By Catherine Beltz-Foley
All New York drivers are required to buy auto insurance to protect themselves and others in case of a car accident.
But despite this universal requirement, New Yorkers are given far too little information about what kind of insurance, and how much, they should buy.
All too often, this lack of knowledge leads to tragic consequences. Consider Supplemental Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage. Most New Yorkers probably do not know whether they have enough SUM coverage, let alone know what SUM coverage is.
But SUM coverage could save your family from financial ruin if you are in an accident with a hit-and-run driver or someone who is carrying too little liability insurance to pay for the damage caused.
While many New Yorkers choose to purchase more than the minimum injury and liability coverage to protect others in the event they cause another person harm, they may not be aware that only SUM coverage can protect them if the driver at fault in an accident flees the scene or is under-insured.
Far too many drivers walk out of the insurance office with the legal minimum SUM insurance, just $25,000 in coverage, thinking they have wisely invested in all the insurance they need. Every year, accident victims across the state realize too late that the insurance they thought would protect them will not cover the costs of a long hospitalization, rehabilitation care or lost wages after a serious crash.
And making matters worse, the insurance coverage that would have protected them, SUM, is affordable and widely available – if you know to ask for it.
A new bill now headed to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s desk would give drivers the information they need to make smart insurance decisions.
The SUM bill would ensure that when New Yorkers go to buy auto insurance, they are informed about the importance of extending their SUM coverage above the bare legal minimum. They would still have the choice of not purchasing additional SUM coverage, but only after they have been informed of how SUM insurance works, what it protects against and its comparatively low cost.
This common-sense law would help protect the thousands of New Yorkers who are injured by under-insured or hit-and-run drivers each year, and 26 states already have enacted similar legislation.
Let us make sure drivers have the information to get the insurance they need.
Catherine Beltz-Foley is a partner at the law firm of Paul William Beltz LLC in Buffalo.