If you watch television, you have probably seen those advertisements by automobile insurance companies promising that “you pay for only what you need” and similar claims. Did you ever think about why they advertise like this? It is for two reasons. The first is to discourage you from purchasing the auto coverage you REALLY NEED. The other is to make themselves competitive by offering low prices for the minimum insurance, which will always result in you ending up without the insurance coverage you really need.
There are two types of auto insurance coverage that the insurance companies do not want you to purchase. They are Uninsured Coverage and Underinsured Coverage. What do they mean?
Imagine that you are struck by an automobile that has no auto insurance and causes you substantial personal injury. You cannot recover any money other than from the assets of the other driver…if he/she has any assets and you can get at them…which can be a long, costly and often unsuccessful struggle. What if they have no assets? You are out of luck. This is called an uninsured situation where the auto that caused your injuries is uninsured. This can occur if the offending auto has been stolen, was being operated by an unauthorized operator or simply was not insured. Without insurance coverage your chances of recovering any compensation are pretty much impossible. However, you may protect yourself against this awful consequence by purchasing your own Uninsured Coverage. Massachusetts law requires that an auto insurance company provide only $20,000 coverage for injuries resulting from an uninsured auto. This is found in your Coverage Selections Page under Compulsory Insurance, Part 3. You have the right to purchase higher amounts and you should! I recommend coverage of $250,000 per person. It is very inexpensive.
The other type of coverage available to you is called Underinsured Coverage. In Massachusetts, the minimum auto insurance that has to be in place to cover injuries you may cause to another person is $20,000 to $40,000 dollars. That means if you are struck by another automobile and are injured, the most you can get from the insurer of the other auto that wrongfully caused the damages to you is $20,000. If your injuries are catastrophic and result in permanent injury or permanent loss of earning capacity, $20,000 will be a mere drop in the bucket compared to the damages that would properly compensate you for your injuries. The way to protect yourself is to purchase Underinsured Coverage. Massachusetts law does not require an auto insurer to provide this, but it must be provided upon your request. If your insurance agent has not recommended you purchase this, get another agent. I recommend purchasing at least $250,000 per person. Again, this is very inexpensive coverage. It would be found under Optional Coverage, Part 12.
Both of these coverages, Uninsured and Underinsured, are coverages you can purchase from your own auto insurance company. If you have this coverage and the auto that causes you injury is not insured or has the minimum insurance, you can protect yourself by purchasing these coverages in the amounts you wish. You would then make a claim against your own insurance company. This would require your auto insurance company to compensate you with their own money because of the coverages you purchased.
The insurance companies do not want you to purchase this coverage. The only reason it is offered is because Massachusetts requires auto insurance companies doing business in Massachusetts to offer these coverages. That is why they claim you should buy only the least expensive insurance. It will never include any information about protecting yourself and your loved ones with Uninsured or Underinsured coverage.
These two coverages are very inexpensive when compared to the other parts of your auto insurance coverage such as Personal Injury Protection and Property Damage coverages.
So, remember the next time you watch an auto insurance advertiser claim they can offer you less costly auto insurance. They are hoping you will NOT protect yourself against sustaining serious injury in a collision by obtaining your own protection from them…coverage they are required to offer. Do not ever assume that another vehicle that collides with you and causes substantial injury has sufficient insurance that would protect you. I have represented far too many nice people who were injured through no fault of their own and then found out the other vehicle had little or no insurance…and were out of luck! Call your insurance agent or insurance company right now and make sure you already have these coverages and, if not, purchase sufficient uninsured and underinsured coverage. It is a bargain and greatly helps you obtain what insurance is for…your protection.
If you want more information, do not hesitate to contact Attorney E. Steven Coren at Kerstein Coren & Lichtenstein, 781-997-1600.