Should I get Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage?

Case study of a cyclist with SUM coverage seriously injured in a crash with a taxi

cyclist struck by underinsured taxi Too often people come to our office seeking help for serious injuries they sustained in an auto accident, but there is either no insurance or insufficient insurance to fully compensate them for their injuries. In 2022, 14.0 percent of motorists in the United States, or about one in seven drivers, were uninsured, according to a 2023 study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC). What this means in practical terms is if you are involved in an auto accident with an uninsured driver you may have no recourse to obtain compensation for your injuries, no matter how severe.

Fortunately, one sure way to protect yourself and your family from uninsured motorists is to purchase a type of auto insurance known as Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage. SUM coverage provides added protection to you and your family from bodily injury resulting from motor vehicle accidents. Unlike liability coverage which protects your assets if you are sued by a third party for negligence, SUM coverage provides coverage for your injuries and your passengers’ injuries if you're hit by a driver who does not have auto insurance (uninsured) or who has insufficient coverage (underinsured) to fully compensate you for your injuries.

Case study: why you need a lawyer to obtain the money and protection that you paid for and deserve if you were involved in an accident with an uninsured driver

mangled bike after a collision with underinsured vehicle When financially responsible people purchase SUM coverage and pay their premiums, they do so with the expectation that their own insurance company will compensate them in the event of a serious injury caused by an uninsured or underinsured vehicle. Too often, insurance companies are only too happy to collect the premiums for SUM coverage, but when it comes to paying out on the claim, certain dishonorable insurance companies often refuse to pay and turn what should be a seamless experience into a nightmare.

Recently, we had such a case. Our client, a 63-year-old physician, took out a primary SUM policy with Preferred Mutual Insurance Company for $500,000, and an excess SUM policy with USLI for $1,000,000. He wisely purchased this coverage to protect himself and his family from uninsured/underinsured motorists. He timely paid his premiums fully expecting to be compensated in the event he was injured.

smashed windshield of the underinsured car On the day in question, April 15, 2015, a taxi driver blew through a double stop sign in Greenwich Village and struck our client while he rode his bicycle on the street. The force of the impact was so severe that he was catapulted into the cab and his head smashed into the windshield causing it to crack and spider. At the scene, he immediately felt numbness and tingling down into his fingers and was diagnosed with two herniated discs and underwent a two-level fusion surgery.

His SUM carriers were put on notice of a potential claim and an action was started in Court against the taxi which had a limited insurance policy of $100,000. Soon after litigation commenced the taxi’s insurance carrier tendered the $100,000 to settle the claim. The money was accepted, and a claim was brought against the SUM carriers to collect the additional insurance our client wisely purchased to protect himself.

The SUM insurance carriers not only refused to make good on their promise to pay but engaged in years of additional litigation attempting to deprive our client, their own insured, of receiving fair compensation. Not one dollar was offered to settle the SUM claims, so we went to arbitration to secure full compensation for our client.

We presented a strong case making clear that the cab driver was fully at fault for the crash and that the injuries he sustained were severe and permanent. The insurance company hired an accident reconstructionist who testified at the arbitration that our client was fully at fault for the crash. Not only did we challenge the experts hired by the insurance company, but based on our cross-examination we discredited the reconstructionist who lost all credibility with the Arbitrator.

In a recent decision, the Arbitrator awarded the full SUM policy limits to our client. Ben Rubinowitz, the Managing Partner of the firm who tried the case said: “It is so unfortunate that dishonest insurance companies fail to live up to their obligations to pay on a claim. Although these insurance companies unnecessarily delayed justice by for many years, justice was not denied. Hopefully, these carriers will recognize that their unethical and reprehensible conduct will not be tolerated in the future.”

Read the SUM Arbitration Decision

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