How to Protect Yourself From Hit-and-Run or Uninsured Drivers
Like in most other States, Oklahoma requires vehicle owners to carry liability insurance to pay for harms and losses when the owner or driver of the vehicle causes a collision. The minimum amount of insurance required in Oklahoma is $25,000 per injured person, $50,000 total split among all injured persons, and $25,000 for damage to other vehicles or property. This is often expressed as “minimum liability limits” and by the acronym of 25/50/25.
The Oklahoma Insurance Commission estimates that approximately 26% of automobiles on the road in Oklahoma do NOT have any liability insurance. Sadly, Oklahoma ranks #1 in percentage of uninsured drivers among all the States. Therefore, if you are in a collision caused by another driver, there is more than a 1 in 4 chance that the car driven by the at-fault driver is NOT insured.
While the at-fault driver remains legally responsible for causing your harms and losses, the reality of the situation is that YOU will have to pay those things yourself. Why? First of all, most people who drive without insurance do so because they are not insurable or cannot afford insurance. If they cannot afford to pay insurance, they cannot afford pay for the harms and losses they cause. Second, the only way to force an uninsured driver to pay for harms and losses is to sue them and get a money judgment ordering them to pay. The legal process takes many months and even if you get a judgment, collecting the money from the driver is highly unlikely.
So, how do your protect you and your family from being hit by an uninsured driver? By purchasing Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage. The name of this coverage signifies its purpose – to pay your harms and losses when hit by an “uninsured” driver (motorist).
However, UM provides even more protection than that. UM also pays harms and losses in a hit-and-run collision, or if you are hit by a car while walking, running, or riding a bicycle. UM also pays if an at-fault driver does not have ENOUGH liability insurance to pay all of your harms and losses. In that situation, the at-fault driver is considered “underinsured” and UM coverage begins to pay after the at-fault driver’s liability insurance limits are paid out or “exhausted.”
UM is an optional coverage available to purchase you when purchase liability and other insurance for your car. In Oklahoma, the insurance agent must offer it to you, and if you reject it, you must do so in writing on a form provided by the agent. The amount available for purchase is usually equal to the amount of liability insurance you purchase. It covers you, your family members, and people who live in your home.
While UM coverage costs extra money, it is money well spent to protect you and your family given the likelihood of being hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver.