Uninsured Motorist (UM) Claims: What Are They and Do I Have One?

Over the years we have been in business, we have discovered that, unfortunately, many dangerous drivers in Pennsylvania are driving without any insurance—which can leave you “holding the bag” after being badly hurt in an accident. As a practical matter, if you were seriously hurt in such an accident, it is rarely worth it to file a lawsuit against an uninsured driver personally: uninsured drivers usually do not have any assets valuable enough to compensate you for your injuries and months of missed work. Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage is car insurance coverage that applies when an uninsured driver is responsible for bodily injury damages caused to you in an accident. If you elected to add UM coverage to your insurance policy, your auto insurance will provide coverage for your injuries if the other driver was uninsured. Electing to add UM coverage to your policy is important and is usually good value.

Insurance carriers in Pennsylvania are required to offer the purchase of UM coverage in an amount equal to the liability coverage on your policy. For instance, if you purchased $100,000 in liability coverage, your insurer must offer you the ability to purchase at least $100,000 worth of UM coverage. You may elect to carry any amount of UM coverage below or equal to your liability coverage or you can reject UM coverage entirely. Our personal accident lawyers recommend that you carry as much UM coverage as you can afford. If you are willing to pay $100,000 to provide bodily injury coverage to other drivers, why wouldn’t you pay a smaller premium to provide the same coverage to protect yourself?

For a clearer understanding of UM coverage, we have listed several instances in which it potentially applies:

  1. If the other driver’s insurance company becomes insolvent or goes out of business (this has occurred on many occasions when our clients are pursuing claims);
  2. The other insurance company denies coverage due to a policy exclusion. For instance, there is coverage on the vehicle, but the driver is excluded;
  3. The accident was a hit-and-run and the driver flees before you obtain his license plate number; and
  4. An unknown driver runs you off the road and then speeds away. This circumstance is known as a “phantom vehicle” claim.

How does having an uninsured motorist claim affect my rights?

While claims involving uninsured drivers are difficult, our personal injury lawyers have pursued many such cases. It is important to note that UM claims are contractual—which can affect the statute of limitations and the timeframe in which you must make a claim; it can also require you to take particular steps in accordance with your insurance policy in order to preserve your right to make such a claim. Failure to follow such steps can potentially preclude you from recovery. If you hire one of our lawyers to represent you in your uninsured motorist claim, our lawyers will review your insurance policy and make sure your claim is preserved and your rights are protected.

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