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I read an article in the Tucson Weekly recently in which Lanny Hair, executive vice president of the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of Arizona, estimated that fewer than 20 percent of Arizona motorists are uninsured. If that statistic is accurate, then we should all save money by not purchasing uninsured motorist coverage in our automobile insurance policies, right? WRONG! ! ! Here’s why:

Arizona law requires automobile insurers like State Farm, Farmers and Allstate to give customers the opportunity to purchase both uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage in limits up to the liability limits of the policy. Uninsured motorist coverage (or UM) provides coverage for your medical bills, loss of earnings and pain and suffering if you suffer injuries as a result of a negligent motorist who lacks liability insurance, including a hit-and-run driver. Underinsured motorist coverage (or UIM) provides coverage in the event that your damages exceed the negligent driver’s liability coverage. So why purchase these coverage if so few drivers are uninsured?

1. The coverages are portable, meaning they provide coverage for you and your family members wherever you are (like if you’re struck by a vehicle while riding a bicycle, walking in a crosswalk, or riding in a vehicle) and for anybody in your vehicle who is injured;

2. Many more of Arizona’s 4.3 million licensed drivers will be considered “underinsured” if they injure someone in an accident. This means that the responsible driver’s insurance limits will not be enough to satisfy the injured person’s damages claim, an especially prevalent situation in this era of rapidly rising medical costs;

3. The insurance companies providing these coverages are under a legal obligation to act in good faith when claims are made under your UM or UIM coverage, unlike a liability insurer for the responsible motorist; and most importantly;

4. The coverages are very affordable, especially when compared to what we all pay for liability insurance in the same amounts. Why would we want to pay so much in premiums for liability insurance, which provides damages payments to other people when we cause an accident, yet short-change ourselves (and our family members) when we suffer injuries at the hands of uninsured and underinsured drivers?

I once represented a young lady who was an accomplished bicyclist. One day, while out on a 60-mile ride, an uninsured driver collided with her and knocked her off her bike causing her to suffer injury. She fractured her pelvis, had two collapsed lungs, and underwent lengthy rehabilitation. Fortunately she made an excellent recovery. We ultimately obtained full compensation for her injuries based on her wise decision BEFORE the accident to purchase UM coverage.

Remember, there is no such thing as “full coverage”, only adequate coverage. Be sure to purchase UM and UIM coverages in limits equal to your policy’s liability limits.

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