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Another Voice: Supplemental auto insurance can protect families

By Richard Annibali

Life has a cruel way of hitting you with the unexpected. For me, it was the sudden passing of my wife, who was hit by a driver while jogging in Cheektowaga. That initial moment – hearing the worst news you can imagine – is indescribable. I think it’s impossible to really understand this unless you’ve been in that situation personally.

My wife Marianne was an incredible mother, wife, friend and member of our community. I am heartbroken that our 15-year-old daughter, Marirose, lost her mother so early in her life, and thankful that my wife’s passion for life and love for our family are qualities she instilled in our daughter at a young age. She was an amazing mom.

As a surviving single parent, the world doesn’t stop for you to grieve. Hospitals and other creditors want to get paid, my daughter needs to be taken care of and I need to figure out a way to somehow move on with our life, knowing that it will be different than before.
Marianne worked as a phlebotomist at a hospital and was dedicated to her profession and her co-workers. Despite my own job, it has been difficult to get by financially with Marianne gone.

That’s one of the reasons we always had good auto insurance coverage. We wanted to make sure if something happened, we’d be covered. But our insurance agent never told us that we, ourselves, would be left unprotected if we got into an accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver.

The driver that hit Marianne had the bare minimum of insurance coverage in New York State, which for a wrongful death is $50,000. So that’s the most that we could get, even though our costs have been much higher. When faced with major expenses today, $50,000 doesn’t go very far. Now we may lose our home and our future is uncertain.

After Marianne’s accident, I learned that with an inexpensive additional layer of insurance as an add-on to our policy we would have been protected for the tragedy that struck our family.

It wasn’t until after Marianne’s passing that I learned more about insurance, particularly Supplemental Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist coverage (SUM), which would have applied in our situation. For a very small addition to your premium, you can protect your family. If I only had known about it, my daughter and I would be in a much more stable situation today.

I assumed that a tragedy would be covered by our own liability umbrella policy, or that the driver who hit my wife would have had adequate insurance to protect others on the road. But we’ve all shopped for insurance – the biggest concern was always that it met the required minimums. Unfortunately, those don’t go far enough.

Our elected officials need to take action to make sure that consumers understand exactly what they’re covered for and where they’re vulnerable.
Insurers, in plain language, should be required to offer their customers adequate SUM coverage. If some families chose to opt out or pick a lower level of coverage, that’s their choice.

For my family, I know that for just a little extra each month, having that protection would have made a world of difference.

Richard Annibali lives in Depew.

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