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Recently, Injury Board member, Lawrence Egerton, wrote about a woman, Judy Gail Siegel, who was struck and killed by a hit & run vehicle. Mr. Egerton speculated about the various recoveries that this unfortunate woman’s family may be entitled to pursue for her wrongful death. He mentioned that " a lawyer might determine that a claim exists against Judy’s own “uninsured” auto insurance policy". Of course, he is correct, but it occurred to me that many of our readers do not understand what his reference means. These are very important coverages; they are not too expensive; and, in my humble opinion, every insured driver should have both "uninsured" and "underinsured" motorist coverage if either or both are available in your state.

Simply stated, uninsured motorist coverage is usually optional coverage that you purshase from your auto insurance company to cover yourself for damages caused by the negligence of a person with no insurance (or a hit & run vehicle). Again, this is usually optional coverage; you have to ask for it or accept it if your agent offers it to you. You do not get this coverage automatically. In the case of Ms. Siegel, if they cannot identify the hit & run vehicle, or they undentify him/her and he/she is uninsured, the Siegel estate could potentially collect damages from their own insurance company up to the limits of their uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage is a substitute for the defendant’s liability coverage. The uninsured motorist/hit & run driver must be the at-fault driver for you to collect damages under your underinsured motorist coverage. In my opinion, you should purchase the maximum allowed in your state (or the most coverage you can afford) to protect yourself from catastrophe caused by a hit & run or uninsured driver.

Everything I just said applies to underinsured motorist coverage as well. The difference is that with underinsured, you are protecting yourself in a situation where the at-fault driver has insurance, but only has small limits coverage that will not adequately compensate you for a serious injury. Most states have minimum liability limits; some states have minimum limits as low as $10,000 (my state, Michigan, has minimum liability limits of $20,000). If the defendant is otherwise uncollectable (and most are), your serious injury will be capped at the limits of the at-fault driver’s policy proceeds, as little as $10,000. If you are seriously or catastrophically injured or killed, this is seriously inadequate compensation. Thus, again, if underinsured motorist coverage is available in your state, buy as much of this coverage as you can afford!

So, Lawsuit Financial, the pro-justice lawsuit funding company urges you call your agent today and ask him/her if you have either or both of these valuable coverages. If you don’t, purchase them. Ask your agent what the maximum limits available to you are and, if you can afford it, purchase the maximum limits for both. If you ever find yourself seriously injured as the result of the negligent driving of an uninsured/hit & run driver or an underinsured driver, you will be very glad you reviewed and upgraded your coverage. And, please, be careful out there.

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