Every time a potential client calls my office, I speak to them for about one half hour to learn as much as I can about the person and their injury claim. If they were involved in a motor vehicle accident, one of the things I ask about is their auto insurance policy. I specifically want to know about their SUM coverage (Supplemental Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage) as well as the amount of their First Party Benefits (PIP benefits). The reason I ask about the insurance is that people are permitted to drive privately owned vehicles in New York if they have a minimum of liability coverage in the amount of $25,000 for any one claim and $50,000 for all claims from a single accident. In New York State, you cannot commence a lawsuit and obtain a jury trial seeking damages for personal injuries resulting from a motor vehicle accident unless you have suffered a “serious injury.” The fundamental problem is that, in my experience, there are no serious injuries that are worth less than $25,000. In other words, New York requires that you have a serious injury to obtain a jury trial, but doesn’t require that motorists maintain sufficient liability coverage in the event they cause a car accident with resulting injuries. So, if you have “full coverage”, does that mean you have enough coverage? Absolutely not. Similarly, New York State requires every insured car to have First Party No-Fault benefits (PIP benefits) that will pay 80% of your monthly wage loss up to $2,000 per month. So, if you have “full coverage”, is $2,000 per month for lost wages/income enough coverage. Absolutely not. In addition, New York State requires a minimum of $25,000/$50,000 in SUM coverage. This protects you if another motorist negligently causes you to be injured in a car accident and they don’t have required coverage or they have minimal liability coverage. Is SUM coverage of only $25,000/$50,000 adequate coverage? Absolutely not. If you suffer a serious injury and the negligent motorist only has a minimal liability coverage, SUM coverage permits you to seek additional damages from your only insurance company (up to the amount of your SUM coverage, minus the amount of the negligent driver’s liability policy limits). But, if you only have $25,000/$50,000 SUM coverage, it can’t possibly protect you in the event you have suffered a “serious injury.”
So, when a prospective client tells me they have “full coverage”, alarms go off in my head. “Full coverage” is not the same thing as adequate coverage. You can comply with the law and be grossly underinsured. Speak to your insurance broker to get a quote for more coverage.