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What is uninsured motorist insurance coverage?

It’s bad enough when someone causes an accident – injuring you or your family and damaging your car. But what if the other driver doesn't have insurance?

The Insurance Research Council estimates 14% of drivers don’t have car insurance – that’s 1 in 7 of all drivers on the road today.

Most states require automobile liability insurance – D.C., Maryland and Virginia all do. And driving without insurance can mean a fine or even jail time for serious offenses.

But even mandatory laws aren’t particularly effective, according to the Insurance Research Council. Drivers required to have insurance when they register a car don’t always pay the premiums to keep the insurance coverage. And a fine, or even jail time, won’t help pay damages caused by irresponsible drivers.

We see commercials and advertisements all the time for car insurance, using a gecko or themes like “we’re on your side” or “you’re in good hands with us.” Automobile liability insurance covers you if you are in an accident with someone else and it is your fault. Your insurance company will pay the other driver’s damages – car repairs, medical bills, lost income.

Uninsured motorist coverage protects you and your family if you get hit by a driver without insurance. You can purchase this coverage – often called UM or UIM – from your car insurance company, and like liability coverage, you can purchase coverage up to certain limits.

For example, the minimum insurance required in the District of Columbia is $25,000.00.

This means if you were hurt by a driver who didn’t have insurance, your insurance company would pay you up to $25,000.00 for your medical bills, lost income, permanent injuries, pain and suffering caused by the accident.

What if you get seriously hurt by a driver who has insurance – but only has the minimum required? What if your medical bills are more than $25,000.00 and you can’t work?

If your UM insurance has a higher policy limit than the limit of the driver who caused the accident, then the other driver is underinsured. This means your company will step in and pay the difference between the other driver’s policy and your limit.

In the same example, if you had a UM policy limit of $100,000.00, your insurance company would pay up to $75,000.00 (in addition to the $25,000.00 from the other driver) to compensate you for your injuries.

Every day the news reports serious crashes on the Beltway. The question you should ask yourself is: “Am I really protected if I get hurt by a driver without insurance?”

If not, call your insurance company and increase your limits. Protect yourself and your family from the irresponsible drivers we see every day.

And if you are in an accident, act quickly to protect your rights. Get proof of the other driver’s insurance, get the police report and contact your own insurance company.

If you are hurt, the lawyers at Donahoe Kearney, LLP can explain your legal rights and insurance coverage.