What is UM Insurance? (Ultimate Guide to Uninsured Motorist)

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    UM Insurance is the MOST Important Insurance You Can Buy:

    UM insurance stands for both Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist insurance. It’s the MOST Important insurance you can buy. It protects you and your family if you or they are injured in a motor vehicle accident.

     

    Why is UM or Uninsured Insurance So Important?

    Because most cars on the road don’t carry any or enough insurance. Over 50% of the cars on the road don’t carry bodily injury insurance. If you get into an accident with them, then you probably won’t make any recovery for your injuries. Also, if the at-fault driver only carries low bodily injury limits, like $10,000.00, then you probably won’t be able to make a full recovery.

    UM coverage is the only insurance that will pay you if someone with no insurance, or very little insurance, crashed into you.

     

    What About the Other Car Insurance Coverage You Carry? What Does it Cover?

    All of your other insurance coverage pays anybody that you crash into. It does not pay for you or your family. For instance, your Bodily Injury, or BI, insurance will pay other people who were accidentally hurt by you. Your PIP no-fault benefits will pay your doctors for your medical bills or some of your lost wages.

    Your comprehensive and collision coverage pays the bank or body shop for your car damages. UM is the only insurance coverage designed to pay you more than just your medical bills and lost wages. Uninsured Motorist insurance coverage pays you for all of the harms and losses that happened to you. Also, you get to decide where the money shall be spent.

     

    Why Do So Many People Advise Against Carrying UM Insurance?

    Some financial advisors and business people give very bad advice. They suggest that purchasing UM insurance is a waste of money because health insurance will pay your medical bills. This is NOT true because paying your medical bills is a fraction of the pie. In a catastrophic injury, you will need to be compensated for a whole lot more than just your current medical bills.

     

    Medical Bills are Just a Fraction of the Losses You May Suffer in a Catastrophic Accident:

    For example, your injuries may prevent you from working. Even having disability insurance or social security benefits will not be enough to make you whole again. There are life losses you will need to be paid for.

    If a person becomes quadriplegic from a car accident, they will need all sorts of equipment and modifications to their homes, vehicles, and work to allow them to function comfortably. A full measure of someone’s damages in the law also account for the victim’s pain, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, and loss of the enjoyment of life.

     

    With UM You are More Likely to Recover All of Your Damages:

    In our country, the only way to make up for these intangible things like the capacity to enjoy your life is with money. Otherwise, there’s nothing that can really fix them or make you whole again.

    So, when someone suggests you don’t need Uninsured Motorist insurance because you have good health insurance, think about what losses are beyond just medical bills.

     

    What are the Different Types of UM Insurance Coverage?

     

    You Need STACKED Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage:

    There is Stacked and Non-Stacked UM insurance coverage. You want Stacked UM because it protects you wherever you go. For example, if you are a pedestrian and a car hits you, your stacked UM will provide benefits for your injuries. If you are riding in a friend’s car and get hurt, your UM will be there to protect you.

     

    What if You Only Have Non-Stacked UM Insurance?

    If you don’t have stacked UM insurance, then you are only protected when you are inside the car you purchased UM coverage for. So, if you are a passenger in an UBER vehicle, the driver is uninsured and causes an accident that injures you, you will only be compensated if you carry Stacked UM coverage. If you had non-stacked UM, you would not be able to make any recovery.

     

    Another Great Advantage to Stacked UM Insurance:

    Another great reason to purchase stacked UM insurance is when you own more than one car. When you have stacked UM, you get double or triple the benefits based on how many cars you own and have insured under your policy. You can also add your motorcycle to your UM policy. But you should not assume your motorcycle is covered. There are separate endorsements for motorcycle UM coverage. So some insurance companies won’t offer motorcycle UM.

     

    What about Motorcycle UM Insurance?

    If you ride a motorcycle, UM insurance may be the only insurance out there after you get in a crash with a car. Sadly, as I have discussed before, about half of the vehicles on the road don’t carry any bodily injury insurance. Due to the laws of physics, when a motorcyclist gets in a crash with a car, the damages to the motorcycle rider are often catastrophic.

    Without adequate UM coverage, you may never be compensated for your losses. I can’t stress how important it is to have UM coverage if you are a bike rider.

     

    How Much Does UM Insurance Coverage Cost?

    UM costs extra. In fact, you are limited to how much UM the insurance company can sell you based on how much Bodily Injury Insurance you purchase. Insurance companies won’t allow you to buy more UM than you have in Bodily Injury coverage. The limitation exists because people would buy tons of UM insurance and no, or very little, BI insurance.

    However, by owning and insuring multiple vehicles with Stacked UM Insurance, you can protect you and your family with high UM coverage. The cost of Stacked UM is relatively very inexpensive.

     

    Special Laws that Require UM to be Offered to You:

    There is a specific Florida law that requires insurance companies to offer you UM coverage when you purchase bodily injury insurance. The insurance companies must offer you UM. If you decline, you have to sign a form waiving your choice to have UM. Unless you sign a form called “Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance Waiver” then your insurance company has to provide you UM coverage by default.

    However, they often have customers sign off and waive the coverage without the customer being told they are waiving very valuable insurance coverage.

     

    Why Do Insurance Companies Avoid Selling You UM Coverage?

    UM coverage is the least profitable type of insurance they sell. They don’t want to pay for the losses caused by uninsured motorists or hit-and-run collisions. Insurance companies keep track of tons of data. They know the odds of you getting in a serious accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist is 50%.

    They would much rather save money by not having to pay on all of those claims. So they discourage their agents from selling you UM.

     

    What Does the Term “Full Coverage” Mean?

    The term “Full Coverage” is really not a legal term at all. Insurance sales people use this term usually when they are referring to the mandatory minimum insurance you must have to operate a motor vehicle on our roads. Their definition of “full coverage” is actually terrible coverage.

     

    Minimum Coverage is Not Enough to Protect You and Your Family:

    The minimum coverage you must carry the PIP no-fault insurance and Property Damage for other people’s cars. You are not required to carry any Bodily Injury Insurance on your policy.

    So if a salesperson says you have full coverage, you need to ask them specifically what coverage you have. Likely, they are only talking about minimum coverage, not adequate, responsible insurance you need to protect yourself and your family.

     

    What Happens When the Other Driver Flees the Scene?

    If you get into a crash with a hit-and-run vehicle, your UM coverage will step in and protect your rights. You can make a claim and recover your damages when you are hit by a hit-and-run driver. UM also protects you if you were hit by a stolen vehicle. There are a few things you must do after the accident. The first thing you MUST do is call the police to report the accident.

    You should also, notify your UM insurance company as soon as possible. If you fail to report the accident to the police or your insurance company, you may waive your right to make a recovery.

     

    How Can You Lose or Waive Your UM Coverage?

    If and when your UM policy is going to pay you benefits, they have the right to go after the person who caused your injuries. They do this to try and get their money back. This is called a right of subrogation. Unfortunately, some people don’t realize they cannot settle their BI claim against the at-fault car owner and driver without asking for permission to settle with the at-fault person first.

    You have to ask the UM carrier for permission before signing a release to take the bodily injury insurance money because when you get the BI money, you will have to sign a full release. This release says you won’t ever sue the driver again for anything else related to this accident. When you sign the full release, then you have just waived your Uninsured Motorists benefits.

     

    UM Needs to Waive Subrogation Before You Take BI Money:

    Your signed release will prevent your UM insurance company from going after the at-fault parties to get their money back. The Florida law says you must give the UM carrier 30 days to pay or waive. This allows them to pay you or they must waive their right of subrogation to allow you to take the money being offered.

    In essence, after the bodily injury company offers a settlement to you, your UM carrier has to two options. They can pay the settlement money, which will allow you to be paid from the BI as well. It also allows the UM to go after the at-fault parties later. 99% of the time, the UM carrier will waive their right of subrogation. Which allows you to take the money.

     

    Never Assume the UM Carrier Will Waive:

    But don’t count on them to waive their subrogation rights. I have seen unsuspecting people count on the UM carrier waiving their right to surrogate. Then after they took the money, the UM carrier said, “Too bad. You waived our rights to subrogate, therefore, you have waived your rights to any UM coverage.”

    This is why it is so important to have an experienced personal injury attorney handle any injury case. If you need a guide on how to choose the best personal injury lawyer for your specific case, click here.

     

    What Leverage Do You Have if Your UM Insurance Won’t Pay?

    Fortunately, Florida legislatures realize insurance companies tend to abuse their customers. If you make an offer to settle your UM claim and the insurance carrier is not treating you fairly, you must file a document with the State called a “Civil Remedy Notice.” This puts your UM company on notice that you feel they are treating you unfairly.

    UM insurance companies treat their insureds unfairly by offering too low of a settlement, delaying payments, or any number of things. Once you file a Civil Remedy Notice, the insurance company has 60 days to fix the problem. If they don’t, they waive the right to be bound by your insurance limits.

    When they act unfairly, putting them on notice is a necessary step to take before suing them for bad faith.

     

    Why is UM Considered a Contract Rather than an Act of Negligence?

    When someone injures another person by accident, it is called negligence. When you sue the negligent person, you are using what is called “Tort Law” to remedy your losses. However, when you sue your own insurance company, you are suing under your contract of insurance.

    So, the verdict you are given by the jury is the way of measuring your contractual damages against your insurance company. Since you have a contract with your insurance company, there are some contractual requirements you must meet in order to not breach the contract. Some of the things you must do with your own insurance company, not the at-fault party, include:

    1. Provide your UM carrier with a medical record release authorization so they can get your medical records.
    2. Give them recorded statements, or examinations under oath (EUO), where they have a lawyer ask you questions.
    3. You must agree to see the UM carriers doctors for examinations.

    All of these things are so the insurance company can investigate your claim. But they are actually trying to collect evidence against you to reduce or eliminate them having to pay you for your damages.

     

    What Duty Does Your Insurance Company Have Towards You When You Make a UM Claim?

    Normally, when you have a contractual relationship with your insurance company, they have a fiduciary duty to protect your interests. However, when you bring a UM claim, they become your enemy. They are fighting to deny paying you and trying to reduce any payment they owe to you. One day they are on your side and the next, they are fighting you tooth-and-nail.

     

    Uninsured Motorist Insurance is the most important and valuable insurance. You can protect yourself and your family from the vehicles on the road who don’t carry enough coverage. If you have more questions, please call me, Matt Powell, at 1-844-MATTLAW. I would be glad to help you.

    About Matt

    Matt Powell is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer by the Florida Bar who represents injured victims and their families. He is an experienced personal injury trial attorney who has been practicing since 1989 in Tampa, Florida. If you have any questions, feel free to call him at 1-844-MATTLAW today.

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