Previously in this column I have talked about the importance of the UM/SUM clause in your car insurance policy. The start of a new year and the enactment of a new law makes this the perfect time to once again remind you to review this portion of your auto policy!
When you buy car insurance you are protecting people who are injured by the use of your car. It is not coverage that protects you or your family when they are injured by someone else’s car. However, there is a clause in your auto policy that will provide such protection. It is the “UM/SUM” clause, short for ‘Uninsured Motorist/Supplemental Underinsured Motorist’ coverage. This is a very important clause in your auto policy that few people know anything about. The coverage applies when you or someone residing in your house is injured by a car that has no insurance or a minimal amount of coverage.
NYS law mandates that “UM/SUM” coverage must be kept on every auto policy. However, insurance companies make a nominal profit from this line of coverage; thus they often give you a minimum amount and rarely discuss it or offer the option of an increase. Even if you have $100,000 or $300,000 in liability coverage that protects other people, that does not mean that you automatically have that same amount protecting you and your family under your “UM/SUM” clause.
A new law went into effect on January 1st, requiring insurance companies to inform their customers about the UM/SUM clause and to provide them with a waiver to opt-out of the coverage. The law only applies to new policies, not renewals.
Since the 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 as high as you can. By doing so, if another car hits anyone who resides in your house and they are uninsured or have very little insurance, you and anyone who lives in your house (extended family, in-laws, grandkids, etc.) can collect damages for their injuries under your “UM/SUM” coverage.
Your insured car does not need to be involved in the accident. Additionally, your kids who live with you but are away at college are also covered. Another benefit to filing a claim under your “UM/SUM” clause is that you do so through an arbitration hearing as opposed to a long drawn out multi-year lawsuit.
Recently, we had a client who suffered an injury while he was driving his car. The offending vehicle only had a $25,000 policy. Fortunately, he had $1.5Million in SUM coverage on his car and we were able to collect that full amount from his own policy.
The “UM/SUM” clause is the rare occasion when the insurance industry offers an inexpensive and pro-consumer line of coverage. Do yourself and your family a huge favor check your “UM/SUM” limits and increase them as much as possible.
Keith Sullivan is a partner with Sullivan & Galleshaw, LLP and an adjunct law professor at Pace University School of Law and a lecturer for the NYS bar exam. He is frequently seen providing legal analysis on various national and local networks such as FOX News, CNN and MSNBC. You can e-mail your questions for Keith to SullivansCourt@gmail.com.
Sullivan’s Court provides general legal information only, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship.