The Crucial Importance of Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist Coverage and the Differences between Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Uninsured Motorist (UM) and Underinsured Motorist (UIM) are automobile insurance coverages that you need to have in case you are in a crash that is someone else’s fault, and where the other driver either doesn’t have any insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance. Huh? Let’s say an uninsured driver crashes into you and breaks your leg. If the driver doesn’t have insurance, then you probably won’t be able to recover your vast damages from that driver. If you have UM, you can tap into your auto policy’s UM coverage to pay the associated healthcare costs, lost wages, vehicle damage, and pain and suffering. Depending on how badly hurt you are and how it has affected your life, you could recover up to the policy limits of your UM coverage.

Let’s say the person who caused the crash had some insurance, but only the state minimum liability insurance. The minimum auto liability required in West Virginia is $25,000. If you had a broken leg, lost 6 weeks of wages, and had $30,000 in medical bills, then the $25,000 policy clearly would not be enough. The medical bills alone would eat up the entire amount of the defendant’s policy and then some. With UIM, you could recover the $25,000 maximum from the other driver’s policy, and then continue to recover the remainder from your UIM policy.

In West Virginia, UM and UIM are two different types of auto insurance coverages. WV residents need to purchase UIM coverage in addition to UM coverage. We can’t tell you how many WV folks think they have “full coverage,” but after they’ve been hit in a car crash, it turns out that they only have UM and not UIM. Recently, we represented a WV client injured by a drunk driver. We learned the drunk driver only had a $25,000 policy. Our client had fractured ribs and a broken clavicle. Unfortunately, our client didn’t have UIM coverage. Our client was limited to the driver’s $25,000 coverage. If he had purchased UIM, then he could have recovered his remaining damages from that coverage.

We strongly encourage our clients, friends, family and all drivers to buy as much UM and UIM as they can afford.

For Virginia and Maryland auto insurance coverage, UM and UIM are the same thing. Whether the wrongful driver has zero coverage or $30,000 in coverage, UM and UIM count the same. BUT, unlike in West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia residents do not get to add their UM/UIM to the other driver’s liability insurance. The maximum recovery an insured can get through their own UN/UIM is however much coverage was purchased, minus the wrongful-driver’s insurance. Huh? Sticking with the same broken leg situation above, but this time it is a Virginia policy. If the other driver has Virginia’s minimum liability insurance, which is $30,000, and you have $50,000 in UM/UIM coverage, then you are limited to just $20,000 more from your insurance policy. In other words, the most you could receive would be the other guy’s $30,000 plus $20,000 from your own UM/UIM for a total of $50,000. With a West Virginia UIM policy, the injured person could recover the wrongful driver’s $30,000, plus the $50,000, for a total of $80,000. Motorists living in Virginia or Maryland need to buy even more UM/UIM than West Virginia residents.

If this is all a little confusing, you’re not alone. There are even more insurance policy considerations and limitations when there are multiple injured persons (passengers and/or pedestrians) hurt in the crash. Our advice is to talk to your insurance agent about your policy. Ask your agent if your policy has the types and amounts of coverages that will cover YOU and YOUR family’s injuries and losses if you get hurt by another driver with minimal or no insurance. Be sure you have purchased both UM and UIM if you live in West Virginia, and be sure you have plenty of UM/UIM if you live in Virginia and Maryland.

The importance of UM and UIM cannot be overstated. With more and more people using ride sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, the possibility of one of these hired drivers crashing into another motorist is going up. An Uber drivers’ insurance coverage is more complex. The big question is what insurance coverage applies? If the driver was transporting a passenger, there is a high level commercial insurance policy. But what happens if the Uber driver was on his way to pick up a user? A lower level policy might apply. What if the driver was on his way to a popular event to work, but didn’t have his/her ridesharing app on? Will the driver’s personal auto policy apply? The best thing for motorists to do is to have plenty of UM/UIM coverage. It will help cover your injuries and losses, no matter what the other driver’s insurance situation.

If you are injured, then we can help make sure your injuries and losses resulting from the crash get documented and covered to the fullest extent possible by the wrongful driver’s available insurance and assets, and any remainder gets covered, to the extent it can, by your insurance. Contact us to setup a no cost consultation.