When you ask your insured’s agent to provide you with “full coverage”, are you really getting what you think you’re getting? Most people never really look at or understand what they’ve bought until it’s too late…
If you look at the coverage sheet or declaration page of your car insurance policy, the first line might look something like this “Bodily Injury – 100/300”. Bodily injury coverage is mandated in Michigan at a minimum level of 20,000/40,000. This means that your auto insurance company will pay up to $20,000 per person but no more than $40,000 per accident to an individual or group of individuals that you harm as a result of negligent driving of your car. Whether you carry the minimum coverage at 20,000/40,000 or a higher amount up to $1,000,000 single limit, this is money that your company compensates another for your negligence. But what about those accidents where you are injured by a drunk driver who has run a stop light and crashed into your car? Later you find out that the person was not only driving drunk, but was driving uninsured, so there is no car insurance to cover his negligent acts. Or what if you are catastrophically injured by an individual who is only carrying the bare bone minimum of auto insurance coverage here in Michigan? Would $20,000 in bodily injury be enough to compensate you for the injuries you sustained in the car accident? Probably not.
That is why the most important coverage for you as a driver is underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage. This is car insurance coverage that covers you when you are injured by the negligence of an uninsured driver or an underinsured driver. Many times I’ve had clients come in, having sustained catastrophic injuries only to find out that the negligent driver that caused the injury was uninsured. I ask to see a copy of their policy and explain that I am looking for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage and invariably am told by the client that they have “full coverage” so it should be there. This is simply not the case.
Underinsured or uninsured motorist coverage is not mandated by law in Michigan and it is optional coverage. It is also very inexpensive to purchase compared to the bodily injury coverage that is mandated by law.
More often than not, we find out after the car accident that the client’s “full coverage” did not include underinsured or uninsured coverage which leaves them without any recourse or compensation for the injuries that they have sustained.
In the case where a client has been in an auto accident and suffered catastrophic injuries only to find out that the negligent driver was underinsured with a 20,000/40,000 policy, the client’s underinsured motorist coverage can come into play. In this scenario, if the at-fault driver only had the statutory minimum of $20,000 in bodily injury coverage and the client has a $300,000 single limit policy, the client can recover $20,000 from the negligent driver’s insurance company and an additional $280,000 from the client’s own insurance company for a total of $300,000 in coverage for the injuries sustained.
Contact your insurance agent now to make sure that your “full coverage” includes this critical car insurance coverage. Some companies do not offer it and if that is your situation, switch companies immediately. It’s the only way to protect you and your family from the negligence of uninsured and underinsured drivers.
For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Car and Motorcycle Accidents.
Mr. Smith has practiced as a trial attorney since graduating Notre Dame Law School in 1992. He has litigated cases across the country including cases from Ventura County, California to Middlesex County, New Jersey. He practices in both State and Federal courts.
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