By Atty. Scott McGowan

I have learned quite a bit about different insurance policies while working for clients as a personal injury attorney. I’d like to touch on one of the most important types of insurance you can purchase to protect yourself whether it be for your car, truck or motorcycle: Underinsured/ Uninsured Motorist coverage.

What I am saying is not new information, but it needs to be stressed. I have seen the unfortunate consequences of purchasing low coverage for Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) policies in Connecticut. It is an interesting fact that Connecticut, the insurance capital of the U.S. but has the lowest legal requirements for UM/UIM coverage in New England at $20,000/$40,000 for bodily injury. All of the other New England states and New York have higher limit requirements, with Maine having the highest at $50,000/$100,000. Why Maine is so much higher I don’t know. Maybe it’s because the chance of hitting a moose is higher, but such a high requirement I’m sure helps the citizens of Maine in the long run.

UM/UIM coverage is insurance you buy to protect yourself. In simple terms, you will only be able to “use” your UM/UIM coverage once all other liability policies have been extinguished. It’s a contract you have with your own insurance company versus making a claim against the other driver’s coverage. One would think this would mean your own insurance company would treat you better, especially when the accident is not your fault, but this is not always the case. You always have to remember that insurance companies are businesses, and they focus on making a profit by trying to pay out the lowest compensation possible.

Connecticut requires drivers to have a minimum 20/40 liability policy. UM/UIM policies are concurrent policies (unless you buy special coverage). How it works is if you also only have a UM/UIM policy for 20/40 and the liable driver has a 20/40 policy, you will only be able to get a maximum recovery of 20/40 percent and your UM/UIM coverage never applies. If the liable party only has a 20/40 liability policy and you have a 100/300 policy, you are much better protected in that once you have collected the first 20/40 from the liable party, you then have an additional 80/260 to work with to make sure your injuries are adequately compensated.

By the way, the $40k of a 20/40 policy indicates the maximum amount of coverage available per incident, while the $20k indicates the maximum amount of coverage per individual per incident.

The moral to this story is simple: Do not be caught naked when it comes to your UM/UIM coverage. Make sure you are adequately covered by having as much UM/UIM coverage possible. You might want to purchase the cheapest insurance available, but please realize in this economy there are just too many drivers out there with either a 20/40 policy or no insurance at all. If one of these uninsured or underinsured drivers were to cause an accident and severely injure you, you could be facing a financial catastrophe. I always tell my clients to purchase at least a 100/300 UM/UIM policy to protect themselves. It’s only a few dollars more than a 20/40 policy, and it could be the difference between being fairly compensated for your injuries or not.