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Must Read: New Auto Insurance Law Protects Injured Firefighters

We know it’s hard to get anyone excited about a new auto insurance law. But this time, the law is so important, and the impact that it will have on firefighters is so significant, that we think there is good reason for members to take notice. Our firm was part of the lobbying effort to get this bill passed, and we want to make sure all of our clients know about it.

The new law deals with Supplementary Uninsured Motorist coverage (SUM). SUM coverage is the part of your auto policy that protects you if you are injured in an auto accident by someone who has little or no insurance. This is different than your liability coverage, which will compensate others who are injured as a result of your negligence, but will not pay a nickel to compensate you if you are hurt.

SUM is critical insurance coverage for everyone, but it is especially important for firefighters. You depend upon your physical health to do your job. A non-line-of-duty auto accident could end your career, resulting in devastating financial losses to you and your family. That is reason enough for
firefighters to make sure they have adequate SUM. But it is not the only reason.

SUM insurance also covers certain line-of-duty accidents. It will compensate you if you are in an
accident with an underinsured driver while you are on duty. And it can even cover you if you are injured during an emergency operation to rescue a victim of an auto accident.

For example, we represented a firefighter who suffered a career-ending shoulder injury while extricating a driver who negligently crashed his car. Our firm was able to recover $25,000 from
the driver, which was his full liability insurance policy. We were also able to recover an additional
$75,000 from the firefighter’s own insurance carrier, because he carried $100,000 in SUM coverage. To be clear, the firefighter wasn’t hit by a car, or in an any kind of an auto accident himself. His own insurer compensated him because he was hurt rescuing someone else who was in a car accident.

Most drivers only carry the minimum coverage of $25,000 per person (and $50,000 per accident). It doesn’t matter how injured you are, if the driver that caused the accident only has a $25,000 policy,
that is the most you can hope to recover. And the insurance company likely won’t just hand that over
to you. You’ll usually have to hire a lawyer to get it.

For firefighters, who drive long distances to get to work, ride in FDNY vehicles regularly, operate
on public roads, and respond to motor vehicle accidents, having inadequate SUM coverage is especially
risky.

What does the new law do?

The new law, known as the “Driver and Family Protection Act”, requires insurance companies to provide all customers with SUM coverage in an amount equal to their liability coverage. Customers are free to opt out if they choose and want to save a few bucks.

You should never opt out of full SUM coverage

The new law becomes effective on June 18, 2018, and it applies to all new policies and policy renewals.
It will not change your existing policy until it is up for renewal. If your existing policy does not
have sufficient SUM coverage, you should call your insurance company to fix this.

How much SUM coverage do I need and why?

Everyone’s needs are different, but one thing we can all agree on is that a $25,000 SUM benefit won’t
provide justice to any firefighter who has sustained a serious career-ending injury, especially if the
accident was non-line-of-duty. If you are forced to retire for a non-line-of-duty injury, you may lose
millions of dollars of income. SUM coverage is one important way to replace that lost income.

For those of you whose pension hasn’t yet vested, your future pension benefits will be crushed if you lose your career as a result of a non-line-of-duty auto accident. Please consider increasing your SUM coverage to as much as you can afford.

If you have any questions about this new law, or how much insurance is right for you, please call us for free advice.

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