Uninsured at-fault drivers or drivers with insufficient insurance coverage can make a terrible situation worse.
Personal injury lawsuits most often arise when a driver is careless and/or reckless and hurts someone else. Whether the injured person is a passenger or driver in another vehicle, a motorcycle rider, pedestrian, bike rider or anyone else hurt by someone else's failure to follow the rules of the road, uninsured and under insured motorist ("UIM") coverage can be a lifeline. When someone is injured by a driver who has insufficient insurance coverage to compensate those injured by their driving, their under insured motorist coverage may be used to cover the deficit, to the extent of the amount of the under insured motorist coverage.
Coverage that protects you from uninsured or under insured drivers is not required under North Carolina law. In fact, the only insurance required in North Carolina is a minimum of $30,000 liability coverage. Many drivers can't afford to have more coverage, or they don't need more because they do not have assets to protect. The insurance company's liability if their insured driver causes a car wreck and injure people or damage property is typically limited to the amount of the policy limits. As we all know, the expenses associated with serious injuries causing even brief hospitalization very quickly exceed $30,000.00.
In North Carolina, a driver who does not wish to have UIM coverage must opt out. This means that unless they have specifically declined to have UIM coverage, they should have it. It is important to note a few things about UIM:
A person may be covered by their UIM policy even if they were not in a car when they were hurt. UIM coverage applies to pedestrians hurt by cars.
UIM coverage can be stacked. This means that an injured person's coverage can be combined, potentially, with the coverage offered by other insurance policies of household members.
The amount of UIM coverage you have begins after exhaustion of the liable driver's insurance. Thus, if the driver who is responsible for the wreck has $30,000 coverage, the total amount of damages is $70,000, and the injured driver's policies (combined, if applicable, with those of other household members) is $60,000, the amount of available extra coverage under UIM policies will be $30,000.