Protecting Yourself From The Negligent Driver With Insufficient Liability Insurance
The Missouri Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Laws are designed to ensure all vehicles operated on public roads carry Liability insurance. §303.030, RSMo. (and other statutes) provide that each vehicle is required to carry not less than $25,000 in Liability coverage limits per person per accident. Liability insurance is intended to pay at least a portion of any damages you might cause to someone else through inadvertence.
The details of Liability coverage are a separate subject that is addressed in a different article in this series on automobile insurance coverages.
Further, §379.203, RSMo. statutorily protects against the situation where the other driver has no insurance at all, and requires that your own automobile policy also carry an Uninsured Motorist coverage of at least $25,000 -- and you may carry more Uninsured Motorist Coverage if you choose. In essence, Uninsured Motorist coverage amounts to you purchasing coverage for the other driver who is at fault -- but who failed to comply with the law and buy Liability insurance.
The details of Uninsured Motorist coverage are a separate subject that is addressed in a different article on this series on automobile insurance coverages.
But what happens if you are involved in a motor vehicle collision, and the other driver is at fault, but carries only $25,000 in liability insurance coverage -- yet your damages greatly exceed $25,000? What happens if a jury awards you $250,000 in damages, yet the other driver has no assets other than a minimum $25,000 insurance policy? Unless you can find a way to collect the amount of the judgment in excess of the policy limits, the Judgment you receive from a jury may be worthless.
That’s where Underinsured Motorist coverage comes in. In addition to Liability coverage and Uninsured Motorist coverage, your insurance carrier will also sell you Underinsured Motorist coverage for an at-fault driver who does carry Liability coverages, but not carry enough Liability coverage to pay your damages. In essence, Underinsured Motorist coverage amounts to you purchasing additional or excess coverage for the other driver who is at fault -- enough to pay your damages.
Underinsured Motorist coverage is comparatively inexpensive compared to other coverages, and insurance agents do not always encourage customers to purchase it.
Underinsured Motorist coverage is a comparatively newer development that is not fully understood, and one which is used less than Liability or Uninsured Motorist coverage.
That said, since Liability coverage minimums have remained at $25,000 for decades, while medical costs have skyrocketed, cases in which medical bills exceed the other at-fault driver’s Liability insurance are becoming increasingly more common -- making Underinsured Motorist coverage increasingly more important.
In addition to reviewing all your insurance coverages with your insurance agent, you should review your insurance coverages with an experienced personal injury & insurance attorney to make sure you are properly protected in the event you are in a collision with an at-fault driver who does not carry enough Liability coverage to pay your damages.
Moreover, Underinsured Motorist coverages do not work exactly like Liability or Uninsured Motorist coverages. Policies are all written differently by each insurance carrier, and the details about what to do, and not do, in the event of a collision vary between policies and carriers. You should have an experienced personal injury & insurance attorney review your Underinsured Motorist policy provisions in advance, and advise you on how to proceed in the event you are in a collision that triggers Underinsured Motorist without putting your coverage at risk inadvertently.
By: Joseph W. Rigler
DID YOU KNOW? is presented by Williams, Robinson, Rigler & Buschjost, PC as a public information service only. None of the information contained herein is intended to be taken as legal advice. Each matter depends on unique facts which attorneys must consider in forming an opinion, and may depend on laws unique to a particular jurisdiction. No two cases are the same. If you want to know more about this subject, contact Williams, Robinson, Rigler & Buschjost, PC, or the attorney of your choice, and seek a formal opinion about your particular case.
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