Underinsured and Uninsured Motor Vehicle Coverage
In Connecticut, Underinsured and Uninsured motorist claims are codified in Connecticut General Statutes Section 38a-336 et seq. All motor vehicle owners should review their automobile policy of insurance to determine the amount of underinsured and uninsured coverage their vehicle carries. This information can be found on the “declarations page” of your policy.
Underinsured/Uninsured coverage means exactly what it sounds like. If an individual hits you and that individual only has, for example, the minimum coverage of $25k/$50k, but your damages amount to more than $25k, then the individual that hit you is considered as “underinsured”. If they did not have any insurance at the time of the accident, then they are “uninsured”. At that point in time, your “underinsured/uninsured” coverage is triggered and attempts to make you whole, as if your own policy was possessed by the individual that hit you. Keep in mind, you will be required to prove that you have exhausted all underlying coverage before any underinsured coverage is paid. This includes any and all applicable coverage attached to the vehicle that hit you. Likewise, if you are claiming that the vehicle was uninsured, you will have to prove that the motor vehicle that hit you was in fact uninsured before triggering any uninsured coverage. Importantly, if you have been the victim of a hit-and-run accident, your uninsured motorist coverage will pay for your injuries and damages. Provided the accident was not your fault, your insurance rates should not be affected.
Typically, this underinsured/uninsured coverage matches your underlying coverage (e.g. $25k/$50k underlying coverage, and $25k/$50k underinsured uninsured coverage). Though, you can customize your underinsured/uninsured coverage as well. Underinsured/uninsured coverage is mandatory in Connecticut and is automatically included with your general underlying coverage purchase.
Now, because the purpose of the law is to protect you up to the point you are willing to protect yourself, you generally cannot add your underinsured coverage to the payment made by the policy of the individual that hit you. Rather, your own insurer/policy gets a credit for payment(s) made on behalf of the policy holder that hit you.
By way of example, assume you sustained $125k in bodily injuries in an accident, and you only hold $100k in underinsured coverage. If the individual that hit you had only $25k in coverage, they pay their $25k and are considered underinsured. That is, they do not carry enough insurance to cover your claimed damages. Here, your policy does not simply pay the full $100k in underinsured coverage. Rather, your policy only pays $75k; again, because the $25k and the $75k puts you in the same position ($100k) as if the person that hit you held what you held in coverage. That is called “non-conversion” underinsured coverage. Put differently, your policy gets a credit for what was paid out of the policy that hit you.
However, if you decide to purchase what is called “conversion” coverage, then your policy does not get the benefit of the monies paid out on the policy that hit you. In this scenario, you would get $25k from the person that hit you, and your full $100k underinsured coverage would be available to you. You are entitled to that because you purchased (i.e. paid a premium) for that conversion option on your policy. As you can see, this has the potential to make a significant difference should you be found in such a precarious situation. Unfortunately, some of our clients have not been made whole due to limited coverage on the underlying policy, and due to not having conversion coverage (or insufficient underinsured coverage) on their own policy.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, but it is the bare minimum of what you should be aware of when it comes to your policy and options you can purchase.
If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident caused by an uninsured motorist or are worried that the individual that hit you does not have enough coverage to compensate your for your injuries, pain and suffering, do not hesitate to call the BPS Personal Injury Lawyers.