The next time you’re commuting to work or are carpooling kids to soccer practice, take a look around at the other cars on the roadway. Pick out eight vehicles. According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS), one or more of those eight drivers is driving without insurance. When you consider 50,000 Ohio crashes a year involve uninsured drivers and 75% of those crashes are caused by the uninsured driver, you better make sure you have taken steps to protect yourself and your family.
What is uninsured motorist coverage?
Ohio law requires drivers to maintain proof of financial responsibility in the minimum amount of $25,000 for bodily injury to or death of one individual in any one accident; $50,000 for bodily injury to or death of two or more individuals in any one accident; and $25,000 for injury to the property of others in any one accident. Most people comply with this law by purchasing an insurance policy, but as the statistics mentioned above show, there is a rather large segment of Ohio drivers who are not complying with this law.
So if you are involved in a car crash caused by an Ohio uninsured driver, you could be left holding the bag. Unless that driver is a celebrity, professional athlete, or recently won the lottery (all of these are highly unlikely or they would have had the money to purchase liability auto insurance in the first place!), then you are not going to have any source of recovery to compensate you for your medical bills, lost wages, out of pocket expenses, and pain and suffering.
So what can and should you do? You need to make sure your insurance policy provides uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is there to compensate you for your damages and losses in the event you are involved in a collision that is caused by an uninsured driver.
This is an optional coverage in Ohio, but one you should definitely purchase to protect yourself and your family. Check your declarations page on your auto insurance policy to see if you have it. The declarations page is a document that comes with your policy and lists the types of coverage you have; the amount of coverage; and the amount of premium you pay for the coverage. Do not be tempted to save a few dollars on your premiums by declining uninsured motorist. And in my opinion, if your insurance agent fails to offer it or suggests that you decline this type of coverage, then I suggest you find a new insurance agent immediately.
The tale of two similar clients who had very different outcomes because of the purchase of uninsured motorist coverage.
I recently had two clients who both suffered very serious injuries in a car crash caused by an uninsured driver. “Bill” was on his way to work when the driver of another car fell asleep, crossed left of center, and struck Bill’s truck in a head-on collision. Bill’s truck was demolished and he suffered a fractured hip, shattered pelvis, and other serious injuries. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he needed surgery. He then spent nearly a month at the hospital and a rehabilitation facility before he was able to go home. Bill’s medical expenses exceeded $100,000 and he was unable to work at his job as a construction foreman for over six months. His wife was a stay at home mom who cared for their two young daughters. Like many Ohio families, they were living paycheck to paycheck and depended on Bill’s steady income.
In an effort to save a few dollars each month on his car insurance, Bill made the mistake of not purchasing uninsured motorist coverage that would have given him some protection in this tragedy. Fortunately, Bill had health insurance that paid for most of his medical bills, but he was still responsible for thousands of dollars in medical bills in the form of deductibles, co-pays, and other out of pocket expenses. Since the driver had neither liability auto insurance nor any assets to pursue and Bill did not purchase uninsured motorist coverage, he was on the hook for these unpaid medical bills; was not going to be compensated for his significant lost wages; and did not receive money for the dramatic impact this incident had on him and his family. I had to deliver this bad news to Bill that I was not able to recover anything for him or his family. Bill and his family avoided filing for bankruptcy, but this tragedy took its toll on him and his family financially, physically, and emotionally.
Contrast Bill’s story with what happened to my client “Karen.” She was on her way to visit her mother when an uninsured motorist ran a stop sign and caused a T-bone collision that sent Karen’s car spinning off the side of the road. Karen suffered a herniated disk in her neck, a fractured arm, and other serious injuries. Like Bill, Karen had to undergo surgery to repair the damage, had an extended hospital stay, and missed significant time from her job as an administrative assistant. Fortunately, Karen had purchased uninsured motorist coverage in the amount of $250,000. Therefore, I was able to obtain this money for Karen which paid for her medical bills, reimbursed her for her lost wages, and compensated her for the disruption this event caused in her life.
So what is the take away from this article? Check the declarations page of your auto insurance policy to make sure you have uninsured motorist coverage. With 1 out of every 8 Ohio drivers on the road not having liability auto insurance, you are playing “Russian Roulette” with your physical, emotional, and financial future if you do not have uninsured motorist coverage. I encourage everyone who asks me to purchase at least $250,000 or more of both liability and uninsured motorist coverage. I also suggest you ask your agent about and consider purchasing an umbrella or excess insurance policy of $1 million or more to further protect yourself. An umbrella insurance policy is insurance that provides additional coverage above and beyond the underlying auto insurance policy. However, make sure you specifically request an umbrella that provides additional insurance coverage for both liability and uninsured motorist coverage because some insurance companies only issue umbrella policies for liability insurance coverage and not uninsured motorist coverage.