Patricia Alexandre, Esq. | Law Clerk
In Massachusetts, drivers choose to take risks every day by operating motor vehicles without insurance. What drivers don’t know is that they are still taking risks by choosing to have the minimum automobile insurance coverage required by law. Car insurance can be expensive and many feel they may be saving money by carrying the minimum amount of insurance required and not purchasing optional insurance coverage; however, there are far too many risks associated with carrying minimum insurance coverage. For that reason, it is crucial to protect yourself from these situations by making sure you have sufficient automobile insurance coverage.
Drivers can protect themselves from uninsured or underinsured drivers by purchasing uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage as part of their own insurance policies. UM and UIM protections are separate, but in many states can or must be purchased together. In Massachusetts, you are required to carry uninsured motorist coverage; however, underinsured motorist coverage is optional.
UM coverage, formally known in Massachusetts as “Bodily Injury Caused By An Uninsured Auto,” is especially beneficial in situations of hit-and-run accidents. Many times, in a hit-and-run, the injured party may be able to obtain protection under UM coverage. This option pays damages for bodily injury to people injured or killed in certain accidents caused by uninsured or hit-and-run autos. This option only pays if the injured person is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of the uninsured or hit-and-run auto, or if the owner or operator who caused the accident cannot be identified. Massachusetts requires you to carry limits of $20,000.00 per person and $40,000.00 per accident for “Bodily Injury Caused By An Uninsured Auto” coverage. These limits are compulsory, meaning it is required by law.
Under UM coverage, many people carry limits of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident. This is not a good option if you are the injured party, especially if your injuries cost more than $20,000. Moreover, if there are more than 3 people injured in an accident, the $40,000 per accident limit would need to be shared by however many people were injured. Therefore, you should always opt for more protection to cover anticipated expenses. In Massachusetts, under UM coverage, if you opt for more protection, insurance policies must sell you limits up to $35,000.00 per person and $80,000.00 per accident, and offer higher limits as well.
UIM coverage is known in Massachusetts as “Bodily Injury Caused By An Underinsured Auto.” This coverage is one of the optional coverages which can be purchased along with other optional coverages like medical payments, collision, and comprehensive. Under this option, insurance policies will pay damages for bodily injuries to people injured or killed as a result of certain accidents that exceed the limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy so the injured driver does not have to pay personally. Insurance policies will only pay if the injured person is legally entitled to recover from the owners or the operators of all underinsured autos. Such injured persons have a claim when the limits for automobile bodily injury liability insurance covering the owners and operators of the legally responsible autos are: (1) less than the limits shown for this part on your coverage; and (2) not sufficient to pay for the damages sustained by the injured person. However, if you choose to carry the minimum limits of $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident, that minimum coverage is illusory. If the other party also has the minimum coverage of $20,000/$40,000, than there really is no coverage at all.
In the long run, think twice before driving without insurance and do not be tempted to purchase the minimum insurance coverage to save money. If you have already purchased insurance, you can always increase the uninsured/underinsured limits before you are involved in an automobile accident. If you decide to carry more than the minimum requirements for both UM and UIM coverage, you must carry the same limit for both UM and UIM. It does not cost much money to increase your limits; therefore, you should always opt for the most protection.
If you have been in a car accident and need help understanding your insurance coverage please call the attorneys at Wynn & Wynn, P.C. at 1.800.852.5211 or request a free consultation.