Uninsured/underinsured (called UM/UIM) insurance is a way for vehicle accident victims to receive compensation for their medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and property damage when the responsible driver doesn’t have any insurance or enough insurance. In Alabama, insurance companies are required to offer UM/UIM insurance when you purchase your own liability insurance. You should buy this coverage because 20% of drivers in Alabama are uninsured and a high percentage of those drivers who are insured in Alabama only have the required minimum of $25,000.00 in coverage. Once you’re paying for liability insurance, the additional cost of UM/UIM insurance is fairly minimal, but the cost of not having UM/UIM insurance can be substantial.
What is uninsured motorist insurance coverage (the UM part of the UM/UIM coverage)?
If you own a car and someone rear-ends you or causes a car accident, that driver may not have any insurance (even though they are required to have liability coverage). Some drivers just don’t obey the law and drive while uninsured. In these cases, you can file an uninsured motorist claim. You can also file an uninsured motorist claim if you can show that the driver who struck you was a hit-and-run driver – the driver struck you, then kept on driving, and the driver can’t be found.
No matter how strong your case is and how much your damages are, a judgment against an uninsured driver doesn’t pay your damage because the driver has no insurance. Once the liability of the uninsured driver is established, your remedy is to file an uninsured motorist coverage claim with your own liability insurance company. Your UM/UIM carrier should then pay your damages, up to the amount of your UM/UIM coverage.
What is underinsured motorist insurance coverage (the UIM part of the UM/UIM coverage)?
Most drivers do obey the law, but they only buy the minimum amount of insurance coverage that they’re required to purchase. If you have a serious injury such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, burns, or broken bones, it’s likely that your medical bills alone will cost more than the coverage provided by the negligent driver who caused your car accident. The combination of medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and property damage is often much more than the other driver’s policy limits.
In this scenario, where the negligent driver doesn’t have enough insurance to pay your damage, car accident victims can then use their own UM/UIM insurance coverage to pay for their damages over and above the other driver’s liability insurance coverage, up to the amount of their UM/UIM policy limits.
What liability coverage is required in Alabama?
Alabama law requires that all drivers who operate, register, or maintain registration of a motor vehicle (or who allow other people to operate, register, or maintain registration) used on public roads must have liability insurance, “a commercial automobile liability insurance policy, motor vehicle liability bond, or a deposit of cash.”
Alabama requires that drivers carry the following liability insurance coverage:
- $25,000 for bodily injury damages per person
- $50,000 for bodily injury damages for everyone injured in one accident
- $25,000 for property damage for each accident
Bodily injury damages include compensation for an accident victim’s medical expenses (including surgeries, doctor visits, rehabilitative care, assistive devices, and medications). Bodily injury damages also includes compensation for a victim’s lost income and their daily pain and suffering for as long as the victim cannot work and/or is in pain.
Section 32-7-23 requires that insurance carriers who provide liability insurance must also provide UM/UIM insurance in an amount which is at least as much as the statutory minimum amount for liability coverage. The person who obtains liability insurance for their vehicle must accept the coverage in writing and make the premium payments on both the liability and UM/UIM insurance coverage. The person who obtains liability insurance coverage does have the right to reject the UM/UIM coverage in writing which may save a little money but will result in a denial of a UM/UIM claim.
The operators of the vehicle are required to carry within their vehicle an insurance card or other evidence of insurance.
How much liability and UM/UIM insurance should you purchase?
Car owners and car drivers must have liability insurance that meets the above state minimum requirements. Owners and drivers SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE UM/UIM INSURANCE even if not required by law.
The cost of one accident claim can be much more than the state minimum of $25,000 per person. Just one night in a hospital can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Some accident claims are worth millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars. If the driver ran a red light, sped, drove while distracted, or caused your injuries in any way; you’ll need a lot of medical care. You may be out of work for weeks, months, or years. You may live with permanent injuries and chronic pain.
If you don’t have UM/UIM coverage, you may have to rely on your own health insurance which only pays your medical bills – not your lost income or pain and suffering. Even if you have MedPay coverage, which pays your medical expenses regardless of fault, the amount of MedPay coverage usually isn’t very much.
The bottom line is – you should buy as much liability and as much UM/UIM coverage as you can afford. Normally, the amounts of coverage for both liability and UM/UIM are the same, but the insurance premium costs for UM/UIM coverage are substantially less than the costs for liability coverage.
At Martin & Helms, P.C., we have the experience, technology, resources, and track record to help car accident victims obtain justice. We’re skilled at showing how vehicle accidents happen, showing who is responsible, and proving the full amount of your damages. We’re also skilled at determining which insurance policies (including UM/UIM policies) cover your accident claim and what amounts of coverage apply to your claim.
To discuss your case, please call us or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment. We have offices in Huntsville and Decatur, and serve clients in Madison, Athens, and North Alabama.
Choosing the right personal injury attorney is an important step in building a better future. You deserve a lawyer who works one-on-one with you, and who can develop a plan for you to move forward. When you choose Martin & Helms, you get Clay Martin and Tara Helms: experienced, compassionate counselors who put your best interests first. We invite you to read more about us.