advise you of the necessity of obtaining uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. You will see many commercials on tv, on facebook and on other platforms by insurance companies advertising that they have the lowest rates and save you money. However, they tell you nothing about the importance of uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage. Under former law insurance companies and agents were required to have you sign off on the insurance contract that you did not wish to purchase uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. That is no longer the case.  Insurance companies do not need to advise you of this potential liability and most people are unaware of it. To sum up it is critical that you not only have the required amount of insurance to legally drive, but that you protect yourself against another person’s negligence who is either uninsured or underinsured in the event of a serious accident. If you do not have this coverage you will find yourself on the short end of the stick in terms of compensation with possible life long injuries and no ability to obtain proper compensation for the damage another person has caused you through their negligence or as a result of their negligent driving.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Bullet Points

  1. Most insurance does not automatically provide uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
  2. You must specifically sign up and buy uninsured or underinsured motorists coverage in an amount sufficient to compensate you in the event that you are stuck by a driver who has limited insurance or no insurance at all.
  3. If you have not obtained uninsured or underinsured motorists coverage, you are at the mercy of whatever decision the at-fault driver who struck you obtained in terms of compensation through their insurance policy. You will have no back up with your own company to mitigate your losses in the event of a catastrophic crash.

Here at the law offices of Scott M. Schweiger, for the past 37 years, we specialize in automobile and injury accidents of all types. We have extensive experience in negotiating the pit falls of obtaining and properly prosecuting the case for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. Please contact us for a free consultation if you have been injured or if you have questions about protecting yourself in the event of any injury sustained by the negligence of another driver. Thank you.

Scott M. Schweiger, Attorney at Law
(513) 489-0881
Text or call my personal cell
(513) 300-3195

You will speak directly with me, not a secretary, paralegal or junior associate. I work with all my heart to obtain the best results for my clients.