Why Should a Driver in Oklahoma Consider Purchasing UM or UIM Insurance Coverage?
Most people rely on insurance to help pay for the costs of a car accident. However, according to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), approximately 13% of all U.S. motorists — roughly one in eight drivers — were uninsured as of 2012. The number of uninsured drivers in Oklahoma was twice as high — closer to 26%, or about one in four motorists — making Oklahoma the number one state for uninsured drivers in the country. In light of these figures, one could argue that Oklahomans, more than residents of any other state, would be wise to consider purchasing UM or UIM insurance. But what are the benefits? What protection do these types of coverage offer in the event that you’re ever involved in an Oklahoma car accident?
What is Uninsured Motorist/Underinsured Motorist Insurance?
UM stands for Uninsured Motorist insurance, while UIM stands for Underinsured Motorist insurance. As these names suggest, the purpose of UM/UIM coverage is to provide financial protection in the event you are ever injured in an accident where the driver at fault is not adequately insured, or is not insured at all. The uninsured or underinsured motorist will not be able to pay for your medical bills and other expenses out-of-pocket, which is precisely where your UM/UIM insurance will be useful.
UM/UIM coverage in Oklahoma provides protection if you, one of your family members, or any of your passengers are ever injured in an automotive accident caused by:
- An uninsured driver.
- An underinsured driver, meaning a driver who does carry auto insurance, but whose policy limits are exceeded by the costs of the injury victim’s medical expenses.
- A driver who commits “hit and run,” a serious criminal offense that involves leaving the scene of an injury accident before exchanging information and notifying the proper authorities. (As we wrote about in our article on what to do after a car accident in Oklahoma, all drivers involved in injury accidents are legally required to remain at the crash site until they have fulfilled duties like notifying law enforcement and calling for medical assistance. Failure to do this is hit and run.)
This is established by 36 O.S. § 3636, which provides that UM/UIM coverage applies to covered drivers “who are legally entitled to recover damages from owners or operators of uninsured motor vehicles and hit-and-run motor vehicles because of bodily injury, sickness or disease, including death resulting therefrom.”
Does UM/UIM Coverage Include Vehicle Damage From a Car Accident?
UM/UIM coverage applies only to physical injury, and does not cover damage to your vehicle.
However, if your car is damaged in an accident caused by an uninsured motorist, resulting repair costs should be covered by your collision coverage, an optional coverage which is often combined with comprehensive coverage to provide protection against damage caused by theft, vandalism, and accidents. If you only carry liability insurance, and do not have collision coverage, your vehicle repair costs will unfortunately not be covered. (Keep in mind that it is mandatory in the state of Oklahoma to carry liability insurance, with noncompliance subject to penalties. You can read more about this topic in our article on the minimum auto insurance requirements in Oklahoma.)
State law requires all Oklahoma auto insurers to offer UM/UIM coverage. Whether a driver decides to purchase the coverage is a different story. While selecting optional UM/UIM coverage is ultimately a personal decision, the large number of uninsured drivers in the state of Oklahoma is a compelling reason to at least think about additional protection. As the UM/UIM coverage notice states, “You should seriously consider buying this coverage in the same amount as your liability insurance coverage limit.” At minimum, you should carry $25,000 in coverage for bodily injury (per person), $50,000 in coverage for bodily injury (per accident), and $25,000 in coverage for property damage.
If you do decide not to purchase UM/UIM coverage — or, if you purchase UM/UIM coverage with limits that are lower than the limits on your liability coverage — you will be required to sign a written waiver.
If you or one of your loved ones was hurt in a car accident in the Oklahoma City area, you should speak to an experienced attorney about getting compensated for your injuries. Call the Oklahoma City car accident injury lawyers of Hasbrook & Hasbrook at (405) 698-3040 right away to set up a free consultation. Our legal team brings more than 75 years of combined experienced to every claim we handle.