Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage – Are You Protected?
In New Hampshire you are not required to purchase liability auto insurance, but if you do you must also purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (“UM coverage”). According to the Insurance Research Counsel, approximately 9.9% of drivers in New Hampshire do not have auto insurance. Therefore, if you are involved in an accident, there is a 1 in 7 chance the other driver is “uninsured”, which are not great odds if you are seriously injured.
With so many uninsured drivers on the road, we recommend taking a closer look at your policy. UM coverage can protect you if you are injured both as a driver or pedestrian, a passenger in another car, your passengers, and a driver operating your car with your permission. Also UM coverage can also protect passengers when you drive someone else’s car with permission.
If you were involved in an accident caused by an uninsured motorist and you have over $1,000 in damage or personal injury and the uninsured motorist does not have the ability to pay compensation for injuries and damages sustained in that accident, New Hampshire may suspend the driver license and registration of the uninsured motorist until such compensation has been paid. However, if you have proper auto insurance, then you are entitled to make a claim under the UM coverage portion of your auto policy.
New Hampshire requires auto insurance companies to offer UM coverage in an amount that equals your liability coverage. So if you have a liability coverage of $25,000, the insurance company must offer you a UM coverage of $25,000. If you carry $75,000 in liability coverage, the insurance company must provide UM coverage of $75,000. Therefore, if you are hit by an uninsured motorist, you can make a claim against your own insurance policy for up to your policy limits. You can also make a claim against the UM coverage part of your policy in the event that you are hit by a hit-and-run driver.
If your UM coverage has a minimum of under $100,000, we recommend that you consult your insurance agent about an increase in your Liability and UM coverage. The reason drivers fail to insure their vehicle is usually because of the high cost of auto coverage, which is often based on their past driving conduct (i.e. speeding, DUI’s, etc.). This irresponsible driving behavior by uninsured drivers statistically means they are more likely to be involved in a serious accident. If your injuries are significant, even $100,000 in coverage may not be enough to fully compensate you, but at least, it is better than the $25,000 minimum.
Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM coverage) is a bit more complicated. In New Hampshire, you cannot “stack” your policy on top of the responsible driver’s insurance (allowing you to collect the liability coverage and the UIM coverage combined). UIM coverage usually only applies when your UIM coverage is greater than the liability coverage of the driver responsible for the accident. For example, you are seriously injured in an auto accident and your medical bills total $30,000 and you have a significant lost wage claim. The driver who caused the accident only has $25,000 in liability insurance coverage and you only have $25,000 in UIM coverage, you would not be able to make a claim under UIM policy as you do not carry more coverage than the at fault party. On the other hand, if you had UIM coverage of $100,000, you would be able to collect up to $75,000.00 (as you have that much additional coverage, over and above the $25,000 in coverage of the at fault driver) to help cover your damages.
Insurance policies may be written differently, so it is very important to consult with an attorney before settling any claims in order to know your rights and prevent waiving your rights to uninsured and underinsured coverage. Kenison Law can help you with this process.
As always, if you have been in an accident caused by the negligence of another, contact Kenison Law today for a free consultation at (603) 471-3550 or through our website: https://www.kenisonlaw.com/.
NH RSA 264:15