Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Missouri-Often Forgotten in Settlement Discussions
Missouri law requires every driver on our roads to maintain a minimum amount of motor vehicle liability insurance coverage.
That insurance covers a driver’s legal liability when injuries or property damage happen as a result of their actions.
Unfortunately, the minimum coverage required of most drivers is small: $25,000.00 per person for bodily injury; $50,000.00 per accident; and $10,000.00 for property damage. The law also requires drivers to maintain a minimum amount of uninsured motorist coverage ($25,000 for bodily injury per person and $50,000 for bodily injury per accident).
Those limits mean that any one person in accident may receive up to $25,000.00 in compensation for injuries they sustain and that the most an insurance company will pay for ALL of the injuries for its driver’s negligence in an accident is $50,000.00.
Where an ambulance ride of a few miles can result in a $1,000.00 bill and a simple emergency room visit with basic diagnostic testing is significantly more, $25,000.00 does not come close to compensating a person suffering significant injuries in an accident. These limits have were enacted over thirty years ago when everything, especially medical treatment, was cheaper.
Now imagine that the driver causing the accident and injuries had no insurance…
Despite the requirement that motorists maintain these minimal amounts of coverage, a 2015 study revealed that 14% of Missouri drivers operate vehicles on our highways with NO liability insurance. Illinois is only slightly better at 13.7%.
In these cases (or in the case of a hit and run accident where the victim is not able to obtain the other driver’s insurance information) the injured driver (or their passengers) looks to the uninsured motorist coverage (known as “UM coverage”) of their own policy for compensation.
So what about the case where somebody does the “right” thing (i.e. he or she follows the law) and has the bare minimum of coverage (or even more than the bare minimum of coverage) and the injuries and damages suffered by the other motorist, passenger or pedestrian exceed the limits of that coverage? Again, the person injured must (in many cases) look to his or her insurance company in an attempt to gather additional funds for compensation for injuries. That requires the injured person to have underinsured motorist coverage (known as “UIM coverage”) . In Missouri, UIM coverage is not mandatory.
These can be complicated and, sometimes, misunderstood legal concepts and are often more elaborate than the simple examples provided above.
Before settling a case (or deciding not to pursue a claim) make sure to investigate the possibility of both UM and UIM coverage and obtain legal advice on the application of both to your claims.