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2D Article Uninsured

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

PROTECT YOURSELF ON DUTY BY PURCHASING MORE THAN THE MINIMUM $20,000 OF UNINSURED MOTORIST BENEFITS ON YOUR PERSONAL AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE POLICIESMost police officers have no idea that Uninsured Motorist Coverage exists on their personal motor vehicle policies until it is too late.   They are similarly unaware this coverage protects them while on duty, even though their insured motor vehicle is not involved. Unfortunately, it is often after a serious injury that they learn this valuable coverage would have protected them and they could have purchased larger limits of coverage for a comparatively small increase in their premiums.   Massachusetts police officers  who are frequently on the road operating cruisers and motorcycles, or on foot directing traffic or doing road work, often deal with "uninsured motorists."  For example, a motorist whose insurance policy was cancelled is uninsured.  So is a motorist from another state who has no insurance because he is not required to.  Additionally, police officer often deal with motor vehicles which have been used without authority or stolen.  When these vehicles cause a loss, the insurance company will deny coverage because the vehicle was used without authority, and hence the vehicle is considered "uninsured."  A hit and run vehicle which is never identified is considered "uninsured" under the Massachusetts Automobile Insurance policy.  In fact, there doesn't even have to be a "hit".  There are instances where there was no contact and the offending vehicle cut off the police officer and left the scene without being identified:  this is also an "uninsured" vehicle.

Since police officers are so frequently on the road, they have an increased risk of injuries which result from motor vehicle-related accidents.  Many of these injuries are severe and cause long lasting damage to the injured officer, and are valued in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.  I have represented many officers who were injured during stolen motor vehicle pursuits, and in collisions with uninsured vehicles, as well as vehicles which caused an accident and left the scene before being identified.  When a police officer is injured in any incident involving a motor vehicle, the value of their claims often exceeds the compulsory minimum limits of $20,000 per person, which, as of March, 2008, motor vehicles are required to carry in Massachusetts under Part 3.  Unfortunately, $20,000 is typically not enough compensation to protect and cover the injured officer's damages suffered in the accident with the "uninsured motorist."  Such damages include the loss of valuable overtime and detail pay, pain and suffering, continuing disability and scarring.

Over the past 25 years, I have found most officers are unfamiliar with  Uninsured Motorist Coverage, or as it is formally called "Bodily Injury Caused By An Uninsured Auto".  As a result, they don't have enough of this important, valuable and inexpensive automobile insurance coverage on their personal auto policies.  This coverage is currently found on part 3 of the coverage selections page for Massachusetts automobile insurance policies for personal automobiles.  Unlike other coverage, which usually apply only to the vehicle(s) listed on your policy ("insured vehicle"), Uninsured Motorist Coverage is more akin to personal accident insurance and applies when the individual(s) named on the policy ("named insured") is injured in an automobile accident, regardless of whether the insured vehicle is involved and regardless of whether the named insured was in the insured vehicle.  The insured vehicle need not and often is not involved in the accident for this coverage to apply.  Part 3 Uninsured coverage is valuable not only to the named insured on the policy, but to all members of the household who are related to the named insured who do not insure their own vehicles in their name.

An example of the value of Uninsured Motorist Coverage is the officer who suffers a knee injury during a collision with or in pursuit of a stolen motor vehicle.  The officer may end up having surgery and be out of work so long, during which time valuable overtime and detail pay is lost, and the officer endures pain and suffering that his case is worth $100,000.00.  However, if he only purchased the minimum $20,000.00 of coverage under Part 3 Uninsured Motorist, that will be the limit of his recovery.   If the injured officer carried enough part 3 Uninsured Motorist Coverage on one or more of his/her personal vehicles at home, we would pursue the injured officer's own insurance for the full $100,000.00 of coverage.  When we make such claims, the injured officer's automobile insurance premiums are not surcharged because the injured officer was not at fault for the accident.

It is best practice to insure all of your vehicles with similar high limits.  If you or an insured household member is injured in a vehicle with lower coverage, you may be limited to the lower coverage, regardless of the fact that another owned vehicle carries higher coverage.  You cannot stack the coverages on multiple vehicles.  There are too many rules, court decisions and nuances which dictate which coverage is available, in what circumstances and to whom to fully cover the subject in this article.  Also, be advised you cannot insured your vehicles for limits of Part 3 Uninsured Motorist coverage which is higher than the coverage under Part 5, Optional Bodily Injury to Others.  This Part 5 coverage, is the coverage you are likely familiar with which covers you and authorized operators of your vehicle should your vehicle be the cause of an serious injury. 

As soon as you read this, I urge you to review the coverage selection pages for all the vehicles in your household and check the amounts of coverage you are carrying under Part 12 for Underinsured Motorist Coverage.  You do not have to wait for the renewal date to increase your premiums.  Be advised you cannot increase your limits for Part 12 Underinsured Motorist Coverage for an amount which is greater than the limit which you insure your vehicle under Part 5 Optional Bodily Injury to Others.  We advise our clients to purchase as much Part 12 Underinsured Motorist Coverage as they can afford, realizing they will have to cover an equal amount under Part 5.  Also, you should consider insuring all of your vehicles at this higher limit, because in the event of an accident involving an insured vehicle with a lower limit, you may not be entitled to reach the higher coverage on another insured vehicle which you own.  Also, be advised you cannot stack the coverages of underinsured motorist coverages from multiple vehicles.  You will be limited to the largest limit which you purchased.  (Also, ask your insurance agent about adding or increasing Uninsured Motorist Coverage limits, which is compulsory coverage found under Part 3 of personal automobile insurance policies in Massachusetts.  This coverage offers similar protection, but applies to injuries caused by motorists with no insurance.  This coverage will be the subject of a future column on this page of the MassC.O.P. website.) The law and language of the insurance policy surrounding claims for Underinsured Motorist Coverage is complicated and ever changing.   The topic of Underinsured Motorist Coverage could never be completely covered in an article of this length.  Please be aware that there is no guarantee of collecting on such coverage just because you have purchased it and are in an accident with an underinsured motorist.  However, we have been very successful in making these claims over the past 25 years for police officers injured on and off duty, as well as their family members.  Such claims are private matters between the officer and their insurance company.  The employing City or Town is not involved and has no right to reimbursement for payment of wages or medical bills.  If a fair settlement cannot be agreed upon, there is no court involvement, but rather binding private arbitration between the injured officer and his/her insurance company to determine the amount of coverage to which they are entitled.  

An injured officer should always consider seeking a free consultation to determine his/her rights, benefits, and the probability of making a successful claim.  I am always available by telephone, email or a personal meeting.  Once I evaluate the case and the officer's chances of success, the decision whether to go forward rests with the officer.  When we work on these cases, we work on a contingent fee basis. That means the injured officer pays nothing up front and while the case is pending.  He/she only need pay for legal services at the end of the case if we successfully collect money on the claim.   We typically will receive one-third of the money collected.   In the off-chance we are unable to collect money for the injured officer, the officer owes nothing for our legal services. Copyright, Steven M. Ballin, 2007.

Attorney Steven Ballin is available for free confidential consultation and case review. He can be reached by telephone at 800-245-2052, or by e-mail at  Visit his website at to learn more about your rights when injured on duty.


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