New York State mandates that every policy of liability insurance issued to a motor vehicle provide Supplementary Uninsured Motorists (SUM) coverage. This coverage protects policyholders and residents of their household when a negligent party is either uninsured or has a smaller amount of liability coverage than the amount of SUM coverage.
One of the advantages of SUM coverage is that it affords coverage to the policyholder and his or her household members even if the insured vehicle is not involved in the motor vehicle accident. Unfortunately, a prime example of this kind of situation where SUM coverage comes into play occurred yesterday evening when four Herricks High School students, pedestrians in a crosswalk with the right of way, were struck by a car that ran a red light.
At the time, the girls were on their way home from Long Island’s Roosevelt Field Mall. The car had Massachusetts license plates and, according to police, was being driven by an unlicensed and undocumented man. Fortuitously, a passerby witnessed the accident and was able to stop the driver, who was attempting to flee the scene with two of the girls on the hood of his car.
In view of the circumstances, it is doubtful that the vehicle had insurance, and even if it did, the amount of insurance coverage would be minimal. Thus any recovery that the students might have for their pain and suffering will likely be limited to the amount of SUM coverage that their parents have on the vehicles they own.
The SUM coverage of the parent’s policy applies even though their vehicles were not involved in the accident. New York law requires that SUM coverage is afforded in the minimum amount of $25,000.00 per person injured in an accident or an aggregate amount of $50,000.00 per accident, subject to the $25,000.00 individual limit. Policyholders are permitted to purchase additional SUM coverage, but not an amount that exceeds the amount of liability coverage (the coverage available to pay for damages or injuries caused by the negligent operation of the policyholder’s vehicle).
It is thus critically important to review the Declarations Page of your motor vehicle insurance policy to ascertain the amount of SUM coverage afforded under the policy. There is a separate listing for SUM coverage on the Declarations Page, and this should not be confused with the listing of the amount of liability coverage set forth on the Declarations Page. The cost of SUM coverage is less than the cost of liability coverage.
It’s worth every penny to have as much SUM coverage as possible. As yesterday’s events confirmed, it’s not good to have the amount of insurance coverage available when you are injured in a motor vehicle accident to be decided by the person whos at fault for the accident. Most importantly, we hope that all of the girls make a speedy recovery.