A few months ago I sat down with a man who was looking into a personal injury claim on behalf of his wife. She had been driving in Mukilteo when a drunk driver crossed the center line and hit her head on. She suffered multiple injuries, but the most severe injury was to her ankle. She had already undergone several ankle surgeries and she was looking at a long and painful recovery. It was likely that she would suffer a permanent disability as the result of this incident.
I reviewed the police report and the man's auto insurance policy, and I had to give him some very bad news. The drunk driver was uninsured, and probably had no assets worth collecting. That meant the only payment his wife was ever likely to receive would be from the family's uninsured motorist coverage (UM).
In Washington uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage are a package deal. If you have one, you have both. Uninsured motorist coverage pays you when the person who caused the accident is uninsured. Underinsured motorist coverage pays you when the person who caused the accident has insurance, but his coverage is inadequate to pay your losses.
In this case, the man and his wife had $25,000 in uninsured motorist coverage. That meant regardless of how severe his wife's injuries were, her insurance recovery was limited to $25,000. I advised him that they didn't need an attorney - the insurance company would gladly cut a check for $25,000 on the spot.
The man was dismayed. His wife was hurt so badly and it wasn't her fault. How could their recovery be limited to $25,000. There was nothing I could say to console him. The reality is that although Washington law requires drivers to have liability insurance, nearly twenty percent of all drivers in this state have no insruance. It is up to each of us to protect ourselves and our families by having adequate uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
If you are reading this, I urge you to check your auto insurance now. Call your agent or your insurance company and increase your UM coverage. You may need to increase your liability coverage in order to qualify, but the difference in the premium you pay will be negligible compared to the losses you will suffer if you get hurt by an uninsured driver.
If you have any questions about your auto insurance, or regarding any aspect of car accident or personal injury claims, please check out our website or give us a call. This is too important to let it slide of one more day.