For for many years, I told clients, friends, and family–really anyone who would listen–to be sure to check their automobile insurance policies and make sure that coverage for supplementary uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage–sometimes referred to as “SUM” coverage–was equal to the amount of liability (bodily injury) coverage. I have always thought that SUM coverage is one of the most important types of coverage included in your policy because that is the coverage that will compensate you (and members of your family) for injuries you sustained by a negligent driver with insufficient insurance.
In New York, drivers are only required to have $25,000 in bodily injury coverage. Bodily injury coverage is the liability insurance that pays when a driver negligently causes injuries to another party. Sadly, many drivers only purchase the minimum. This is probably one of the ways that 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.
If you are seriously injured by the negligence or carelessness of one of these underinsured drivers, your own SUM coverage could be available to compensate you for any injuries sustained that are above and beyond the insurance carried by the negligent driver. But, that requires you to have adequate SUM coverage too.
Unfortunately, there have been a number of occasions when we have had clients suffer devastating injuries after being struck by a negligent driver carrying only the minimum amount of bodily injury coverage, and we have had to explain to the client that there is little left for them to recover because our client carried a minimal amount of SUM coverage, even though the client in this case often had adequate bodily injury coverage insuring against their own negligence (which wouldn’t apply in this situation).
A good summary of how SUM works may be found by reading Auto Insurance Protection: the SUM of all fears. Over the years, we’ve written several posts about the importance of having adequate SUM coverage, and now we have some good news to report.
On December 18, 2017, the Governor signed a bill amending provisions of the Insurance Law to provide for increased SUM coverage. Starting with new policies issued after June 16, 2018, the amount of SUM coverage to be included in any auto insurance policy will be the same as the amount of bodily injury coverage selected by the insured. Although an insured may decline SUM coverage or purchase a lower limit, I do not recommend doing so. According to the sponsor’s memorandum:
Supplementary insurance, also known as uninsured or underinsured motorist insurance, protects motorists who suffer severe and devastating injuries in accidents with drivers who carry inadequate or no insurance. Few drivers are aware of the value of supplementary insurance and insurance companies rarely offer supplementary insurance coverage above the statutory minimum. This bill will ensure that drivers are fully protected themselves by supplementary insurance equal to the bodily injury liability insurance coverage they select to protect others, unless they affirmatively elect lower coverage for themselves.
If you or a family member are ever seriously injured in an accident caused by another person’s carelessness, you can always contact us to talk about your rights and available options. Information about our Personal Injury Practice may be found here. Hopefully, you’ll never need us for that.
Happy New Year!