Auto insurance is not something most people want to spend too much of their time thinking about. It is simple to understand why you need it and you know by law you must have it, but the details are often left unexamined.

I have found that all too often in car accident cases, the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident did not carry sufficient insurance coverage to fairly and adequately compensate our clients for their serious injuries. To protect yourself and your loved ones there is something that you, as an educated consumer, can do about it.

It’s called Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist(SUM) coverage.

Your auto insurance policy generally contains the following types of coverage: Liability, SUM, No-Fault and Collision. Liability and SUM coverages protect you and your assets from lawsuits resulting from accidents. Liability Insurance protects the rest of the world from your negligence and acts as a wall protecting your assets. Typically, liability insurance is purchased in an amount sufficient to protect the purchaser’s assets, generally their home. Most people, however, shop for auto insurance purely on price and choose only the minimum liability coverage of $25,000. This is where SUM coverage can be a life-saver: SUM coverage will protect you and your loved ones up to a value you can control and decide upon. SUM coverage allows you to insure yourself against the rest of the world. The minimum SUM policy is generally also only$25,000 but what many people do not know is that they can purchase much greater coverage for a very reasonable additional cost.

We at The Taub Law Firm, P.C. have been able tosignificantly increase the compensation to our clients whenthey carry SUM policies on their insurance. In one instance aman was crossing a street in Queens and was struck by adriver who then fled the scene. Because our client hadpurchased additional SUM insurance, we were able toproceed to arbitration and obtain a sizable recovery for himwhich would not have been possible if he did not have suchcoverage. Another one of our clients was struck by a vehiclewith minimum liability coverage. We were able obtain theentire amount of the insurance on the other vehicle and thenproceed to secure a recovery for our client under her SUMpolicy. If either of these clients did not have SUM insurance,there would not have been a chance for adequate financialrecovery due to the irresponsibility of the drivers who causedthe accidents.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature have acknowledged the importance of SUM insurance and have been working together to expand its presence in New York State. While a bill to expand SUM coverage in New York was vetoed in December of 2012 due to technical details, the Legislature acted to re-introduce a similar bill with additional changes. Currently in committee in the New York State Senate is Senate Bill S4674 entitled “An act to amend the insurance law, in relation to limits on certain supplementary insurance” sponsored by Sen. James L. Seward (R, C, IP). This bill would require that the amount of SUM coverage thatinsurance carriers must make available to consumers isequal to the liability limits on a policy, removing a $250,000cap on coverage. In addition, this bill would require that, at thetime a policy is purchased, consumers be offered a choice of purchasing:

  1. SUM coverage equal to the level of bodily injury limits on the policy;
  2. SUM coverage at limits less than bodily injury limits on the policy; or 
  3. Mandatory minimum SUM coverage. The insurer or agent would be required to disclose to the insured what SUM coverage is and what premiums apply at each level of coverage.

Governor Cuomo and the State legislature agree that SUM is important.

The last part is very important. All too often injured victims of car accidents believe that they will be fairly compensated for the injuries they sustained in the accident only to learn that the other vehicle’s owner failed to maintain sufficient bodily injury coverage or had none at all. Requiring insurance companies and their agents to disclose and thereby educate consumers about SUM insurance would allow New Yorkers to make smarter choices when purchasing their car insurance.Generally, additional SUM insurance represents a small additional cost over basic coverage.The bottom line is you cannot assume the owner of a motor vehicle has done anything more than purchase the cheapest automobile insurance possible. With SUM insurance you can proactively protect yourself and your family by making sure you won’t be a victim twice – first by another driver’s carelessness in causing an accident and again by that owner of that vehicle being irresponsible in not carrying sufficient insurance to fairly and adequately compensate you or a loved one.

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