When you took driver’s ed, your driving instructor may have told you about uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. When you purchased your insurance policy, you probably paid for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. And if you look at the Declarations Page of your insurance policy, you may see that you paid for “Coverage U.”
But unless you’ve had to file a claim for uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, you may not fully understand what this insurance coverage is, how it works, and why you need it.
What is Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist Coverage are actually two, slightly different types of insurance protection. They are often grouped together because they both protect you if the driver who hits you is not adequately insured.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage is required in New Jersey, and will pay your damages if the driver who hit you did not have any insurance. Driving without insurance is illegal in the State of New Jersey. However, according to the nonprofit Insurance Research Council, 11% of New Jersey drivers do not have insurance.
In addition to liability coverage, New Jersey requires that every driver carry Uninsured Motorist Coverage with the following minimum coverage amounts:
- $15,000 for injuries suffered by a single person in the accident;
- $30,000 for injuries suffered by all those injured in the accident;
- $5,000 for property damage caused by the accident.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage will pay your damages if the person who hit you did not have enoughinsurance to cover your entire claim.
How is an Uninsured Motorist different from an Underinsured Motorist?
An uninsured motorist is pretty clear – the person who hit you was breaking the law and did not have insurance.
An underinsured motorist is a little more complicated. Let’s say, for example, that you were involved in a car accident and your total claim, including your medical bills, pain and suffering, and lost wages, was $20,000. The person who hit you only had insurance limits of $15,000. This limit is the most their insurance company will pay on any single claim. So what do you do about the remaining $5,000? Who pays for it? That’s where your underinsured motorist coverage comes in to play. Once the other driver’s insurance company has agreed to pay the limits of their policy, your New Jersey car accident attorney can turn to your insurance company to make up the difference. That’s how underinsured motorist coverage protects you. It will make up the difference if you are hit by someone who doesn’t have enough insurance to fully pay the value of your claim for bodily injury.
Doesn’t New Jersey’s Personal Injury Protection (PIP) pay my bills?
New Jersey is one of the few states with No Fault Insurance Coverage, also known as Personal Injury Protection, or PIP for short. PIP will pay your medical bills, as well as the bills of family members and sometimes even passengers in your car. However, PIP only covers medical bills. PIP does not cover lost wages, pain and suffering, or any other types of damages you may be entitled to.
Because you submit your medical bills to your insurance company, PIP has a tendency to lull people into a false sense of security. However, PIP doesn’t cover everything. Even though you have PIP, you should still have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to properly protect yourself.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage pays for more than just my medical bills?
If you were hurt in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for more than just the value of your medical bills. New Jersey car crash victims may be able to recover damages for:
- Loss of past and future income
- Damage to personal property
- Pain and suffering
- Permanent impairment
- Scars or disfigurement
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of the ability to participate in pre-accident activities
Do I need a New Jersey car accident attorney to file an Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist claim?
You are not required to hire an attorney to file an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim, and may choose to handle your insurance claim yourself. However, any insurance claim, and especially one for personal injuries, can be fraught with technicalities, filing deadlines, and legal complications – even if the claim is with your own insurance company.
Insurance companies are for-profit businesses. Their number one priority is to maximize the company’s bottom line. Therefore, they have every incentive to deny your claim or, if they do accept it, to pay as little as possible. To them, they are protecting the rights of their shareholders.
Because of the adversarial and complex nature of filing claims for personal injuries, I strongly recommend that you hire an experienced New Jersey car accident attorney to help you with your insurance claim. An attorney will provide the necessary professional expertise to make sure that you get the compensation you need and deserve. Hiring an attorney also allows you to focus on getting better, instead of fighting with the insurance companies.
Questions about a New Jersey Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist claim? Contact The Slaven Law Firm today.
If you or someone you care about was hurt in a car accident, contact me today at The Slaven Law Firm, LLC for a free initial consultation. I work with people throughout central New Jersey, including Middlesex County, Burlington County, and Mercer County. Call me at (609) 587-3250, or complete my online form.