Car accidents happen more frequently than any of us would like to imagine. According to PennDOT, over 120,000 auto accidents injured nearly 80,000 people in Pennsylvania in 2014. The same year, there were more than 290,000 accidents in New Jersey, nearly 60,000 of which resulted in injuries. As these grim statistics illustrate, there’s a fairly high likelihood of being hurt in a crash whenever you get behind the wheel of your car. But what happens if the other driver doesn’t carry enough auto insurance to pay for your injuries? The answer lies in a type of coverage called UM/UIM insurance. If you were recently injured in a crash or collision, you should speak to an experienced Philadelphia car accident injury lawyer about getting compensated.
What is UM/UIM Insurance, and What Costs Does it Cover?
The terms “Uninsured Motorist (UM) insurance” and “Underinsured Motorist (UIM) insurance” sound confusing at first, but make perfect sense once you understand their purpose. Put simply, UM/UIM coverage is there to protect you in the event you are injured in a car accident or pedestrian accident caused by a driver who:
- Commits hit and run. New Jersey and Pennsylvania have laws requiring drivers to remain at the scene of an injury or fatal accident in order to exchange information, notify the police, and get medical help. Unfortunately, drivers sometimes disappear into the night (“phantom vehicles”) without stopping to check on the victim. Even if the police are unable to identify the person who hit you, your UM coverage will help to pay for the expenses caused by the accident. This applies to pedestrians and passengers as well as drivers.
- Does not carry enough auto insurance coverage to pay for the expenses resulting from the accident (an Underinsured Motorist/UIM). Unfortunately, this is often the case in serious accidents due to the tremendous costs associated with most medical procedures and devices. For instance, the average cost of an MRI in the United States is around $2,600 – and that’s just for the diagnostic scan, discounting any subsequent surgical procedures, physical therapy, casts, wheelchairs, stitches, sutures, specialists, doctor appointments, and prescriptions. An accident victim’s total expenses can quickly balloon into tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Does not carry any auto insurance at all (an Uninsured Motorist/UM). Pennsylvania requires all drivers to purchase liability insurance covering at least $15,000 for injuries (per person), $30,000 for injuries (per accident), and $5,000 for property damage. This coverage, sometimes written as 15/30/5, is there to pay for the other driver’s injuries and/or vehicle damage in the event of a crash. New Jersey’s Standard Policy features the same requirements (15/30/5) as Pennsylvania’s minimum auto insurance requirements. The problem is that not all drivers actually comply with this requirement, as I’ll explain in the next section.
How Many Uninsured Drivers Are There in Pennsylvania and New Jersey?
Before you dismiss the idea of purchasing UM/UIM coverage, I would urge you to consider one factor first: the alarmingly large number of motorists who drive without insurance. According to the Insurance Information Institute, nearly 13% of all U.S. drivers were uninsured as of 2012, the most recent data supplied. While Pennsylvania outperforms the national average with just 6.5% of its drivers uninsured, that still means more than one in 20 drivers aren’t covered. More than 8 million drivers are licensed in Pennsylvania, meaning approximately 400,000 drivers – more than the entire population of Lehigh County – don’t have auto insurance. New Jersey fares worse with over 10% of its drivers insured – about 500,000 people out of roughly 5 million licensed drivers.
Unlike liability insurance, UM/UIM coverage is optional in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In Pennsylvania, automobile insurers are required to offer UM/UIM coverage. However, this coverage is optional and motorists can choose to reject this coverage in writing. Pennsylvania UM/UIM coverage may be equal to or less than (but not more than) your policy’s liability insurance coverage.
In New Jersey, UM/UIM coverage is automatically part of the Standard Policy, but not the Basic Policy (which is a cheaper, less comprehensive version of the Standard Policy). If you select the Standard Policy, you will be protected by UM/UIM coverage up to the amount you choose for your liability insurance coverage ($15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident at minimum, $250,000 per person/$500,000 per accident at maximum).
Knowing those statistics, is driving (or walking) without protection against uninsured drivers a chance you’re still willing to take? If your answer is no, you should talk to your insurer about adding UM/UIM coverage to your existing policy, or, if you live in New Jersey, upgrading from the Basic Policy to the Standard Policy. UM/UIM will cost you a little extra money today, but could end up saving you thousands of dollars tomorrow if you are the victim of a pedestrian accident, auto accident, or hit and run. While you could theoretically sue an uninsured motorist to recoup your expenses, he or she is unlikely to possess the income and assets necessary to pay for your costs, even if you are successful in court. By proactively purchasing UM/UIM coverage before an accident occurs, you can avoid falling into this sort of financial dilemma. UM/UIM coverage benefits drivers, passengers, and pedestrians alike.
For additional information on this topic, see my short guide to UM/UIM insurance in Pennsylvania.
Let a Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyer Handle Your Case
If you, your spouse, or one your family members was hit by a car, you may be entitled to car accident compensation. Call Philadelphia auto accident lawyer Brent Wieand at (800) 481-5206 for a free legal consultation regarding your claim. Brent represents injury victims in Bucks County, Berks County, Montgomery County, Atlantic County, Cumberland County, Cape May County, and locations throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
***Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice.***