Under New York law it is mandatory that every auto insurance policy contain Supplemental Uninsured Motorist coverage for the minimum limits of $25,000/$50,000. In addition, there is an optional Supplemental Underinsured Motorist coverage which can be purchased to supplement the amount of coverage available in a case you bring against a negligent party who causes you a serious injury in an auto accident. These coverages are collectively referred to as SUM coverage.
SUM coverage is meant to protect you, as the insured, under your own insurance policy in the event of injury from an auto accident. The minimum amount of coverage is mandatory, but for a nominal amount this can be increased to protect you from other drivers who may cause you to be injured in an accident. However, the trick to SUM coverage is that you can never insure yourself for more than you insure other people who you may injure.
For example, if you had a minimum policy of $25,000/$50,000, and were the victim of a hit and run accident you can make a SUM claim against your insurance company. In this example the negligent party is unknown since he or she fled the scene of the accident. You have the right to file an SUM claim under your own policy seeking to recover up to $25,000 if you have a qualifying serious injury. In the event you had opted to increase this coverage, then you can make a claim up to that amount. However, this amount is once again limited to the amount of coverage you have to protect you from claims. So, if you had a single limit liability policy of $300,000, then you can have $300,000 of SUM coverage.
Another example, if your auto was struck while going through a green light by an auto who ran a red light and you were injured. The negligent driver who ran the red light only has a minimum policy of insurance of $25,000/$50,000. In this example you can only recover insurance money which totals $25,000 for your damages if you have a serious injury. If you had minimum SUM coverage then it would not apply to this example, but if you bought the additional SUM coverage of $300,000 then an application for benefits can be made. However, before you can file an SUM claim in this example you will need to recover the full amount of insurance from the negligent driver. You will then be entitled to make an SUM claim for the difference, which is $275,000, against your own insurance company.
SUM coverage is a pro-consumer coverage that allows you to protect yourself and your family. A bodily injury liability policy only protects other people who may be involved in a motor vehicle accident that your caused or contributed to happening. High coverage limits will benefit a stranger, but not provide any protection to you or your family. Whereas SUM coverage provides you with a level of financial protection that will potentially be available to cover your pain, suffering loss of enjoyment of life and economic damages caused by someone else.
In order to make an SUM claim there are several steps which must be taken which are time-sensitive and require the compliance with the terms of the insurance contract. Our attorneys at LoTempio & Brown, P.C. have years of experience helping auto accident victims get the recoveries they deserve. If you have any questions, or would like more details on SUM coverage, please do not hesitate to contact me.