Auto Insurance Coverage Series
The auto insurance policy consists of different coverage parts. These parts have specific functions and one is Uninsured Motorist coverage. An insured’s injuries not compensated by an uninsured driver can be catastrophic. Uninsured Motorist coverage can provide relief.
This article focuses only on Uninsured Motorist coverage and based on NY coverage. Readers not located in NY can apply the basics to their own policies. Check your state requirements to be sure.
New York amends the auto policy to fit a NY law that applies to uninsured drivers. NY auto policies take out standard policy language and replace it with the law. Other states may just use the policy language in lieu of a law.
Damages for Bodily Injury Caused by an Uninsured Motorist
Uninsured Motorist coverage is mandatory in the State of New York. Registering a vehicle for road use requires that a driver carry minimum limits of liability. Basic coverage for Uninsured Motorist includes both bodily injury and death. Bodily injury coverage must be a minimum of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Any death resulting from an auto accident mandates no less than $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident for coverage. Collecting damages for bodily injury or death, sustained in an auto accident, requires that the insured has a legal right to do so.
Property damage does not fall under the NY Uninsured Motorist coverage. Some states do allow this extension. Payment for non economic damages (pain, suffering, loss of services) requires the insured to suffer a severe injury as defined by the law, Section 5102(d) of NY Insurance Law. The excerpt below comes from the New York State Dept of Financial Services website, www.dfs.ny.gov .
(d) “Serious injury” means a personal injury which results in death; dismemberment; significant disfigurement; a fracture; loss of a fetus; permanent loss of use of a body organ, member, function or system; permanent consequential limitation of use of a body organ or member; significant limitation of use of a body function or system; or a medically determined injury or impairment of a non-permanent nature which prevents the injured person from performing substantially all of the material acts which constitute such person’s usual and customary daily activities for not less than ninety days during the one hundred eighty days immediately following the occurrence of the injury or impairment.
Accidents within New York State are covered by the policy. The law determines the status of an uninsured vehicle. Coverage is afforded unless an exclusion exists.
Uninsured Motor Vehicle-Defined
The ownership, maintenance, or use of the following types of vehicles determine if a vehicle fits the Uninsured definition:
- No insurance applies to the motor vehicle (includes stolen vehicles, unregistered vehicles and operated without the owner’s permission)
- When an Owner nor driver can be identified and the vehicle physically contacts an insured vehicle causing damages
- Coverage carried by other vehicle does not meet state mandated limits noted above
- The insurer for the other driver denies coverage
- Named Insured and residents of the household to include, relatives, spouse and spouse’s relatives
- Any other person while occupying (getting in, out, on or off vehicle) an owned vehicle with permission of named insured or spouse
- Any person with the right to collect damages sustained by an insured
An insured could find themselves insured on multiple policies. In New York, when an insured sustains injuries in a non owned vehicle, but they have their own coverage, the non owned vehicle coverage is primary. Their own coverage becomes excess. We usually term this “insurance follows the car”. Put another way, the insured injured in a non owned auto would file their claim with the insurer of the non owned auto.
An insured injured in an owned will file the claim with bthat insurer. If the insured has multiple policies then damages may be paid on a proportional basis.
Non duplication provisions apply to this coverage. Benefits from other sources such as workers compensation, NYS Disability, No Fault (PIP), other motor vehicle and non motor vehicle insurance reduce the amount payable under the policy.
- Loss while operating a vehicle in violation of an order of suspension or revocation
- The insured settles a claim with the other driver without the consent of their insurer
- Vehicle operated by the insured needs to have valid insurance in place
- Benefits that should be paid by Workers Compensation
New York State mandated coverage for Uninsured Motorists is simply not enough. Buy another coverage to make this more meaningful. Purchase Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Liability (SUM) whenever possible. I cannot think of one good reason to purchase only mandated Uninsured Motorist coverage. Territory restrictions make mandated coverage very limited (NY only). Low limits of coverage coupled with an even larger exposure, the underinsured motorist.
Buyer beware when shopping for car insurance.
Insurance is a legal contract. Good advice is not expensive. Shop Prepared!