At DeMayo Law Offices, L.L.P., we are contacted every day by North and South Carolina residents who have suffered injuries in serious motor vehicle accidents.
You may think you are a careful driver and that you have adequate motor vehicle insurance coverage only to find out after an accident that you have a minimum limits policy.
In North Carolina, the minimal basic coverage required is 30/60/25 (in thousands). In South Carolina, the minimal coverage required is 25/50/25. The coverages are coded in a particular order to designate the category of coverage.
The first number generally refers to the maximum bodily injury liability coverage available for any one person injured in an accident. In other words, the most any one person could recover in North Carolina with minimum liability limits, regardless of the severity of their injury, would be $30,000.
The second number refers to the aggregate or total bodily injury coverage available for all parties that may have been injured in the accident. The payments cannot exceed this amount even if one or more of the individual’s bills are more than the total coverage.
For example, in North Carolina, with minimum policy limits, the most everyone involved in a single accident could recover regardless of the total amount of medical bills would be a total sum of $60,000.
Lastly, the third number sets out the maximum property damage liability coverage available for one accident. In both South and North Carolina, under the minimum required limits, this amount is $25,000. Minimum limits are woefully inadequate to afford you and your family even the most basic protections.
In our office, clients who are admitted to a hospital due to their personal injuries and who have at least a week-long hospitalization routinely average medical bills in excess of $50,000.
Obviously, just the medical bills in this fairly common example exceed the minimum coverage by $20,000. So if you or a family member are injured as a result of someone else’s negligence and they have minimum limits, as unfair as it may seem, you are not going to have all your medical bills covered.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Underinsured motorist insurance coverage pays accident-related expenses when the negligent party does not have enough insurance coverage to completely pay for them.
In other words, this insurance is used when there is not enough money to adequately cover your, or a family member’s, medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering claims. Uninsured refers to the situation when the at-fault party has no insurance to cover the collision at all.
If you do not have this most basic protection, you may not be able to recover anything, even though you weren’t at fault and have a serious personal injury with substantial medical bills.
Underinsured and uninsured coverage protects you from the common situations where the at-fault individual does not have any insurance, or does not have enough coverage (usually minimum limits) to adequately protect you or your family member — the innocent victim.
Your uninsured and underinsured coverage may apply if you are:
- Injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a driver with no auto insurance.
- Injured as a pedestrian, bicyclist, or skateboarder when struck by a motor vehicle.
- Injured as a passenger in a motor vehicle or other type of vehicle, such as a snow mobile or ATV, struck by a motor vehicle.
- Injured in an “hit and run” accident or in an accident where a phantom vehicle swerves into your lane and causes you to drive off the road – physical contact between the vehicles is not required.
- Living with a blood relative in the same household. In certain circumstances, multiple UM/UIM policies of family members may stack one on top of the other to provide even greater coverage.
- Injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by a driver whose liability insurance coverage limits are lower than your UIM limits of coverage.
We have seen many clients and their families suffer greatly because they have only purchased minimum limits of insurance coverage. We have also seen many clients benefit greatly when we’ve been able to collect additional insurance money for them because they wisely purchased UM/UIM coverage.
With a simple call to your insurance company or agent, you can purchase this coverage at a nominal cost and help protect your family from a possible hardship. Only then will you and your family have adequate protection against a devastating loss.