Uninsured Motorist Coverage (Cont.)
Many people resist using their own insurance when another driver causes their accident. However, if the other driver failed to carry liability insurance, UM coverage is the only way to collect for your injuries and losses. Look out for liability defenses! If you were slightly at fault for the accident, your UM adjuster owes nothing for your accident claims. Again, UM adjusters represent the uninsured driver, and they behave just as they would if you were presenting a claim under liability insurance. If you are slightly at fault, our harsh negligence laws disallow payment rights. Thus, expect the UM adjuster to place some blame with you if you were driving.
The good news is if you do receive payments through the UM policy, this confirms the insurer’s determination that you did nothing wrong. Thus, if you collect under the UM policy, this will not cause any increase in your insurance premiums. Also, the insurance company will not drop your policy or discontinue future coverage.Stacking Multiple UM Policies
If you are eligible for UM benefits, you can collect under multiple policies! North Carolina law allows interpolicy stacking of uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) policies. Intrapolicy stacking, which refers to stacking coverage within the same policy, is not allowed. Thus, the focus in your search for coverage is whether there are different policies with different policy numbers that provide UM coverage in your case. Here are the types of policies that provide UM coverage to accident victims:
- UM policy for the vehicle you were riding in
- UM coverage on every car insurance policy that you own and which shows you as a “named insured” on the policy declarations
- UM policies for all “resident relatives”—here, you can collect under every policy in your household that insures any other driver who is related to you by blood or marriage.
You should search carefully for all applicable policies, and you can collect full benefits from each and every policy that applies.Avoid Partial Settlements
If you have a large claim involving serious injury, never settle early and always make sure that every applicable UM policy is brought into the settlement discussions. Insurance adjusters want to settle your claims and close their file. They will not help you build your damages claim, find reasons why they should pay you more money, or help you to identify hidden coverage. Also, if you settle the UM claim with the obvious/primary UM carrier, they will take a full release, which will block your right to collect additional UM payments from outside policies. Settle your claims only after you have looked at the complete medical picture, only after you have determined the likely verdict value of your injury case, and only after you have compelled all UM insurance carriers to apply all stackable policies to determine the total amount of coverage available in your case.
Alice is riding with her friend Sherry when an uninsured driver runs a red light and causes a serious collision. Sherry has UM coverage with bodily injury coverage limits of $30,000.00 per person. Alice lives in a separate residence and has her own car insurance policy with UMBI limits of $50,000.00 per person. Alice’s husband owns a motorcycle and has his bike insurance under a separate policy with UMBI limits of $100,000.00 per person. Alice’s mother-in-law, Mary, lives with them in the same residence, and Mary has her own auto insurance policy with UMBI limits of $50,000.00 per person. All of these policies can be accessed, and Alice therefore has a total of $230,000.00 to pay for her injury claims arising from her accident.
Advice on Buying Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Even though insurance is mandatory, many drivers fail to make their monthly payments and they lose their coverage. Unfortunately, accident victims often learn that the responsible driver did not carry insurance. This is why our legislature recently mandated uninsured motorist (UM) coverage on all auto policies.
UM coverage is very inexpensive! I recommend that you always carry at least $100,000.00 per person / $300,000.00 per occurrence for UM bodily injury. It costs very little to protect yourself and to ensure that there is sufficient money to pay your claims in full if you ever fall victim to an uninsured driver.