After meeting with yet another client today and giving her the news that the driver who caused her car accident had no liability insurance, I felt compelled to get some information out there about the most important automobile insurance coverage that no one is talking about. That coverage is called Uninsured Motorist coverage, or UM for short.
What is Uninsured Motorist coverage?
Uninsured Motorist is simply insurance that provides coverage for bodily injuries to the driver and passengers in a covered automobile when an accident is caused by someone who is not covered by liability insurance. Also, UM provides extra coverage for more serious injuries when the at-fault driver has liability insurance but doesn’t have enough to fully cover those injuries.
Why is Uninsured Motorist coverage important?
Although the state of Alabama requires liability insurance on all vehicles driven on public roads, up to 3 out of 10 cars on the road at any given time have no liability coverage. This means that if you are injured a car wreck in Alabama, there is up to a 30% chance that your only avenue of recovery is through your own UM coverage.
Additionally, and often as important, the vast majority of drivers with insurance have only the required minimum coverage of $25,000 per person / $50,000 per incident. So if your injuries are serious or you have thousands of dollars in medical expenses, there is a really good chance that the other driver will not have enough insurance to pay for all your damages.
Who is covered by UM coverage in Alabama?
UM coverage applies to the driver and passengers in a covered automobile. Also, if a driver or passenger has UM coverage on another car, or is a resident family member in a household where someone else has UM coverage, the driver or passenger may have access to his or her own UM coverage as well as that of another resident family member.
Will making a UM claim cause your rates to increase?
No. You can only make a claim for UM benefits if you were not at fault for the accident. Also, unlike other insurance claims, when your carrier pays you for the UM claim, it can pursue the other driver personally for the amount of your claim. So the uninsured driver will not be off the hook if you make a UM claim.
How much does UM coverage cost?
The typical cost for minimum UM coverage on most policies ranges from $7 to $11 per month. This is a small price to pay for the safety net UM coverage provides.
How do I know if I have UM on my policy?
The law in Alabama requires that UM be initially included by default on every policy written in the state. However, and this very important, the coverage can be waived or refused. UM is legally declined when you place your signature or initials on the line or in the box next to the section of the application which states that you do not want UM coverage. This presents a big problem when people don’t read what they are signing or do not know about UM coverage.
The easiest way to know if you have UM is to call your agent or insurer and simply ask, “Do I have UM on my policy?” You can also check the paper or online bill or premium renewal notice for your policy. If you have UM, the “Coverages and Limits” section will list the UM bodily injury coverage you have and what you are paying for it. If you don’t see it listed, you don’t have it!
What do I do if I find out that I don’t have UM coverage?
If you don’t have UM, my recommendation is that you get it immediately. Call your agent or insurance rep and ask that UM coverage be added to your policy. If that person tells you that you don’t need UM or tries in any way to discourage you from getting it, then it is time to find another insurance company.