Navigating Uninsured Motorist Coverage

1. WE SEE THIS EVERY DAY

People pay their cell phone bill before they pay their insurance. A client calls saying they have been in a car accident and when they contacted the insurance company for the at-fault driver, they were told there is no coverage because the premium was not paid. Or, the other driver simply had no insurance and relies on the old "can't get blood out of a turnip" defense.  If you have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, all is not lost. This important coverage will pay all damages for personal injury to you or any other persons in the vehicle caused by a negligent uninsured driver. This coverage is so important that Oklahoma law requires every insurance company doing business in this state to offer this coverage and provide you the following notice:

THE LAW REQUIRES US TO ADVISE YOU OF THIS VALUABLE RIGHT FOR THE PROTECTION OF YOU, MEMBERS OF YOUR FAMILY, AND OTHER PEOPLE WHO MAY BE HURT WHILE RIDING YOUR INSURED VEHICLE. YOU SHOULD SERIOUSLY CONSIDER BUYING THIS COVERAGE SAME AMOUNT AS YOUR LIABILITY INSURANCE COVERAGE LIMIT.

It should be noted that UM coverage is for personal injury only. In other words, it will not pay for the damage to your car. For this, you must have collision coverage on your policy as well.

2.  IT IS NOT JUST UNINSURED MOTORIST COVERAGE BUT UNDER-INSURED (UIM) MOTORIST COVERAGE AS WELL

Huh? Negligent drivers who do have insurance often only carry the state minimum amount of $25,000, which frequently is insufficient to cover all damages caused by their negligence. In this situation, the at-fault party is not uninsured but rather under-insured. If you have UM coverage, it will kick in and pay all damages you are legally entitled to recover in excess of the negligent party's policy limit up to the limit of your own policy. Your insurance company will then have the right to seek reimbursement from the negligent under-insured driver while you are paid all amounts you are legally entitled to recover, up to your policy limit.

3. THE LAW HAS CHANGED RECENTLY

In the past, if you insured more than one vehicle and paid a separate premium for UM/UIM coverage on each, you were allowed to "stack" all coverage's you paid for.  If you have $25,000 UM coverage on three vehicles you could potentially have up to $75,000 in UM coverage. Now, however, paying separate premiums does not get you the extra coverage and you are limited to the coverage on the vehicle involved in the accident. This is a good time to pick up the phone and call your insurance agent to discuss your options in obtaining this important coverage in an adequate amount for your specific needs. This is where those of you who buy your insurance online are at a disadvantage because you do not have an insurance agent knowledgeable in the nuances of Oklahoma law to explain your options. If that is the case, this would be a good time for you to pick up the phone and call a lawyer.  You can call me for a telephone consultation free of charge.


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