The Most Important Auto Insurance You Probably Chose Not to Buy
By Attorney Eric J. Parker
PARKER | SCHEER LLP
Frank Taylor, a 39 year-old firefighter, husband and father of two teenage daughters, left his house on a cold January morning to pick up some groceries at a nearby convenience store. After exiting the store, Frank noticed his neighbor standing beside her car in the parking lot, unable to start her engine. As Frank looked beneath the hood to investigate the cause of the problem, a second car, operated by a highly intoxicated driver, careened from the road into the parking lot, smashing into the disabled car, and sending Frank traveling through the air before coming to rest on the frozen pavement.
The drunk driver was arrested by police at the scene and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol. Frank was left with lower body paralysis, permanently confined to a wheelchair, and permanently unable to support his wife and daughters. Fearing they may lose their home due to Frank’s loss of income and his rising medical expenses, the family turned to a lawyer specializing in serious car accidents to obtain compensation from the drunk driver’s insurance company. What the Taylors were shocked to learn was that the driver who had caused the accident had only the minimum insurance coverage required by law, and all of it would likely be paid to the hospital and doctors who treated Frank following the accident.
The Taylors, their lawyer informed them, would not receive any financial compensation for their losses.
For those who believe the Taylors’ experience was an aberration – think again. Insufficient insurance coverage, even by “well insured” motor vehicle operators, is an increasingly common problem, especially in depressed economic climates where people tend to reduce their insurance costs rather than increase them. What is perhaps most frustrating to the victims of these tragedies is that the insurance coverage they believed they had, and which would have ensured that the Taylor family received the compensation they justly deserved, was the very coverage most people tend to forego.
The example of the fictional Taylor family’s ordeal is an amalgam of countless cases, involving persons badly injured or killed as a result of motor vehicle negligence who never receive as much as a single dollar in compensation due to their own decision to forego “Underinsured Motorist Coverage,” commonly referred to as “U-Coverage.” U-Coverage is a category of automobile insurance coverage available to every insured driver. It pays you, or a member of your household, if the person responsible for the accident does not have enough coverage to fully compensate the injured person. Since anyone in Massachusetts can legally put a car on the road by purchasing the “minimum” liability coverage limits of $20,000, the total compensation available to those who do not purchase U-Coverage may be greatly limited, or may be nothing at all.
By way of example, had Frank Taylor purchased U-Coverage limits of $250,000 from his own automobile insurance company, he and his family would have received at least that amount in compensation, regardless of how little insurance coverage was available from the drunk driver who struck him. And not a dollar of the $250,000 could legally be seized by any health care provider, hospital, or other “lien holder” on account of unpaid medical bills.
Persons interested in learning more about the motor vehicle insurance coverage they own or may wish to own are strongly advised to consult with their insurance agent when renewing coverage. Parker Scheer can also assist persons interested in learning more about the different forms of motor vehicle insurance coverage available in Massachusetts, and what these coverages provide in the way of benefits.
For more information about the coverage you have and the coverage you should have, contact Parker Scheer at [email protected]
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About Attorney Eric J. Parker
Eric J. Parker is the Managing Partner and co-founder of the Boston-based trial firm Parker Scheer LLP, with offices in Massachusetts and Nevada. Mr. Parker has 20 years of active experience as one of Massachusetts’ leading civil trial lawyers, and holds the highest peer-review rating awarded to any attorney for professional skill and ethics. Mr. Parker is a member of the American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America), as well as the American, Massachusetts, and Boston Bar Associations. Mr. Parker is an elected member of the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA; Elected Vice President, Massachusetts Chapter, January 2007), and is a certified member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. In 2007, Mr. Parker was appointed to the Editorial Board of Massachusetts Lawyer Weekly, the leading weekly legal newspaper serving the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mr. Parker has been named a Massachusetts Super Lawyer by the publishers of Boston Magazine, every year since the distinction was first created. Mr. Parker’s legal practice focuses on plaintiff-oriented tort litigation, including product liability, motor vehicle tort, medical and dental malpractice, premises liability claims, workplace sexual harassment and assault, aviation-related injuries, and wrongful death. Mr. Parker is a Graduate of Vassar College and received his Juris Doctor degree from Suffolk University Law School. In addition to his legal practice, Mr. Parker is also an FAA Certified Private Pilot, and was a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the Media And Technology Charter High School (MATCH) located in Boston (Chairman 2001-2005), the goal of which is to provide inner city high school students with a successful college education.