Mitchell | March 21, 2023 | Car Accidents
If you are injured by a negligent driver in Alabama, there’s a 1 in 5 chance that the driver will not have liability insurance to cover the injuries to you and your passengers. According to the Insurance Research Council, 19.5% of Alabama drivers had no insurance in 2019 – one of the highest rates in the country. This is the case even though Alabama law requires drivers to have liability insurance in order to drive. Large numbers of people apparently ignore that law and as a result, there are many victims injured by uninsured drivers who have almost no means of recovering from that driver for their injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering. That’s where uninsured motorist coverage comes into play and that’s why ALL Alabama drivers should give serious consideration to carrying that coverage on their policies.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Uninsured Motorist Coverage (which includes “underinsured” motorist coverage) is coverage under your policy that protects you and your passengers should you be injured by a negligent driver who either (a) has NO liability insurance coverage (uninsured) or (b) whose liability insurance limits are not sufficient to cover your injuries (underinsured). In such cases, your policy acts as the other driver’s insurance and covers that driver’s liability so as to compensate you and your passengers for your injuries.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage Is Required In Alabama (Sort of)
Alabama law requires that ALL auto policies include uninsured/underinsured coverage, BUT it also allows policy holders to opt-out of the coverage. So, while it is required, many people choose to save a few bucks and opt out – a choice that many, many victims have come to regret.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage Is Cheap to Get
The minimum available uninsured motorist coverage ($25,000 limit) can be obtained in Alabama for around $5-$6 per month through most insurance companies. Just like other types of auto coverage, you can choose higher limits for additional premium amounts. The additional protection and peace of mind afforded by having uninsured motorist coverage is well worth this small investment.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage Includes Hit And Run Accidents
Another advantage of uninsured motorist coverage is that it also covers you if you are injured by a hit and run driver who disappears and is never found. This usually occurs because the other driver has no insurance, or is driving intoxicated, or possesses drugs, or is a wanted criminal. There are over 1,000 hit and run accidents in Alabama each year which result in either injury or death.
Underinsured Motorist Accidents Are Also Quite Frequent
Although almost 20% of Alabama drivers are uninsured, it is almost certain that a larger percentage end up being underinsured for the injuries they’ve caused in an accident. Many people who have liability insurance choose the lowest possible limits because that’s what gives the cheapest rates. In Alabama, the lowest liability limit allowed is $25,000 per injured person. Even a person with moderate injuries can quickly exceed $25,000 in damages for medical bills, lost wages, pain/suffering, etc. In such a case, underinsured coverage will act to supplement the minimum insurance that a negligent driver might have. As a result, it’s more likely that you can be fully compensated for your injuries if you have underinsured coverage in such a situation.
You Can Stack Your Policies And Get Even More Coverage
Alabama law allows a person to “stack” their insurance policies and thereby increase the amount of uninsured/underinsured coverage that’s available to you. For example, if you have 3 vehicles on your policy and each carries uninsured or underinsured coverage of $25,000, you can add the 3 coverages together and get $75,000 in uninsured coverage for your accident. Alabama limits stacking to 3 coverages under the same policy, however it does not limit the number of policies that you can stack. Thus, if you have one policy with 3 vehicles and another policy with 2 vehicles, you can stack the uninsured coverage of all 5 vehicles and have a total of $125,000 available.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage Does Not Cover Property Damage
Alabama only requires that insurance companies offer uninsured coverage for personal injuries or death. This does not cover property damage, such as damage to your vehicle. Normally if the other driver has no insurance or insurance insufficient to cover your vehicle damage, you will have to rely on your collision coverage to get your car repaired (assuming that you have collision coverage). That being said, some insurance companies will also offer UIMPD – uninsured motorist property damage – policies for an additional premium. That type of coverage is rare.
Suing The Negligent Driver
Even if you don’t have uninsured/underinsured coverage, you always have the right to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver for your injuries and damages. The problem is that in 99.9% of the cases, that driver has little or no assets from which you could collect any judgment you obtain, so it ends up costing more to pursue the case than you ever get out of it. It would be highly unusual for a person with significant assets and property to be driving around uninsured, so if they don’t have insurance, they probably don’t have substantial assets from which you could collect a judgment. That’s another reason why uninsured/underinsured motorist cover is essential.
Consulting With A Lawyer
As an Alabama driver, if you’re able to afford the small additional premium for uninsured motorist protection, it is almost a no-brainer that you should add it to your policy. It’s one of those things that “you don’t need until you need it, but when you need it, you really need it”. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage has saved many people from the risk of financial distress and hardship due to lost wages and high medical bills.
Even if you have uninsured motorist coverage, it is almost always advisable that you consult a competent attorney to help you with your uninsured/underinsured motorist claim. The issues that a lawyer is best suited to navigate for you include:
- obtaining the necessary proof that the other driver was uninsured or underinsured;
- determining how, when, and to what extent you can stack policies.
- making sure that the proper insurance notices/approvals are made to protect your coverage (if you settle with one insurance company without proper consent, you might lose some or all of your coverage);
- negotiation of hospital liens and medical insurance reimbursement claims against your settlement; and of course –
- calculating the damages recoverable under the claim.
If at any time you are uncertain as to how to submit or evaluate your uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, you should seek legal advice. Lawyers at Lattof & Lattof have been assisting people injured by uninsured/underinsured motorists for over 70 years. We are delighted to discuss your rights with you at any time free of charge – even if you are not ready to hire a lawyer. We often sit down with vehicle accident victims shortly after their accidents and provide them with information and guidance as to what their rights are and what to expect and advise them as to when they need to hire a lawyer.
Feel free to contact us any time for a free consultation by calling (251)432-6691 or by visiting our offices at 156 Saint Anthony St., Mobile, Alabama 36603. We look forward to meeting you and doing our best to help you!