Most people I represent in Central New York auto accident cases have made a big mistake. (No, it’s not hiring me, really!). They did not buy the right insurance. I blog on this subject in the hopes that some of my readers will avoid this mistake. Let me explain.
I represent victims of car, truck and motorcycle accidents in Syracuse and Central New York every day. One of the first things I do when I am hired is to carefully examine all the relevant insurance policies. In a typical two-car accident, with no passengers, where my client was not at fault and the other guy was, I look principally at two insurance policies: my client’s and the other guy’s (there could be more policies applicable, but let’s keep this simple).
What am I looking for? In the other guy’s policy, I am looking for the liability (also called “bodily injury”) policy limit. This tells me the maximum amount of money the other guy’s insurance will pay to my injured client for his injuries. The minimum liability coverage in New York is $25,000 per injury and $50,000 per accident. Thus, in a minimum policy, my client would be entitled to a maximum of $25,000. It doesn’t matter how hurt he is — paralyzed, dead, whatever — $25,000 is the most he can get from that insurer.
So why do I look at my own client’s policy? Because this might get us beyond the limit I just talked about. In my client’s policy, I am looking principally for SUM (Supplemental Underinsured Motorist) coverage. (I am also looking for something called “APIP” and other insurance coverage, too, but let’s keep this simple). What is SUM? It is easiest to explain by way of an example. Say you are struck by a guy with a $25,000 liability policy and you have a $100,000 SUM policy. You get the $25,000 from the other guy and $75,000 from your own insurer, for a total of $100,000. Get it? Sure beats getting stuck with only $25,000, WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENS TO MOST MY CLIENTS. Why? Because they did not purchase SUM coverage above the minimum $25,000.
So that leads to this question: Why don’t they buy more SUM coverage? BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW ABOUT IT. Their insurance brokers and agents just don’t bother telling them about it. Why not? Perhaps because it is very cheap, and insurers don’t make a lot of profit selling it. This also explains why you should definitely buy it! Call your insurance agent today and demand it! They have to sell you SUM up to the limit of your own liability policy if you ask for it (e.g., if you have a $100,000 liability policy, you can purchase up to $100,000 in SUM coverage). Protect yourself, and your family (your injured passengers can make a SUM claim on your policy, too). Don’t make the biggest mistake most my clients make.