Our personal injury lawyers provide answers to help you understand how you can protect yourself from underinsured negligent drivers.

Motor vehicles in New York are obligated to carry no less than $25,000 of liability insurance coverage. However, even the minimum insurance coverage is often insufficient to compensate a person who suffers serious injuries in a car accident. Unfortunately, encountering personal injury cases where a negligent driver is underinsured or even uninsured, leaving little if any means of recovery for a victim happens all too often.

Who is a negligent driver?

A negligent driver is the person who can be held liable or legally responsible for causing an auto accident. A negligent driver is someone who failed to use reasonable care to protect and prevent injuries to another driver, biker, motorcyclist, or pedestrian also sharing the roadway. For example, a negligent driver fails to use reasonable care when traveling at an unsafe speed, following too closely, or becoming distracted by using a cell phone while driving.

What is the minimum amount of auto insurance required in New York State?

In New York State, the minimum insurance policy coverage required is $25,000 for each injured person and a $50,000 total per accident. Depending on the nature of the injuries, the minimum amount of insurance may not cover the extent of your injuries, including, pain and suffering, loss of income, and out of pocket expenses.

What is supplemental underinsurance?

Underinsurance is an insurance policy that provides monetary coverage in the event you are involved in an accident with someone who does not carry sufficient insurance coverage to pay for your injuries and expenses. Essentially, underinsurance protects you from someone who does not have enough insurance to pay for your injuries following a vehicle accident.

If the driver who hit me does not have a sufficient insurance policy, can I use my own policy?

Yes. If you have purchased Supplemental Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (“SUM”) coverage to protect you in the event the vehicle responsible for an accident does not maintain enough coverage to pay for your injuries, you can look to your own insurance coverage to make up the difference.  This is the purpose of Supplemental Underinsurance and why every driver should obtain this coverage.  Supplemental Underinsurance usually does not add a significant cost to your insurance premium.

How does underinsurance work?

If a negligent driver only maintains the minimum policy limits required in New York ($25,000 per person injured), despite the fact that you may have suffered from severe injuries which required a hospital stay, surgery, lost time from work, and continued pain and suffering, the maximum recovery for your injuries from that driver’s insurance will be $25,000.

This is where your own personal SUM coverage can kick in. If you maintain SUM coverage for an amount greater that $25,000, you are eligible to recover additional money from your own SUM policy. As an example, if you maintained $100,000 in SUM coverage, you are eligible to receive up to an additional $75,000 for your injuries.

How can I protect myself with supplemental underinsurance?

Car accidents are not always preventable, however, you can protect yourself from the financial burden of having an accident with an underinsured or uninsured negligent driver by purchasing Supplemental Uninsured/Underinsured coverage.

Under New York Insurance Law § 3420(f) you are allowed to purchase Supplemental Uninsured/Underinsured coverage.

What can I do if my auto insurance policy does not include supplemental underinsurance or does not have sufficient insurance coverage?

The best thing that you can do is contact your auto insurance agent or provider right away and ask them to add Supplemental Uninsured/Underinsured coverage to your current policy.

Currently, auto insurance policy holders may purchase SUM coverage in an amount up to the bodily injury limits of your policy, subject to a $250,000 per person/$500,000 per accident or a combined single limit policy of $500,000. You may also maintain SUM insurance with a maximum of $100,000 per person or $300,000 per accident or a combined single limit policy of $300,000 if you have a personal umbrella policy with limits of at least $500,000.

Being involved in a severe car accident with an underinsured/uninsured negligent driver can have devastating effects on your life. However, this financial blow can be softened by adding SUM coverage to protect yourself. SUM coverage will provide you with some peace of mind that you are protected in the unfortunate event you are involved in an accident with an underinsured/uninsured negligent driver.