As most people are aware, after you purchase auto insurance, your adjuster sends you a copy of the insurance policy along with what is called a declaration page. If you review your declaration page, you will see all of the different insurance coverages you purchased. You will see that there is a section called liability or bodily injuries that identifies the amount of coverage you purchased to protect anyone you might hit and injure while driving your vehicle. There is also section on your declaration page entitled Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection “UM or UIM”. UM/UIM protects you in the event you are hit by somebody who either has no auto insurance or insufficient insurance to cover the injuries you sustain. The Colorado Legislature has expressed the intention that when in doubt, the amount of liability coverage you have should be at the same level as your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Colorado law requires a proper disclosure from the insurance company with special language that must properly advise you in the event you do not want to have equal limits for these coverages.
After an automobile accident with injuries, we review these declaration pages and most of the time, we find that the level of coverage that people carry for bodily injury is the same as the level of coverage that they have for UM/UIM. Nevertheless, sometimes we are surprised to see coverage limits for bodily injury at a very high level and no coverage for UM/UIM. Other times, we see levels of coverage of UM/UIM at a much lower amount than the level of coverage protecting other people on the roadway. Simply stated, you might be the most generous person on earth, but why would you want to purchase insurance to cover other people and not cover yourself equally? Secondly, having equally high UM/UIM limits is usually quite cheap. By way of example, having uninsured motorist coverage for $100,000 is often times as little as $60 or $70 every six months. However, if you are hit and injured by somebody who has little or no insurance and you have decided not to carry UM/UIM coverage, you are truly playing Russian roulette with your future. An average hospital visit can be anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000. The state minimum for liability insurance coverage for a person to lawfully drive in Colorado is $25,000 worth of coverage. If you are hit by somebody who has minimum coverage, or no insurance, the most you may ever be able to recover under your own UM/UIM coverage might be just enough to pay your initial hospital bill without any regard to any of the other injuries or losses you might suffer including wage loss, future medical care, or permanent injuries or impairment.
Nonetheless, the law in Colorado is crystal clear that when insurance companies sell you lower UM/UIM coverage, or worse, no UM/UIM insurance coverage at all, they need to provide you with proper advisement and documentation. Oftentimes, insurance companies do not properly fulfill these statutory obligations under Colorado law with regard to UM/UIM coverage. In those situations, Colorado law calls for reformation of the insurance policy. In other words, if you have one of those unusual declaration pages that has different levels of bodily injury coverage than uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and it is determined that the insurance company did not provide the proper signed disclosure or give the appropriate notice in selling that particular a-typical level of coverage, the policy, by operation of law can be reformed to bring the uninsured motorist limits up to the bodily injury limits even if the policyholder never paid a premium for higher limits of underinsured motorist coverage.
Colorado views these notices and disclosures as mandatory and expects insurance companies to follow the law and to do their jobs. However, instead of having to seek to reform your insurance policy after a motor vehicle injury, the simplest thing to do is to look at your declaration page now to ensure that you have UM/UIM coverage and that your coverage is equal to the level of bodily injury coverage you carry. If you do not, you should call your insurance agent and bump up your UM/UIM coverage to at least the same level of your bodily injury coverage. Making such a call is a great use of your time and could potentially prove essential if you are seriously injured in a motor vehicle collision.
At Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn, we want you to be as informed as possible when purchasing automobile insurance so you can adequately protect you and your family. I hope that reading this article has given you the information you need to make an informed decision about the amount of UM/UIM coverage you should carry on your policy. Do not rely on luck by assuming that you will not be injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. If you do not carry this coverage, you truly are playing Russian roulette with your future. Pick up the phone today and add UM/UIM coverage to your policy, or if you already carry it, it might be a good idea to call your auto insurance provider to increase your level of coverage. Lastly, if you have been injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver, please call and speak with one of our Denver personal injury attorneys today.