Car insurance is necessary because car accidents happen every day. It is the primary reason motorists have car insurance. But what happens when the driver at-fault is underinsured? The reality is that some accidents are more severe than others, which can result in more serious injuries. Unfortunately, even though Maine law requires motor vehicle operators to carry liability insurance and have uninsured motorists and medical payments coverage, drivers are only required to have a minimum level.
Maine’s Minimum Car Insurance Requirements
No vehicle can be registered in Maine without proof of a minimum amount of car insurance. Financial responsibility law in Maine:
- sets a minimum of $50,000 liability in the event of injury or death to any one person,
- $100,000 liability for one accident resulting in the same,
- only $25,000 liability for property damage.
This is shown on insurance policies as $50/100/25. However, a combined bodily injury and property damage liability single limit of $125,000 is also acceptable. The minimum uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage is $50/100 or a combined single limit of $100,000. Only a minimum of $2,000 is required for medical payments coverage.
Though these minimum amounts are considered high, they are the country’s highest minimums; they could very well be insufficient when a serious accident occurs.
If you drive a new car or recent late-model car, the $25,000 minimum will not replace it. If anyone is seriously injured, medical costs can sometimes surpass $50,000 in a single day.
In Maine, Uninsured and Underinsured motorists, referred to as UM, is the liability coverage rolled into every car insurance policy. UM specifically applies when a person is injured by an at-fault driver who has no auto liability insurance at all. It provides coverage when an at-fault driver cannot be identified:
- a stolen vehicle
- if a car is driven without permission
- a hit-and-run driver that cannot be found
- if the insurance company has canceled a driver’s policy because he or she has failed to pay the premiums on time
- UM also applies in those instances when liability insurance is too low—when the at-fault driver is underinsured.
UM is designed to cover you and your family members for injuries sustained in an accident while riding in another car or even when out walking or biking. Obviously, UM is not intended to cover the at-fault driver’s injuries. Nor does it cover damage to your vehicle or other property. The purpose of UM is to provide you with the same personal injury recovery that would have been available if the at-fault driver had insurance to the same extent as you.
What Happens if Insurance Coverage is Not Enough?
Insufficient UM coverage in Maine comes into play, in general, when policyholders want to lower their premiums. Though UM coverage must equal its liability coverage limit, a policyholder can specifically elect a lower limit. To do so, insurance companies must issue a rejection form to the policyholder to sign before the policy becomes effective. UM coverage cannot be lower than the minimum amount required by law, i.e., $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident.
Merely purchasing a minimum amount of UM required by law will not usually be sufficient to adequately compensate anyone seriously hurt in an accident and, as mentioned, damages to the newer car. If you are a victim to a UM driver, one way to make sure there is enough coverage to replace your vehicle through your collision coverage, but you must carry adequate collision insurance.
If you are hurt by an at-fault driver who does not have enough insurance coverage to pay for the injuries and damages he or she has caused, the UM part of your policy means that your insurance carrier will pay the difference. In doing so, your insurance company cannot increase your premiums if a claim is made for an accident that wasn’t your fault.
How Can I File an Uninsured Motorist Claim?
If legal action needs to be taken against the negligent driver, consult with one of the trusted car accident lawyers in Maine at Hardy, Wolf & Downing. With a well-earned reputation of integrity and professionalism, the highly-credentialed lawyers at Hardy, Wolf & Downing are there to help you with resolving a UM issue or filing a UM claim if needed.