Although most people would never consider driving without automobile liability insurance, many people do.  An estimated 30 million vehicle owners in the U.S. drive without any insurance, according to a study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC), an organization financed by insurance companies. Nationwide, the number of uninsured drivers is about 13 percent. In Massachusetts, the rate is far lower, between 4 and 5 percent.

Those without insurance typically don’t carry it because they can’t afford the cost. Those who do buy insurance often buy the minimum compulsory limits, which in Massachusetts are $20,000 per claim and $40,000 total per accident (regardless of how many people are hurt). The compulsory minimums apply not only to private vehicles, but surprisingly also apply to taxicabs. Unfortunately, the mandatory coverage amounts are insufficient for any serious car accident. This is because, on average, medical treatment for a non-incapacitating injury from a car crash costs $23,400 and the average cost of more severe incapacitating injuries comes in at about $72,700.

Each year, many people suffer serious injuries, only to discover that the responsible party has insufficient auto insurance coverage to compensate them. Not surprisingly, people who are insufficiently insured rarely have any additional assets available to satisfy a judgment against them.  In such instances, the injured person must either take what is available from the responsible party, or make a claim against his or her own insurance company if their own coverage is sufficient.

How to Protect Yourself

The best way to protect against uninsured and underinsured drivers is to buy uninsured motorist (UM) /under­insured motorist (UIM) coverage.  Your UM/UIM coverage stands in place of the other person's missing or insufficient liability coverage, if he or she is at fault.  This can be important because your own liability insurance might not pay for injuries to you and your passengers if you’re not at fault in the accident.

With this in mind, we highly recommend that you purchase UM/UIM coverage with the same limits as your own liability coverage. This is ideally at least $250,000 per claim and $500,000 per accident. At a minimum, you should purchase $100,000 bodily injury per claim and $300,000 bodily injury per accident, and $100,000 property damage. The additional UM/UIM coverage costs far less than primary bodily injury coverage, so choosing the right amounts will not break the bank.

If you have questions about insurance coverage or have been involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, contact Brooks & Crowley. We’re happy to discuss your options.

Steven J. Brooks
Greater Boston Area real estate attorney with experience in closing deals throughout Massachusetts.
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