We have insurance to protect us from the unexpected. Getting in an accident with an uninsured driver is a risk we all take when driving. To protect people from that risk, the State of New Jersey used to require that all motorists carry uninsured motorist coverage. Unfortunately, in an effort to combat high insurance premiums, the State no longer protects all motorists. New Jersey insurance companies are now allowed to sell you “Special” and “Basic” polices that do not offer this very important protection.
On “Standard” policies only, New Jersey requires the following minimum uninsured motorist coverage, along with your regular car insurance:
· $15,000 to cover injuries suffered by a single person in an accident;
· $30,000 to cover injuries by everyone involved in the accident;
· $5,000 to cover property damage caused by the accident.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage is inexpensive and you should cover yourself in the amounts you would want in the event of an accident. You should purchase as much as you can, however, you can only purchase up to what is covered for others. For example, if you have a policy that has 100/300 bodily injury limits for others, you can buy that same amount for yourself. The minimums are merely the lowest amount required by law.
When does your uninsured coverage kick in?
Your uninsured motorist coverage is designed to cover you when the other party has no insurance. This coverage also applies when the car that hit you was a stolen vehicle or the driver that hit you took off right after the accident (Hit and Run). Included in the uninsured coverage is under insured coverage. This covers you if the other party has less insurance than you do and your injuries are worth more than the other party’s policy limits.
To collect on your claim, you will have to prove that the other driver was at fault in the accident. If you were partially at fault, your insurance company may reduce your claim by the percentage you were at fault in the accident. If the other driver is at fault and has insurance, then your initial claim must be to the other driver’s insurance first. Only the unpaid amount will be covered by your insurance. However, if their coverage is inadequate, your insurance carrier will have to authorize your settlement with the other driver’s insurance company.
Collecting from Your Insurance
Like any insurance claim, the insurance company will investigate and look for a reason to deny your request should you file an uninsured motorist claim. Even though it looks clear to you, they may see a problem and seek to deny your claim.
They may claim your injuries were insignificant or that the other driver’s coverage was adequate enough for your injuries. Regardless, many times people need to resort to retaining a personal injury attorney to obtain a fair amount from their insurance company.
More importantly, you will likely need a lawyer just to find out what coverages are in place — otherwise, you risk losing money because you did not realize you had more coverage available. You purchased this coverage to cover your injuries and you have a right to it. That’s why uninsured motorist coverage exists.