Personal Injury Insurance: Are You Covered? New York Attorney Mark Weissman Explains

New York attorney Mark Weissman shares insight on how to make sure you have the right coverage

Mark Weissman

Approximately one year ago, a 37-year-old woman came to our office after being involved in a serious car accident. She had been a pedestrian crossing the street when she was struck down by a turning car that did not have the right of way. Unfortunately, the woman suffered a fractured ankle and required surgery, including the placement of a rod and screws in her ankle. She was in severe pain and has still not recovered from her injuries. Her orthopedist told her that she may never walk without pain again.

Following the accident, I learned that the vehicle that hit her only carried $25,000 in liability insurance — the minimum insurance coverage in the state of New York for an individual injured in a car accident. I advised her that as a practical matter it would be unlikely that she could ever recover more than $25,000 for her injuries, despite her damages being far in excess of that amount, unless she carried underinsurance coverage. The woman had no idea what I was talking about.

Although most people are careful to carry sufficient amounts of auto, life, health, disability, and hazard insurance, few people are aware of the importance of carrying a sufficient underinsurance policy. In New York State, the minimum required liability car insurance coverage is $25,000 and many people are driving around with that minimum coverage. If you sustained a personal injury in a car accident with a driver who only had the minimum policy limits, you may not receive fair compensation for your injuries.

What is ‘Underinsurance’?

Underinsurance is a way to protect yourself and family members who are involved in a car accident with someone who has too little insurance coverage. Every policy of insurance also has a minimum uninsured coverage of $25,000 to protect you if you are in an accident with an uninsured or hit and run vehicle. What many people do not realize is that uninsured coverage can be expanded for a small increase in your premium. This is known as SUM (Supplementary Uninsured Motorist) coverage, and can be applied to yourself as well as family members who reside with you and passengers in your car. You may increase this coverage up to the amount of liability coverage that you have on your policy. This then becomes coverage to protect you if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured vehicle. In addition, you will now have underinsurance to protect you — if God forbid you find yourself in a similar accident to the aforementioned woman.

The way it works is as follows. Let’s suppose that you purchased $100,000 of SUM coverage and you are involved in an accident with another car that only has $25,000 in liability coverage. Your attorney will now seek to get the other car’s insurance company to offer him its entire $25,000 coverage. Once this occurs it will trigger your underinsurance coverage. The $25,000 you receive from the other car’s insurance company will be a credit against the $100,000 coverage you have so that will still leave you with the possibility of obtaining an additional $75,000 from your insurance company under your additional coverage. In the event your attorney and your insurance company cannot agree on the amount of compensation the arbitrator will decide how much money to award you.

Very few people ever take out the underinsurance premium option even though it only costs a few cents per day. Because the premiums are so low, most insurance companies and brokers fail to advise their customers of this option because there is little profit for them in selling the underinsurance premium. As a result, most of the public has never even heard of the underinsurance coverage.

To see if your family presently carries underinsurance coverage, check the “declaration sheet” of your insurance policy and see if you have what is referred to as Supplemental Uninsured Motorist coverage in excess of $25,000. If this is the case, then you have underinsurance. If not, I strongly suggest you to contact your insurance company or broker immediately to obtain this crucial coverage for you and your family.

This article is not intended to constitute legal advice or the provision of legal services. By posting and maintaining this blog and its contents, The Law Offices of Marcel Weissman and Mark Weissman does not intend to solicit business from clients located in states or jurisdictions where they are not authorized or licensed to practice law.

Mark Weissman

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Mark Weissman is a personal injury attorney and real estate investor from Lawrence, New York

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