Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Rhode Island and Massachusettsby Mike Bottaro (Bottaro Law Firm, LLC)
As a Rhode Island and Massachusetts car accident attorney, I have noticed that people frequently confuse the scope of uninsured and underinsured motorist protection. As a refresher, an uninsured motorist (“UM”) is someone that owns or operates a motor vehicle without buying an automobile insurance policy. An underinsured motorist (“UIM”) is a motorist whose own auto insurance coverage is insufficient to cover the financial damages caused to another motorist. Rhode Island’s rules governing these protections are set out in §27-7-2.1 and § 31-31-7. Massachusetts’s rules are outlined in G.L. c. 175 §113L.
Any competent Rhode Island or Massachusetts car accident attorney can tell you that UM/UIM coverage does not act as general liability insurance. Basically, UM/UIM coverage protects against losses caused by UM/UIM motorists, but does not protect the insured motorist against liability from damage they cause to others. This principle is well established in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts’ laws. For example see, Kirouac v. Healey, 181 A.2d 634 (R.I. 1962) and Goodman v. American Cas. Co., 419 Mass. 138 (1994) (applying G. L. c. 175, § 112).
Practicing as both a Rhode Island and Massachusetts car accident attorney, I have found there are instances when it is possible to recover for related injuries. For example, Massachusetts holds that “use” of an insured vehicle extends to activities intended by an insured that go beyond just motion on the highway to “activities closely related to their usual course of operation. Tae v. Tae, 57 Mass. App. Ct. 297, 299 (2003). However, injuries sustained while fighting with arresting officers during a DUI stop did not give rise to UIM coverage in Bonina v. Marshall, 71 Mass. App. Ct. 904 (2008). While your Rhode Island or Massachusetts attorney will try their best to get your personal injuries covered by the insurance plan, you should be prepared to face a disappointing outcome in situations that do not fall neatly in this category.
Another basic misunderstanding I frequently see as a Rhode Island personal injury attorney regards the scope of coverage UM/UIM coverage offers. As a rule of thumb, UM/UIM insurance generally covers the named insurance purchaser from injuries. You can help your Rhode Island or Massachusetts car accident lawyer by clearly designating the people named for coverage under your insurance policy, who receive protection under the policy and can determine whether the policy includes UM/UIM insurance. Listed operators are household members or other customary drivers of your vehicle that receive some insurance protection, but might be excluded from UM/UIM protection. For examples, see Lynch v. Sprint Rent-A-Car., Inc., 965 A.2d 417 (2009) and Kanamaru v. Holyoke Mutual Insurance Company, 72 Mass. App. Ct. 396 (2008).