Merdes Law Office, P.C. helps people who have been hurt by uninsured motorists. Even though automobile insurance is mandatory in Alaska, many folks drive without insurance. When an uninsured motorist hurts somebody in an automobile crash, the victim’s (your) Uninsured / Underinsured Motorist (U/UIM) insurance coverage goes into play. Your U/UIM insurer “stands in the shoes” of the uninsured motorist, paying his/her obligations up to your U/UIM policy limits.
Most auto insurance companies sell different levels of U/UIM insurance. The lowest amount of U/UIM insurance you can legally buy – and remain authorized to drive on Alaskan roads – is known as “50/100.” The “50/100” level of U/UIM insurance means your insurance company will step into a negligent party’s (the uninsured motorist’s) shoes, paying up to “$50,000 per person and up to $100,000 per incident” for bodily injury caused by a motor vehicle crash. The 100/300 level of U/UIM insurance means your insurance company will stand in the uninsured motorists’ shoes for “$100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident” for bodily injury caused by a motor vehicle.
Buy All The U/UIM Insurance You Can Afford: Most folks buy the minimum50/100 level of U/UIM insurance. That is really bad idea. 50/100 barely covers a stay in the hospital. We strongly encourage Alaskans to buy more U/UIM coverage – at least 100/300. Consider buying 250/500 or buying an “umbrella” policy that provides you with $1M/$2M of U/UIM coverage. Higher limits cost more, but are not proportionally more expensive. The first 50/100 of U/UIM is the expensive part. Bumping it up to 250/500 doesn’t add much to your insurance bill. Talk to your insurance agent, ensuring he/she understands your financial situation. Consider how much you and your family are worth. In our opinion, the four best auto insurance companies are: (1) Country Financial; (2) Allstate; (3) State Farm; and (4) Hartford. Shop around.
U/UIM Insurance Is Personal: Unlike some other insurance coverages, U/UIM insurance is personal. U/UIM insurance normally covers you whether you are in your insured auto, or not. It covers you when you are in your own vehicle. It covers you when you are in another person’s vehicle. It covers you when you are walking down the street. The key is whether you were hurt by another motorist.
U/UIM Insurance Is Broad: Most U/UIM insurance policies provide broad coverage, any claims arising from the “use, operation or maintenance” of a motor vehicle. Furthermore, U/UIM insurance normally identifies the “insureds” as: (1) you; (2) your spouse; (3) your passengers; (4) those having a claim because of injury to a passenger; and (5) those related to you by blood or marriage residing in your household. And, Alaskan law defines “household” quite broadly. Many people are actually residents of more than one household. “Households” have spanned more than a hundred miles and embraced numerous structures – with all family members’ insurance covering every other family member. Remember, when tragedy strikes, it is worth investigating whether you are actually a member of more than one household – whether you think so, or not.
U/UIM Insurance Stacks In Alaska: Unlike many other states, Alaska’s mandatory insurance laws allow “stacking” of U/UIM insurance. That means if you were insured by more than one U/UIM insurance policy, they “stack” on top of each other – up to the full extent of your injuries. This can be important when a person is badly hurt or killed. Evaluating whether policies “stack” requires extensive research by a qualified personal injury attorney. Most will do it for free. It’s worth making that call.
U/UIM Insurance Has Conditions: There are many traps related to U/UIM coverage. A big one is that you normally must get your U/UIM carrier’s permission to settle with the other driver in advance. If you fail to get your U/UIM insurer’s permission to settle with the at-fault party, your U/UIM coverage will be void. Every year, I get a call from a father, telling me about his son/daughter being hurt in a bad car wreck. The father normally proudly explains that he took “policy limits” from the other driver “without having to pay a lawyer a third.” He is normally chagrined because “now my own insurance company won’t cover me with U/UIM insurance.” He fell into the trap. Well-meaning fathers routinely try to save a buck on lawyers – fail to get their own U/UIM insurer’s permission before settling with the at-fault driver – and end up with no U/UIM coverage. This is a huge mistake. Avoid it.
BOTTOM LINE: It doesn’t cost anything to get a free claim review by a qualified personal injury attorney. If you or a loved one is hurt in a car wreck – even one caused by an uninsured driver – call an attorney ASAP. There are Statute of Limitations (SOL) deadlines. Find an attorney you like and trust. Call him or her right away.