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Staten Island Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage


Understanding Auto Insurance in New York: Car Accident Lawyer Explains Staten Island Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Automobile insurance is required in New York for all motorists. Thus, drivers must obtain and continuously maintain certain types of auto coverage to protect others, property, and themselves in the event of a motor vehicle accident. Although most motorists comply with this requirement, our Staten Island uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage accident lawyer knows that national statistics reveal that roughly 13% of all motorists fail to obtain the proper coverage. As a result, when a negligent driver without insurance causes a crash, victims and their families may be faced with high medical bills, extensive lost wages, and significant pain and suffering – all without the ability to obtain any compensation from the negligent party. This is why New York law also requires motorists to obtain an additional type of insurance to cover themselves in this situation.

Unfortunately, most drivers obtain the minimum coverage that is required. Others do not know that they have this type of coverage available to them either. If that was not bad enough, some insurance adjusters and defense lawyers may even contend that victims do not have this type of coverage or minimize what is even available to a victim – grossly underpaying or even denying otherwise proper claims. Sadly, some inexperienced lawyers also do not know how to handle these types of car accidents and handle uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage cases.

That’s why victims and their families need to contact an experienced Staten Island car accident lawyer such as ours at the O’Connor Law Firm. We handle catastrophic and fatal personal injury cases throughout New York City and Long Island, including cases involving Staten Island uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. To learn more about your rights to compensation after a motor vehicle accident, contact us today by dialing (718) 948-3500 to schedule a free consultation.


What Auto Insurance is Required in New York?

All motorists must obtain the minimum auto insurance rates set forth under the law. There are two general categories of auto insurance, and New York is in the minority of states that follow the “No-Fault” auto insurance model instead of “At-Fault.” In No-Fault states like New York, victims turn to their own insurance carrier to cover certain expenses without having to prove fault. The purpose is to get compensation right away in a non-adversarial process. There is, however, still a way to obtain compensation against an at-fault driver’s insurance for serious injuries or wrongful death. Whereas in an At-Fault state, victims can only obtain compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance – not their own.

Given New York’s type of insurance, the different parts of an auto insurance policy that drivers must obtain and maintain in New York include the following:


Personal Injury Protection

Also known as PIP, this part of the required auto insurance in New York is used to pay medical expenses, lost wages, lost future earnings, and other related expenses caused by a motor vehicle accident. This includes losses such as needing in-home nursing care or other services related to your injuries. This type of coverage drivers, passengers, or pedestrians hit by your vehicle. This is the main component of No-Fault insurance policies, and is not present in At-Fault states. The minimum requirement in New York is $50,000 per person.


Liability Insurance

This type of insurance covers any damages that you and your insureds (authorized drivers under the policy) cause in your vehicle or another vehicle (i.e., borrowed). The damage includes personal injuries to others, property damage, or both. Thus, this is broken down into bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD).

Bodily injury coverage pays for injuries sustained in an accident. The minimum requirements in New York are the following:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury per person per accident, $50,000 total bodily injury per accident (multiple people)
  • $50,000 for death per person, $100,000 total for death (multiple people)

Property damage coverage is meant to pay for damage to another’s property, including their vehicle, real property (house, fences, etc.), or other equipment like a bicycle. The minimum requirement in New York is $10,000 for property damage per accident.


Uninsured Motorist Coverage

As the name implies, Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage is used to pay for injuries suffered from a hit-and-run accident or where there was an uninsured vehicle in the accident. This type of coverage pays for injuries sustained by you, your family, and other passengers in your vehicle. The minimum amounts are the same as the liability insurance for bodily injury and property damage.


Do I Need More Than the Minimum Insurance in New York?

Yes, absolutely.

Although New York law sets the minimum requirements for insurance, that does not mean that families should not opt for extra property against uninsured motorists or underinsured motorists. And even though uninsured motorist (UM) coverage is mandatory in New York, underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is just optional. But this additional type of auto insurance coverage is the most important type that a person can have because it impacts just the policyholder and his or her family – not other drivers – meaning that all premiums you pay can go back into your pocket.

Collectively, this additional policy is offered together as SUM, or Supplemental Underinsured Motorist coverage, and all drivers should obtain as much as they can financially afford.


What is Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage?

Unlike the mandatory uninsured motorist coverage, which covers accidents where a vehicle has no insurance, underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) triggers when a vehicle has inadequate insurance to cover a victim’s injuries. Recall, the minimum requirements for bodily injury in New York are just $25,000 per person per accident, or $50,000 total injuries per accident (all people).

However, surgery to repair a broken leg can cost between $15,000 and $40,000 depending on the type of fracture and extent of the procedure. Whereas the lifetime costs of a traumatic brain injury are estimated to be up to $3 million and the cost of a quadriplegic spinal cord injury is over $3.2 million. These figures are, of course, per person. They are also only the medical cost, and do not account for lost wages, lost future earnings, or of course pain and suffering. As a result, in a serious or catastrophic accident, victims are capped by the total amount which the minimum in New York is just $50,000.

Thus, UIM (through a SUM policy) comes in to cover the gap between the amount of insurance the defendant has and what your policy limit is. This allows you to cover the gap between the differences in coverage.


How SUM Works in New York

Our Staten Island Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage lawyer knows how important SUM is for everyone. It adds a special layer of protection that can allow for payment of medical bills, lost wages, and conscious pain and suffering that may not otherwise be compensated. Unlike other insurance, it works in a different way.

More specifically, if you are involved in an auto accident with an uninsured motorist and your SUM policy has $100,000 in it for UM, you will be able to recover $100,000.

If you are involved with an underinsured motorist with the minimum of $25,000 and your SUM policy has $100,000 in it for UIM, you will have the defendant’s $25,000 plus an extra $75,000 available for you to recover.

But these are basic examples. In the real world, motor vehicle accidents often have multiple victims and result in significant harm – including to entire families. Take a more realistic example here:


Scenario 1

The defendant has the minimum $25k/$50k and causes a car accident with a family of three who all get hurt in the accident. For the sake of this example:

  • Everyone suffers an identical broken bone requiring surgery and costing $30k each ($90k total)
  • All have the same pain and suffering of $100k each ($300k total), and
  • The two parents lose $50k in lost wages each ($100k total).

Based on this scenario, the family can only recover $50k in total. In fact, no one can even get the full value of just their broken bone, as the total damages per person per accident is capped at $25k. Therefore, the family has damages in the amount of $490k but can only recover $50k, and therefore has a loss of $440k due to the negligence of another driver.


Scenario 2

Same facts, but the family has a SUM policy of $500,000 which protects just them. In this situation, the family can make the following recovery:

  • First, they exhaust the $50k policy of the defendant.
  • Next, they have $450k remaining in the SUM policy (their total SUM policy minus the defendant’s insurance of $50k).
  • Based on this, the family now can recover all of their damages and sustains no out-of-pocket losses due to the negligence of another driver.

As you can see, having an adequate SUM policy can mean the difference between barely compensating you for your losses and completely covering you. In fact, having a SUM policy can even prevent a family from having significant financial burdens as they recover from the negligent actions of a defendant.


How Much SUM Coverage Should I Get?

At the O’Connor Law Firm, our Staten Island Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage lawyer recommends that motorists obtain the most coverage that they can comfortably afford. Ideally, that would be a minimum of either $100,000 or really $300,000, but preferably $500,000 or more – including $1 million in coverage as a basic threshold for motorists with families.

However, there are some factors that dictate how much coverage to obtain and when a motorist should obtain more coverage, including the following:

  • Married
  • Families with children
  • Have dependents (i.e., caring for sick parent or sibling)
  • High income that wage losses would be significant
  • Those prone to injury (i.e., medical conditions that could increase the harm from an accident, such as a bleeding disorder or a single kidney)
  • People who have high debts like a mortgage or other loans
  • Business owners, specifically sole business owners
  • Younger families who have a longer amount of time before retiring (i.e., a longer period of lost earnings possible)
  • Individuals with professional licenses that could be affected by serious injuries
  • Individuals employed in physically demanding jobs may be unable to continue working if they suffer a serious injury
  • Those who commute far distances
  • People who live in city or heavy-traffic areas, and
  • Individuals who want to protect themselves and their families from uninsured or uninsured drivers who are reckless, careless, or outright negligent.


Were You Injured by Another Driver in New York? Unsure About What Coverage is Available to You? Call Our Staten Island Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage Lawyer

Insurance is one of the most complicated areas of law, and auto insurance is no different. Although many plaintiff’s personal injury lawyers understand how it works, many do not know the true intricacies of SUM insurance and how to maximize a potential recovery for victims and their families. That’s why victims of a serious, catastrophic, or fatal car accident should call our experienced lawyer at the O’Connor Law Firm. We understand Staten Island uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage issues that frequently occur in car accidents throughout New York City, Long Island, and northern New Jersey. To learn more about how we can help you and your family, contact us today by dialing (718) 948-3500 or by sending us an email through our “Contact Us” box available here.