“I don’t have insurance, but it wasn’t my fault!” We hear this way too often from people who have major injuries following an automobile collision.
The car you are driving is suddenly t-boned by another vehicle that ran a red light and you suffer a severely broken leg. You have no health or automobile insurance. You weren’t at fault so you’re not worried. You know the other person’s insurance will pay for your medical treatment. WHOA, slow down. What if the guy who ran the red light doesn’t have any car insurance or has only minimum coverage, say $25,000, which is legal in many states? In many states, including New Hampshire, as short-sighted as it may sound, drivers are not required to have car insurance! In other states, even if insurance is required, the minimum amount of coverage can be as low as $15,000.
Medical care costs can add up quickly. According to www.nhhealthcost.nh.gov, in New Hampshire the estimated cost for your ambulance ride will be between $420 and $2,143. When you get to the emergency room, that estimated cost is another $245 to$1,838. If you need an x-ray, add $374 to $959, a CT scan add $2,059 to $7,561; an MRI from $1,720 to $5,052. Then there are additional costs: you may need to be admitted to the hospital, require surgery, need a specialist for your condition, need physical or occupational therapy, or require a myriad of other treatments and appointments: serious, serious, money, and enough to bankrupt someone who has inadequate or no insurance. Who will pay your hospital bill? You are responsible for your medical care costs, not the guy who t-boned you. And what if you can’t work? And what is there were other people in your car, maybe family members, who were injured?
In most states, including New Hampshire and Vermont, if you purchase automobile insurance you can or must also receive what is called “uninsured or underinsured” motorist coverage (often called UIM coverage). What is UIM coverage and what does it do? If someone hits you who is at fault and has no automobile liability insurance or minimum automobile liability insurance (like the guy you ran the red light and t-boned you) or was a hit and run driver, or even if you are just walking on the sidewalk and some car jumps the curb and hits you, your UIM coverage will provide you with coverage for your injuries, but, only up to the limit of your policy.
In our thirty years of representing people who have been struck by automobiles (including children, horseback riders, and pedestrians as well as drivers) throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, we have seen too many cases in which the hitter has inadequate or no insurance. The only way you can protect against this very substantial risk is to buy an automobile insurance policy with UIM limits of at least $100,000, and preferably more. Getting UIM insurance limits of $100,000 or $250,000 costs surprisingly little more than getting UIM limits of $25,000 or $50,000: the expensive part of automobile insurance is collision coverage (insurance that repairs your car, not you). Everyone likes to save money, but having adequate UIM coverage is your only protection against uninsured or underinsured drivers who do not consider other peoples’ welfare when they buy (or don’t buy) insurance. UIM insurance coverage is your safety net. For more information, the State of New Hampshire has an excellent publication, Your Guide to Understanding Auto Insurance in the Granite State. To get it click on: https://www.nh.gov/insurance/consumers/documents/nh_auto_guide.pdf.