Uninsured/Underinsured (UM) Motorist Coverage Update: Validity of Declining UM Coverage by Electronic Signature Remains in Question

Car crashUnder Alabama law, all car insurance policies must provide uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM coverage). Ala. Code § 32-7-23. Nevertheless, in spite of this mandate, 22% of drivers do not have liability insurance. UM coverage is vitally important in that it protects drivers and passengers who have an accident caused by someone else who lacks car insurance altogether, or who has insufficient liability insurance. In the event you have an accident with an uninsured/underinsured motorist, you may file a claim with your own insurance company under your UM policy. Each insurance policy sold in Alabama is required to have at least $25,000 per person in coverage for personal injuries. Even if you do not see an uninsured/underinsured motorist provision in your car insurance policy, you still have the minimum coverage, unless you sign a written waiver declining the coverage.

In Johnson v. First Acceptance Insurance Company, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals recently considered the case of Mr. Johnson, whose underinsured motorist claim was originally denied by his own insurance provider, First Acceptance. The parties agree that Mr. Johnson was assisted in submitting an electronic application for insurance with the help of a First Acceptance agent. However, the parties dispute whether Mr. Johnson actually electronically signed his name in a waiver of UM coverage. First Acceptance Insurance argued that Mr. Johnson declined uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage through an electronic signature; Mr. Johnson denies he ever declined UM coverage. The Court ultimately decided not to rule on the validity of an electronic signature in declining UM coverage, but did allow Mr. Johnson’s case to continue, based on the parties’ factual dispute of the facts. We look forward to the outcome of the case.

As an important note, a driver who has multiple vehicles under one policy or multiple policies can “stack” coverages to increase their total uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Although stacking is not allowed in all states, it is specifically allowed in Alabama. Through stacking, you can increase your amount of UM coverage by: 1) combining the UM coverage of up to three vehicles insured under a single policy; or 2) stacking UM provisions of multiple insurance policies. In other words, if you have three cars insured under a single insurance policy, each with the minimum $25,000 UM coverage, your UM coverage as a whole increases to $75,000. This becomes important when injuries and damages exceed the minimum, as is often the case. If you have more than three vehicles, it may be advisable to split the vehicles over multiple policies in order to take full advantage of UM coverages.

Another option to protect against accidents with uninsured motorists is to increase your UM coverage. Drivers can add significant protection for a relatively low cost. An Alabama motorist can generally expect about a $75 increase per six month interval to increase their UM coverage to $250,000. Raising your UM coverage can help prevent financial devastation in the event of expensive medical bills in excess of the minimum UM coverage.

If you are injured in a car accident due to the fault of another driver, you are likely entitled to UM benefits – even if your policy does not mention UM coverage – unless you have signed a waiver specifically declining the coverage. For help with understanding what is covered under your policy, contact the experienced Huntsville personal injury attorneys at Martinson & Beason, P.C. today for a free case evaluation. You can also visit our page on uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for additional information.