I like to answer consumer questions in a couple different legal forums. The more information we can provide our neighbors to help them with legal decisions — the better. Someone recently asked me if I knew people who had suffered due to uninsured / underinsured drivers. The answer is, YES.
I know many people in Alabama who have needlessly suffered due to a lack of insurance for their injuries. In the last year, I’ve had to talk with two different families in this exact situation where the medical bills, alone, exceeded a million dollars. Yet, in each situation, the at-fault driver carried only minimal automobile insurance. These are difficult conversations to have with hurting or grieving families. It is difficult to tell a hurting family that they cannot recover even a real fraction of their losses.
Alabama law only requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance. Right now, that minimum amount is $25,000. Let’s put that into perspective. If you are badly hurt in a wreck, a helicopter ride to the hospital, by itself, will likely consume this entire amount. Yes, I’ve had this situation in several different cases. The bills from a regular ambulance ride and emergency room visit will consume a significant portion of the minimum limits. In any case involving a serious injury, the minimum limit of $25,000 is far, far too low. Your damages in any serious personal injury will exceed that amount.
So far, we’ve just discussed at-fault drivers who do NOT carry enough insurance. What about at-fault drivers who are TOTALLY UNINSURED? In many states (including Alabama) we have drivers who illegally operate their cars with NO insurance coverage. These uninsured drivers are usually “not caught” by the police until AFTER hurting you or your family. That’s too late for you. It’s too late to help.
What’s the answer? As a state, Alabama should (1) raise its minimum liability limits; and, (2) improve its enforcement of the law to catch illegal drivers BEFORE they hurt you.
As an individual, you also need plenty of Uninsured / Underinsured coverage on YOUR policy. This coverage is often called UIM coverage. What is UIM coverage? Basically, this coverage on your policy provides benefits for the damages you suffer beyond the at-fault driver’s insurance. Alabama law requires every policy to provide a minimum amount of UIM coverage unless you specifically waive it. Look at your policy. You should have UIM coverage.
Do people sometimes waive UIM coverage? Yes. But, that is a TERRIBLE idea. You should never waive this coverage. It is very inexpensive. It is very beneficial. I’ve had difficult conversations with injured families where I’ve had to tell them the at-fault driver only had the minimum $25,000 in coverage but they could not get additional UIM benefits from their own policy because they had waived this coverage. These families could not recover any additional insurance for their serious personal injuries. Do NOT waive valuable UIM coverage.
In fact, you really should consider INCREASING your UIM coverage beyond the minimum amount required by Alabama law. Think again about a serious injury. You immediately incur substantial bills for emergency care. Then, you start incurring more medical bills for long-term care or rehabilitation. Medical costs can be huge. On top of your medical bills, you may not be able to work. So, you suffer huge wage losses. If you have a permanent injury, you may suffer wage losses for the rest of your working life. Your damages in such a case can FAR exceed both the at-fault driver’s minimum coverage and the minimal amount of UIM required by law on your policy. Consider increasing this inexpensive coverage before you face such a difficult situation. If you have already suffered a personal injury and are now facing this possible situation, hire an experienced attorney who will investigate and locate all potential insurance coverage for your damages.
At the Blackwell Law Firm, we help people across Alabama following a serious accident and injury. In many of these cases, insurance coverage is an issue. If you suffered a serious injury, you need to investigate fully the issues and pursue all available resources for your damages.