The Problem: More crashes, less coverage.
In October 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a report on traffic safety. The NHTSA determined that approximately 6,296,000 motor vehicle crashes in the United States were reported to police in 2015. The number of unreported crashes is significantly higher. Of reported crashes, 2.443 million people were injured and 35,485 people were killed. That means about 102 people died every day in vehicle crashes in the United States which is one death every 20 minutes. The financial cost of these crashes was approximately $250 billion.
In recent years, the number of motor vehicle crashes and deaths has been trending upwards. While cars are being made safer, text messaging and the increased use of cell phones has likely been a factor as distracted driving continues to rise.
According to a recent study by Insurance Research Council (IRC), roughly 1 in 8 drivers have no insurance (are uninsured) in the United States. In some states, the percentage of uninsured drivers is nearly 30%. Also, most states have minimum insurance requirements that are extremely low. In Missouri and Kansas, the minimum insurance required for injury claims is $25,000.
Missouri & Kansas residents are at particular risk.
As detailed in our legal library article, your own car insurance policy may provide additional coverage if the driver that caused the accident has no insurance or an insufficient amount of insurance to cover your damages. The uninsured motorist (UM) provision in your car insurance policy will pay for your damages if the liable driver had no insurance. Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage pays for your damages if the at-fault driver had insurance but it is inadequate to cover your damages. The amount of UM or UIM coverage available is limited and depends on the amount you purchase as part of your car insurance policy.
Missouri law only requires drivers to carry $25,000/$50,000 in uninsured motorist coverage. However, Missouri does not require drivers to carry any underinsured motorist coverage. That’s right: zero. So, if you only have the a minimum policy in Missouri and you suffer a life-altering injury due to another's negligence, your recovery will be limited on the amount of insurance the other party has, which may only be the minimum of $25,000.
By comparison, Kansas law requires that drivers carry $25,000/$50,000 in uninsured and underinsured coverage. However, carrying the minimum level required in Kansas is still inadequate. In fact, due to a nuance in Kansas law, your minimum UIM policy may “disappear”. Kansas law gives insurance companies a “credit” for amounts already paid. The insurance company only pays for UIM if you carry a UIM policy amount over and above what was paid by the liable party. (See K.S.A. 40-284(b)).
So, if the drunk driver’s insurance company pays you the $25,000 under a minimum policy and you only carry a minimum UIM policy of $25,000, you recover nothing in Kansas. That’s right – your UIM policy is offset and cancelled out by the $25,000 you already received from the drunk driver’s insurance. Even though you thought you had UIM coverage, this nuance in Kansas law reduces your UIM coverage to zero in this case!
The Solution: Buy more UM / UIM coverage.
This should be obvious but is worth making clear: our law firm does not sell insurance. Our only interest is to share information and experience from representing accident victims so you can make the best decision and avoid pitfalls or surprises later. All too often we have reviewed a client’s insurance policy and found coverage that is less than what the client believed he or she purchased long ago. Believe me – you do not want to find out that the insurance protection you thought you had is not there when you need it most.
The solution to this problem is very simple. Review the coverage levels in your car insurance policy, and buy as much UM/UIM coverage as your insurance company will sell you and you can afford. You should be aware that ten times the UM/UIM coverage will not result in ten times the premium increase. For as little as $50 to $100 per year, you can increase your coverage from the minimum of $25,000 to $100,000 or even $250,000. This small investmentcan provide you and your family with substantial additional protection.
So, if you have the minimum required by state law, please call your insurance agent and ask for quotes to increase liability and UM/UIM coverage in your policies. You may be surprised by how much additional coverage you can receive for a relatively modest premium increase.
For more information about car insurance in Missouri and Kansas, please download a free copy of my book, Buying Car Insurance, for drivers in Missouri and Kansas. If you have any questions about the above, please call us at (816) 203-0143 or fill out the form below. This subject is so important that we would be happy to look at your policy and provide a free, confidential consultation on how to increase protection for you and your family.