One of the biggest issues facing Michigan drivers today is the large number of uninsured drivers. Due to various factors, the number of uninsured motorist on Michigan roads has increased over time. According to a recent article, over 20% of all drivers are operating their vehicles on Michigan roadways uninsured. That’s 1 out of every 5 drivers.
As a result of the large number of Michigan uninsured drivers, we get a lot of phone calls from people injured in car accidents asking what can be done if they are hit by an uninsured person. The first question we will typically ask them is if they, or a family member, has uninsured motorist (UM) coverage.
Under Michigan law, uninsured motorist coverage is not mandatory. This means you don’t have to purchase it when buying auto insurance. However, given the large number of uninsured drivers, we highly recommend you purchase this very necessary coverage.
How Does Uninsured Motorist Coverage Work?
Uninsured motorist coverage works in the following way. Say you are driving down I-75 or I-96 and you are rear-ended by another vehicle. The accident is not your fault. However, after exchanging information at the accident scene, you come to find out the person who caused the accident was operating an uninsured vehicle.
Following the accident, you are injured and these injuries force you to go to the doctors to treat for injuries you sustained in the car wreck. Because of these injuries, you want to be compensated for your injuries.
In this scenario, you can turn to your own insurance carrier for the payment of pain and suffering compensation through your uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. In effect, your auto insurance company steps into the shoes of the person who caused the accident. Your carrier would then have to pay for your injuries, assuming you meet all the other requirements under the law.
Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage Expensive?
No. In fact, UM coverage is cheap. For example, I recently had to renew my car insurance. I purchased $1,000,000 in UM coverage for $29. The lowest amount of UM coverage you can buy is $20,000/$40,000, which means the most the insurance carrier will pay is $20,000 per person or $40,000 for the entire accident. Most carriers will sell UM coverage in different amounts. These amounts are typically 20/40, 50/100, 100/300 or $500,000 and greater.
If I Don’t Have Uninsured Motorist Coverage, Is There Anything I Can Do?
Yes. First, check to see if anybody in your household carries auto insurance. If they do, ask if they also purchased UM coverage. If they did, you may be able to go through their auto insurance to seek compensation for your injuries if you were hit by an uninsured vehicle.
Insurance policies are contracts and the terms of the contract will control. So make sure you get a clean copy of the insurance policy and read it. If you have any questions, call a lawyer and explain your situation.
Another thing you should do is make sure the vehicle that caused the accident is not insured. Very often, the driver and the owner of a vehicle are two different people. If somebody hits you and causes a car wreck, the driver may not have insurance. However, the vehicle may be insured and if the owner of the vehicle gave permission to the driver to operate your vehicle, you can simply go through the owner’s auto insurance for compensation. In such a situation, a UM claim is not necessary.
What Are Some Typical Rules for UM Coverage?
There are standard rules and exclusions that most auto insurance carriers have for UM coverage.
Physical Contact Requirement – Most policies require that the uninsured vehicle physically hit the vehicle you occupied at the time of the accident. If there was no physical contact, there is no UM claim. Unfortunately, this eliminates a fair number of UM claims.
For example, say you are run off the road by an oncoming vehicle. You avoid hitting that vehicle, but end up falling into an embankment, causing serious personal injury. The at-fault vehicle takes off and no physical contact occurred between the two vehicles. Under most policies, there is no UM claim despite the fact you have serious injuries and the other driver as clearly at-fault.
Business Use – If you are using a vehicle for business purposes, such as delivering newspapers or driving for Uber or another ride sharing service, most insurance policies exclude UM coverage in case of an accident.
Employer Furnished Vehicles – If you are operating another vehicle, and that vehicle is furnished by your employer, many carriers don’t allow you to turn to your own policy for UM coverage if an accident occurs and the employer furnished vehicle is uninsured.
Resident Relatives – Most UM policies only extend UM coverage to the listed insureds and their resident relatives.
These are just a few of the basic rules and exclusions found in many Michigan UM policies. For any questions about UM coverage, or Michigan car accident law in general, please contact the Lee Steinberg Law Firm at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733). We can answer any questions you have, and the phone call and consultation is free.