PROTECT YOURSELF, YOUR FAMILY, AND YOUR OTHER PASSENGERS! Don’t Be Penny Wise and Pound Foolish! Buy Add-On UM Insurance with Your Other Automobile/Motorcycle Coverages! (See Below for How Much)
If you, your family members, or passengers in your vehicle are in a wreck which is someone else’s fault, aside from health insurance (and possible life insurance), there is no more important insurance to you and your passengers than UM coverage. THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE IF YOU RIDE A MOTORCYCLE. Don’t pass on or “reject” UM coverage to save a few bucks!
I also highly recommend that when you purchase your UM insurance, that you ask for what is known as “Add-On” UM coverage instead of purchasing what is known as “Traditional” or “Non Add-On” UM. Call your insurance agent and make sure you have Add-On UM coverage. In addition, ask your agent how much UM coverage you have, and decide whether you would be satisfied with receiving that amount of money if you, a family member, or a passenger were severely injured or killed in a collision caused by someone with little or no insurance or caused by a “hit and run” driver.
Even if you have health insurance, you are entitled to recover the full amount of your medical bills from the at fault party along with lost wages and pain and suffering. Your medical bills alone can easily total $20,000 to $50,000 just for the initial emergency room visit. Even if you have health insurance (hospitals are required to accept your health insurance even if you are at the emergency room or in the hospital because of a collision), the likelihood is that you have nowhere near the amount of UM coverage that you will need in the unfortunate event of a collision – ESPECIALLY IF YOU RIDE A MOTORCYCLE.
I suggest obtaining as much UM insurance coverage as possible which I hope would be at least $100,000 in Add-On UM coverage. But, even if you have health insurance and you have followed my advice and purchased at least $100,000 of Add-On UM coverage, you, your family, and your passengers will receive nowhere near the compensation that would be needed if you and/or they were catastrophically or permanently injured or, God forbid, killed in an automobile, truck, or motorcycle collision.
If possible, purchase what is known as a $500,000 single limit policy or get as close to that amount as you can. Severely injured family members will greatly appreciate your foresight in such a situation. Probably the more important consideration is that you do not want to be a burden to your family members if you are severely or catastrophically injured. In the event of a serious injury you will need to have the financial ability to pay for ongoing medical treatment, nursing care, and assistive devices, etc. Therefore, having a significant amount of Add-On UM coverage will be a huge blessing to you and your family in the event of a severe injury or worse.
TYPES OF DAMAGES RESULTING FROM COLLISIONS
COMPENSATION FOR HOSPITAL AND OTHER MEDICAL BILLS RESULTING FROM CAR, MOTORCYCLE, AND TRUCK WRECKS: You are entitled to recover the full amount of the hospital and other medical bills which you incur due to the negligence of the person who causes a collision even if those bills are paid by your health insurance. The reason for this is that you, not the at fault party, get the benefit of having been smart enough or responsible enough to obtain health insurance
Hospitals are required to accept your health insurance even if your treatment was caused by injuries from a wreck – no matter what the hospital says or leads you to believe. Again, you are entitled to the full amount of your medical bills from the at-fault driver because the Georgia legislature has decided that you – not the person who hits you – should get the benefit of your having the foresight to have health insurance. (Please call us if you have any questions about this.)
I had a case where two, people were injured in the same collision. They went to the same emergency room and were billed the same amount for a large number of CT Scans ($49,000.00 each!). One person had health insurance and the other did not. They each received the policy limits of $50,000.00 from the at fault driver’s insurance (which was the most they could receive since the at-fault driver’s policy limits were $50,000.00/$100,000.00, and, unfortunately, my clients had refused UM coverage). The client who had health insurance got to keep all but $2,500.00 of the $50,000.00 since his hospital bill had been paid by insurance. The client who did not have insurance received only $2,500.00 because he owed the entire hospital bill. We negotiated and got the bill reduced a little. Two points: first, health insurance is good and must be accepted by the hospital even if your injuries occurred in a collision. Second, hospital bills and other treatments are expensive as explained in the UM section of this paper. So you need all the Add-On UM coverage you can possibly afford for the situation where the at fault driver has not purchased sufficient liability coverage.
LOST WAGES/INCOME – In addition to your entitlement to the full amount of your medical bills, you are entitled to recover any lost wages which result from your injuries.
PAIN AND SUFFERING – In addition to recovering your medical bills and lost wages, you are also entitled to receive compensation for the “pain and suffering” which you endure as a result of your collision injuries. The phrase “pain and suffering” encompasses many categories of harm. Obviously it includes any pain associated with your injuries. In addition it includes having to endure the trauma of the collision and many other harms which occur as a result of the collision injuries. In fact, in the event of a permanent or catastrophic injury, “pain and suffering” damages are likely to be the most important or substantial part of any settlement reached or verdict rendered.
WRONGFUL DEATH – In the event of your “wrongful death,” your surviving heirs will be entitled to recover “the full value” of your life. Clearly, in the event of your “wrongful death,” the receipt of $25,000 from the at-fault party will not equal “the full value” of your life. Consequently, I implore you to follow the UM Insurance advice in the next section because, as you might imagine, if you are killed in a collision caused by someone else, your insurance company will ultimately pay your heirs whatever amount of UM insurance you have chosen to purchase. So, as discussed next, do not reject UM insurance; instead, get all of the Add-On UM insurance that you can possibly afford!
UM insurance stands for uninsured and/or underinsured insurance coverage. It is insurance which you can purchase from your insurance agent when you buy your car insurance. It is optional coverage so, unfortunately, some insurance agents steer their own customers away from it. Bad mistake – MOST ESPECIALLY FOR MOTORCYLE OWNERS!
UM Coverage is insurance which you purchase to protect and cover yourself and other passengers in your car when a person who collides with your vehicle has failed to purchase “liability insurance coverage” or does not have enough liability insurance to cover the amount and severity of the injuries which their negligence has caused to you and/or any passengers in your car. It also protects you in the event of a “hit and run” situation even if you are a pedestrian! “Hit and run” collisions occur a lot. Drunk drivers, and criminals do not stop at a collision if they can help it. They keep going. UM coverage protects you in that situation. I know of one person who spent 6 months in the hospital after being hit as a pedestrian by a “hit and run” driver. He could have recovered whatever amount of UM he had purchased if only he had known that he had a right to pursue his UM coverage in that situation. You will have that right. So purchase all the Add-On UM you can possibly afford.
Georgia law says that a vehicle must have at least $25,000 in liability coverage for a person injured by the negligence of someone driving that vehicle, and it requires that there be at least $50,000 available to everyone injured in the collision. The $50,000 is generally divided based on the severity of each person’s injuries and medical bills. Again, this level of liability coverage is the minimum required by law and is commonly referred to as 25/50 coverage. If the person who causes a collision fails to have the required liability coverage, you and your passengers will almost certainly have no way to recover for the medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the collision unless you and/or your vehicle are covered by UM insurance. Your UM also covers you if you are in a collision in someone else’s vehicle.
As stated, UM insurance is also available to you when the person who caused the collision (the liable individual) does not have enough liability insurance to cover all of the injuries and damages which their negligence caused to you and/or your passengers. In that case, if you have purchased UM coverage, you and your passengers will be able to recover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering from your own UM insurance company. (By law your insurance premium will not increase if you have to recover from your UM coverage.)
Your recovery, and your passengers’ recovery, will be limited by the type and the amount of UM coverage which you purchase. You can buy traditional (non Add-On) UM coverage which is reduced by whatever liability coverage is available, or you can buy Add-On UM which is UM coverage that is not reduced by whatever liability coverage is available. With Add-On UM insurance coverage the UM insurance is added to whatever liability coverage is available. Unfortunately, I have heard tale of insurance agents discouraging their own customers from purchasing UM coverage to save a little money. I have heard that agents have told their customers that they do not need UM coverage if they have health insurance. This advice, if and when it happens, is the ultimate “penny wise, pound foolish” advice. It is bad advice!
One limiting factor as to UM coverage is that you cannot purchase more in UM coverage than you purchase in liability coverage. In other words, you cannot insure yourself against injuries caused to you by others for more than you are willing to insure others against injuries caused by you. So buy more liability coverage so that you can buy more UM coverage. Any additional liability coverage that you have to purchase costs much, much less than the first $25,000 that you are required by law to purchase. And, you will have the added benefit of having more liability coverage protecting you if your negligence causes a catastrophic injury to someone else. Also any UM coverage which you purchase over and above the first $25,000.00 costs significantly less than the minimum UM coverage of $25,000.
I suggest obtaining as much UM as possible which I hope would be at least $100,000 in Add-On UM coverage. But even $100,000 in Add-On UM coverage will be nowhere near the compensation you will need if you are catastrophically or permanently injured or, God forbid, you or someone entitled to the UM is killed by another driver. If possible, purchase what is known as a $500,000 single limit policy or get as close to that amount as you can. You do not want to be a burden to your family members if you are injured or killed so you need to have the financial ability to pay for ongoing medical treatment, nursing care, and assistive devices, etc., and your family will need to be able to survive financially if you are taken from them in a collision. Having a significant amount of UM coverage will be a huge blessing in the event of a severe injury or death. (If you can afford a $500,000 single limit liability and UM policy, you should also consider purchasing a $1,000,000 or $2,000,000 “Umbrella” policy with UM coverage included.)
Please note that UM coverage will not help you if you are involved in a one car collision or if you cause a collision with someone else. If you are injured because of one of these situations, you will only be able to recover the following types of insurance if you have purchased them or they are otherwise provided: “med pay insurance” on your automobile/motorcycle policy, health insurance, disability insurance, and life insurance (for your beneficiaries). So discuss those types of insurance with your agent and purchase those insurance types as well – ESPECIALLY IF YOU RIDE A MOTORCYCLE.
In terms of potential financial impact to you and your family, there is no more important insurance coverage available to you and yours than UM coverage if you are involved in a collision which is someone else’s fault. THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE IF YOU RIDE A MOTORCYCLE. Don’t pass on UM coverage to save a few bucks!
We also recommend that you purchase “Add-On” UM insurance coverage not “Traditional” or Non Add-On UM. Call your insurance agent and make sure you have Add-On UM insurance coverage. Find out how much UM coverage you have and decide whether you would be satisfied with receiving that amount of money if you were severely injured in a collision caused by someone with little or no insurance. Make sure you would be satisfied with your family receiving that amount of money if you were killed by someone else’s negligence.
You are entitled to recover the full amount of your medical bills from the at fault party along with lost wages, pain and suffering and the “full value” of your life if you are killed. Your medical bills alone can easily total $20,000 to $50,000 just for the initial emergency room visit. The likelihood is that you have nowhere near the amount of UM coverage that you should have in the unfortunate event of a collision – MOST ESPECIALLY IF YOU RIDE A MOTORCYCLE.
If you have any questions regarding UM coverage or anything else related to truck, automobile, motorcycle, or bicycle collisions or other personal injuries like slip and fall or trip and fall, dog bite, prescription misfill, daycare negligence/abuse, or nursing home negligence/abuse, please call H.L. (Rick) Cromartie III of Cromartie Law at 706-802-0251 or go to his website at www.hlcromartielaw.com.