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Hit by an uninsured driver? You’ll want to know this

September 21, 2021 | by Harry J. Forrest
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In New York State, drivers are required to carry liability insurance. But that doesn’t mean they all do. A 2021 study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found more than 12 percent of drivers on the road do not have auto insurance. That equates to roughly one in eight drivers.

Imagine how many cars you encounter on your typical commute to and from work? Or the hundreds of cars you pass on the weekend as you run errands. Then assume one in eight of them have no coverage if they hit you.

Not only are you encountering a lot of uninsured drivers in a given week, but they are also more likely to be involved in an auto accident. A 2020 report from the Journal of Transportation Safety and Security found that uninsured motorists are 34 percent more likely to be involved in an accident than insured drivers.

Many motorists falsely believe that if they are hit by a driver who is uninsured, or involved in a hit and run accident where the driver is not located, they are simply out of luck. Fortunately, that is not true.

In New York State, an individual with valid auto insurance, whether a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, has what is called Supplemental Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage within their own policy. This coverage will allow the insured party to make a claim under his/her own auto insurance policy.

Too often, people sign up for their policies without fully reading or understanding their coverage. As a rule of thumb, it is good to review all of your policies annually (auto, home, life, etc.) to ensure you are adequately protected.

In New York, the minimum required SUM coverage is $25,000 per person/$50,000 per occurrence. That may sound like a lot of money, but in the event of a serious accident, that money will run out quickly. It is worth reviewing your policy and considering whether it makes sense to increase your coverage.

Hopefully you are not one of the one in eight motorists who are uninsured, but if you are, there is protection for you as well. If an uninsured motorist, passenger or pedestrian is hit and injured by an uninsured motorist, leaving no valid coverage, the New York State Motor Vehicle Accident Indemnification Corporation (NYS MVAIC) kicks in. This insurance, put in place by the New York Legislature in 1958, covers qualifying accidents where there is no insurance. Click here to learn who qualifies for MVAIC coverage.

Our firm has represented clients involved in many catastrophic motor vehicle accidents through the years, and we have too often seen the negative results of being both uninsured or underinsured. The best course of action is to make sure you are adequately covered by your own policy. Don’t leave it to chance that the person who hits you will have coverage, and even if they do, that the coverage is sufficient to cover your injuries.

When signing up for a policy, it might be tempting to set your coverage levels at the bare minimum required, but doing so can often prove to be penny wise and pound foolish. But, if you do find yourself is a situation where you are in an accident with an uninsured driver, remember to utilize your own policy’s SUM coverage.

And, if you find yourself the victim of an accident and need an experienced team to represent you, we are a phone call away and ready to put decades of experience protecting our clients to work for you.

Harry J. Forrest is an attorney with Gross Shuman PC. He practices in the areas of civil litigation, business counseling and long-term disability claims and appeals. He has successfully handled cases in both federal and state courts and has tried cases to verdict involving claims for personal injury, property damage, contract disputes and constitutional civil rights violations. You can contact him at 716-854-4300 ext. 225 or hforrest@gross-shuman.com