You need to purchase optional SUM insurance on your auto liability policy to protect you from drivers who do not carry enough insurance. New York law requires that you have auto liability insurance coverage. The minimum amount of liability coverage is:
- $10,000 for property damage for a single accident
- $25,000 for bodily injury and $50,000 for death for a person involved in an accident
- $50,000 for bodily injury and $100,000 for death for two or more people in an accident
If you are seriously injured in an automobile accident, $25,000 is not enough coverage to make you whole. SUM insurance is optional coverage that can be purchased to protect you and your family from an automobile accident where the other driver is only caring minimal insurance limits. The Supplementary Uninsured Motorist (SUM) endorsement affords both UM and UIM protection. 11 N.Y.C.R.R. §60-2.3(f). “A bodily injury liability policy only protects third persons who may be involved in a motor vehicle accident. High limits will benefit a stranger, but not provide any protection to one’s own family. In contrast, the SUM endorsement pennits one to set a minimum level of financial protection that will potentially be available to cover the pain and suffering and economic loss of the claimant and his or her family.”https://www.nysba.org/Sections/Torts_Insurance_Compensation/TICL_PDFs/SUM_Coverage_in_New_York-5_Things_you_need_to_know_pdf.html
If you are financing your vehicle you probably have more than the state minimum in liability coverage, as most lenders require bodily injury limits of at least $100,000/$300,000. This means the limit of insurance for any one accident is $100,000 to any one person, and $300,000 for all people involved in the accident. Others may require at least a $300,000 CSL, which is a combined single limit, meaning the insurer will pay no more than $300,000 for all people involved in the accident; but, any individual may get up to $300,000.
The declarations page on your auto policy will show the limits of your various coverage. Your SUM limit should match your liability limits. Once you have purchased a higher limit liability policy the premium for additional SUM coverage is relatively small. Let’s say you have $250,000/$500,000 listed on the declaration page as your bodily injury limits, and only $100,000 listed for your SUM limit, you should ask your agent in increase your SUM limit to $250,000.
If you carry a personal umbrella policy or excess policy you may be able to purchase a SUM endorsement for it. So for example, if you are carrying a one million dollar umbrella policy that requires a minimum of $250,000/$500 in underlying automobile liability insurance, you have up to $1.25 million in insurance coverage available to someone suing you for a car accident. If you purchase SUM endorsements equal to your liability coverage you will have that amount potentially available to you, rather than just the minimum $25,000, for the serious injuries you sustained when the other car ran the red light and plowed into you because they were texting rather than attentively driving.
Note you ordinarily can’t purchase SUM limits that are higher than your bodily injury limits so you have to purchase those higher limits. Some folks think that if they carry higher insurance limits they are more likely to get sued, or that if they are sued their case is not as likely to settle. In our experience, insured defendants with higher limit policies are better defended by more experienced defense attorneys, and administered at the insurance company by their most experienced claims professionals—if for no other reason than the insurance company has much more at stake when their insured has $1 million in coverage versus the minimum $25,000.