III. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage:

Carry as much uninsured motorists (U.M.) coverage (sometimes referred to as either uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, or both) as you can afford. This protects you in case someone else negligently operates their vehicle, causing you or a member of your household (and, sometimes, merely a person riding in your vehicle) to be injured while in your vehicle. This coverage also follows you if you are riding in some other person’s vehicle and are injured.

If someone injures you who carries either no liability insurance or, say, only $10,000.00 in liability coverage, then, if they have $10,000.00 in coverage, the first $10,000.00 will come from them, and, if you have, say, $100,000.00 in U.M. coverage, the next $100,000.00 will come from your own company. Of course, the value of your claim governs what you can collect from another person or from your own carrier regardless of the amount of coverage. Essentially, your company simply steps in and acts like it is the liability insurance company of the person who negligently injured you. U.M. coverage applies only to bodily injuries and not to property damage. Of course, your company only pays the reasonable value of your claim, up to the maximum of your coverage (that is, if someone with no liability insurance causes you to break a finger, then your U.M. carrier might pay a few thousand, but not $100,000.00, unless you make your living as a concert pianist and can no longer work, in which case you probably will wish you had purchased $1,000,000.00 in U.M. coverage.)

There are two types of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, stacked and unstacked. Stacked coverage merely means that you multiply the amount of U.M. coverage(s) by the number of vehicles covered under your policy to determine the amount of coverage. So, if you have 3 vehicles covered under a single policy, with $25,000.00/550,000.00 U.M. coverage and you have unstacked coverage, the coverage available for those injured in your car is $25,000.00 per person, $50,000.00 per incident, but if you have stacked U.M. coverage under that same policy, then your coverage is $75,000.00 per person, $150,000.00 per incident (that is, 3 x $25,000.00/550,000.00). Always cover multiple vehicles under a single policy rather than separate policies, where you are able to do so. Therefore, if you can, always buy “stacked” U.M. coverage. We won’t go into why, just buy stacked if you can, even if you are only insuring one car with that company. Another simpler way to remember the difference between stacked and unstacked U.M. coverage is that stacked is good, unstacked is bad. The added cost of stacked over unstacked coverage is usually quite reasonable. Many companies will not sell stacked coverage if only one vehicle is being insured with that company, but some will. Always ask, always buy stacked if you can, and never, ever be persuaded by some insurance salesperson that you don’t need stacked coverage because you are insuring only a single vehicle under your policy or that buying stacked coverage (in the case of multiple cars insured under one policy) unnecessarily adds to the cost of your insurance. Many insurance sales agents are not well versed as to the benefits of U.M coverage in general, much less stacked verses unstacked U.M. coverage; particularly, sales agents you will likely encounter if you buy your vehicle insurance from some national company over the phone, as they are generally at the bottom of the insurance food chain, and know as much about U.M. coverage as does the average practicing shepherd.

We cannot overemphasize the necessity for buying as much uninsured/underinsured motorists insurance coverage as you can afford. In many cases, it is difficult, if not downright impossible, to tell from your coverage information page whether or not you have stacked or unstacked uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. In many cases a mere letter, such as “U” designates either stacked or unstacked coverage, and you will need to refer to the actual policy to determine which form of this coverage you are carrying. If you ever deal with an agent who suggests you save money by cutting your U.M coverage, move to another agent as soon as possible.

You can waive your right to carry U.M. coverage, but to do so you must sign a written waiver. The person purchasing the coverage who signs a U.M. waiver form waives the coverage not only for himself or herself, but also on behalf of all others who might otherwise be covered. Your signature on the waiver represents a conclusive presumption that you knew what you were doing, and that you intelligently waived the coverage. Your written waiver will control, even if you really did not understand what you were doing, or even if the agent misrepresented the issue to you. So be very careful what you sign when it comes to U.M. coverage. In all respects, it is our personal belief that U.M. coverage is the most important of all the coverages you can purchase.

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If you have questions regarding Auto Insurance or any legal matter involving automobile accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, medical malpractice, products liability, premises liability, wrongful death, workers’ compensation as well construction disputes, sinkholes, structural collapse cases and real estate law, contact us immediately!

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