OK, folks.  Time to talk about something that may not be sexy or on the average person’s radar screen, but if you drive a car in Massachusetts (and over 85% of residents here do,) it’s far more important to everyday life than you think.

I’m talking about your auto insurance coverages – specifically, uninsured motorist coverage – called “UM coverage”, and underinsured motorist coverage – called “UIM coverage.  Why so important?  Because your statistical chances of being injured by another driver, or you injuring someone else, are very high. If you don’t know enough about your auto insurance policy, you could find yourself in real legal and financial trouble.

I’ll make this explanation as easy to understand as I can.  Note:  If you have easy access to your auto insurance policy right now, getting your policy out and looking at your Coverage Selections Page, otherwise called your “DEC Page” (for “Declarations,”) will make what I’m going to talk about a lot easier to understand.  If you don’t have your policy in easy reach, keep reading because you’ll still learn valuable information that can protect you, legally and financially.

First things first:  Every person who has registered a car in Massachusetts must carry basic, minimum levels of certain kinds of auto insurance.  On your Coverage Selections Page, these are called “Compulsory” coverages.  One of the Compulsory coverages is called “Bodily Injury To Others.”  This coverage pays damages to people that a driver might cause bodily injuries to, and the minimum amount of coverage that every driver must carry here, is $20,000 per person/$40,000 per accident.  This means that if another driver hits and injures you or someone in your car, that driver’s “Bodily Injury To Others” coverage in his auto insurance policy will pay maximum damages of $20,000 to you or each passenger in your car that the other driver injures with his car, up to a maximum of $40,000 per accident.

But consider two scenarios that can easily happen:

  • What happens to you (or a passenger in your car that may also be injured) if the other driver who caused the injuries was driving illegally without any insurance? Who is going to pay for your or your passenger’s damages, if this happens?  You’d have to sue the other driver personally for the damages, and as a Massachusetts car accident attorney who has handled these types of cases for more than 25 years, I can assure you, this isn’t an attractive option.  Why?  Because someone driving without insurance probably has little to no personal assets that you could secure damages from.  Such a person is legally called “judgement proof,” and suing them would likley be a waste of effort and time.

Or, far more common –

  • What happens to you (or a passenger in your car) if the other driver who caused the injuries does carry the compulsory minimum Bodily Injury To Others coverage of $20,00 per person/$40,000 per accident, but your damages exceed $20,000, or the total damages for everyone in your car exceed $40,000?

This is where two types of coverages – Uninsured Motorist (“UM”) and Underinsured Motorist (“UIM”) can protect you.  I’ll discuss them in my next post.