Getting Compensation for your Car Accident

Q. My wife was recently in a car accident. The other driver caused the accident, but he has no insurance. How can my wife be compensated for her injuries? -Jon R.

A. Dear JR, I am sorry for your wife’s misfortune. Hopefully, she will be fully recovered very soon. Fortunately for her, under your own car insurance policy, there is a little know clause that will protect her. It is called “UM/SUM”, an acronym for ‘Uninsured Motorist/Supplemental Underinsured Motorist’ insurance coverage.  This is a pro-consumer insurance clause and a very important part of your car insurance coverage. This coverage applies when you or someone residing in your house is injured in a car accident that is caused in whole -or in part- through the fault of another car that has insufficient insurance coverage or no coverage at all.

When purchasing car insurance most brokers and consumers focus on the liability clause which protects strangers who may be injured by the negligent operation of your car. The law mandates that “UM/SUM” coverage must be maintained. However, since many insurance companies make a nominal profit from this coverage, they often leave it at a minimum level and never offer the option of an increase to the consumer. Even if you have $100,000 or $300,000 in liability coverage, it might not mean that you have this much available for you under the “UM/SUM” clause. Since this clause is the only part of your policy that protects you and your loved ones, it is a good idea to make sure that you are fully covered and increase the “UM/SUM” limits of your policy to equal the amount of liability insurance you purchase to protect others. By doing so, if another driver causes a car accident and they are uninsured or have very little insurance, there is still coverage for you and your household residents who may have been injured in the accident, up to the amount of the “UM/SUM” coverage you purchase.

Residency Rules for College Students

The NYS Courts have even ruled that a child who lives away at college is still considered a resident of the house and can also be protected under this clause. Another benefit to collecting directly under your “UM/SUM” clause is that to do so you simply request an arbitration hearing with the insurance company as opposed to filing a lawsuit against the other driver. A lawsuit can drag on for about three years whereas the arbitration hearing can be resolved in less than one year.

I would like to begin this month’s column with a legal update that offers some very good news for us consumers.

A few months ago, a writer asked about seeking compensation for his wife who was badly injured when struck by a car that had little to no insurance. I explained that under every car insurance policy there is a little know clause (“UM/SUM” coverage) that protects the person who buys the policy and anyone who lives in their home, even if the insured car was not involved in the accident. The reason it is a relatively unknown clause by the consumer is that it is a portion of the policy whereby law insurers can charge only nominal amounts for providing very substantial coverage to you and your loved ones. Typically, when you buy car insurance you are protecting the people you may hit with your car. For that protection, carriers make a lot of money off of you. What they do not tell you is that the “UM/SUM” clause, an acronym for ‘Uninsured Motorist/Supplemental Underinsured Motorist’ coverage, protects you when the negligent car has a small policy or no policy at all. This clause kicks in to protect you and anyone who lives in your house (including kids away at college) even when your insured car is not involved in the accident.

New Legal Advocacy Group Membership

Well, now I am pleased to announce that through the help of the NYS Trial Lawyer’s –a legal advocacy group that Sullivan & Galleshaw are proud members of—the “UM/SUM” clause will no longer remain an obscure, unknown clause on your policy. It is expected that the Governor will sign into law a bill that mandates that insurance companies to have a detailed discussion with a driver seeking coverage and fully inform them of the benefits of the clause and allow them to raise the minimal coverage from $25,000 to match the amount of coverage they purchase for other people whom may be struck by their car. Right now, many consumers have policies that offer strangers upwards of $300,000 in coverage, but only have a “UM/SUM’ coverage for them and their family of the legal minimum of $25,000. On average, for a mere $50 per year that $25,000 in coverage can be raised to $300,000.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the operation of this clause in your own policy, feel free to contact me or my law partner, James Galleshaw at our office and we will be happy to discuss it further with you. Now on to this month’s legal issue!

Keith Sullivan is a partner with Sullivan & Galleshaw, LLP and an adjunct law professor at Pace University School of Law and Brooklyn Law School and a lecturer for the NYS bar exam. He can be seen frequently providing legal analysis on various national and local networks such as FOX News, CNN, HLN, NBC and MSNBC.

Sullivan’s Court provides general legal information only, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.

If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of another, contact the New York injury lawyers of Sullivan & Galleshaw at (718) 843-0300 to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible personal injury lawsuit.


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