How to protect you and your family from negligent drivers with minimal automobile insurance coverage.
What type of insurance covers my family or I if we are struck by another driver? How much insurance does the driver that struck my car injuring my family and I have? How do I protect my family from another driver that has no insurance or NYS minimum insurance coverage? These are questions you may ask yourself before or after a motor vehicle accident.
The Declarations (DEC) page of your automobile insurance policy list all the types of coverages you pay for. Two of those coverages are: Bodily Injury (BI) and Supplemental Underinsured Motorist (SUM).
Bodily Injury (BI) or liability coverage is what pays other people for their injuries that you (or the operator of your vehicle) caused during a motor vehicle accident. Similarly, if you or your family are injured in an accident through the fault of another driver, it is that driver’s BI coverage that pays you and your family for your injuries.
Importantly, the minimum in NYS that everyone must have in BI coverage is $25,000/$50,000 or $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. If the driver that injures you has the minimum BI coverage, the most that you can recover is $25,000 (per person) and the total amount available, regardless of the number of injured people in your car, is $50,000 (per accident). That means if you are a family of 6 and all 6 members are seriously injured in the accident the entire family would have to split the $50,000.
In New York, everyone has the ability to purchase Supplemental Underinsured Motorist or SUM coverage above the State’s minimum ($25,000/$50,000) through their own insurance company. It covers you and your family above the amount of BI coverage the driver that injured you has. SUM only applies if the other driver was liable for the accident. If the accident was your fault SUM coverage does not apply.
Your SUM coverage cannot be greater than your BI coverage. If you want SUM coverage of $250,000/$500,000 then your BI coverage must be at least $250,000/$500,000 too.
Practical Example: You are injured by a vehicle that has $25,000/$50,000 in BI coverage. Your SUM coverage is $100,000/$300,000. Your injuries are valued at more than $100,000. We would obtain the $25,000 from the other vehicle’s BI coverage with the consent of your own insurance carrier. We would then make an SUM claim against your own insurance company for $75,000. You are entitled to receive a total up to the maximum SUM coverage you possess. Thus, $25,000 from the other vehicle plus $75,000 from your SUM coverage equals $100,000. (*Pursuing an SUM claim can be complicated and full of pitfalls. You must consult with personal injury attorney prior to pursuing an SUM claim.)
In my opinion, SUM coverage is one of the most important automobile coverages as it protects you and your family from underinsured drivers. In my experience, the cost to increase your limits is minimal. If nothing else, ask your insurance professional the options and cost to increase your SUM coverage.