In Louisiana, insurance carriers are required to include uninsured motorist (“UM”) coverage on every automobile policy, unless the customer rejects the coverage in writing. At first glance, it may just seem that it’s just another fee that the insurance is kindly allowing you to opt out of, but having UM coverage is imperative, especially in Louisiana.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
Often referred to as uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, Louisiana drivers are statutorily required to obtain a minimum amount of liability coverage to pay for damages that they cause to others. However, because some drivers fail to obtain liability coverage, or only carry the minimum amount of coverage ($15,000.00 per accident), insurance carriers are required to include UM coverage in their policies, although a driver can opt out via written consent. If you are wondering whether or not you opted out of UM coverage, check your insurance policy declarations page. Unlike an action against a negligent driver’s insurance company, a UM claim prescribes two years after an accident.
When Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage Applicable?
Hypothetical: you, an insured driver, are stopped at a red light when all of the sudden another car crashes into the back of your vehicle. After calling the police, which we always advise you do, you realize that the car that hit you is not insured. If you don’t have UM coverage, you may be out of luck.
However, if you do, you can make an UM claim. In order to make a successful UM claim, a driver must produce sufficient facts to the UM insurer that:
- The adverse driver in the accident was uninsured or underinsured at the time of the accident;
- The un/underinsured driver was at fault;
- Such fault gave rise to damages; and
- The Extent of the damages
In order to trigger UM coverage, the insured bears the burden to show that all other insurance has been exhausted, which can be done by an affidavit from the adverse driver or a letter from the Department of Public Safety and Corrections stating that there are no applicable insurance policies available. Typically, a police report showing that the adverse driver was cited for negligence is sufficient to show fault. The last two elements, causation and damages, typically go hand in hand, but it is important to document the accident as best you can using photographs of your vehicle after the accident.
Another key element of UM coverage is that it can apply to hit and run accidents as well. Being involved in a hit and run accident is a nightmare, but unfortunately it happens to drivers, bicyclists, and even pedestrians. It is important to note that even if you are not in your car, your UM coverage travels with you, the driver.
Why do I need Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
According to the Louisiana Department of Insurance, 40% of Louisiana drivers carry minimum policies and 14% of Louisiana drivers do not have car insurance at all. That means that over half of the drivers on the road in Louisiana are most likely underinsured as a minimum policy will almost never provide enough coverage to make a driver whole after he is injured in a serious accident.
The final benefit to having UM insurance is that making a UM cannot lead to a rate increase. In fact, it is illegal to increase rates as a result of a UM claim. A UM claim is a nonfault incident and as per Louisiana Revised Statute 12:1984, cannot be considered for purposes of increasing rates or canceling a policy.