UNDERinsured & UNinsured Motorist Claims
By Aaron M. House, October 23, 2015
More than 10 million car accidents occur in the United States each year. Most of these accidents are the result of a negligent driver. Too often, the negligent driver is either UNDERinsured or UNinsured. Underinsured means the negligent driver has insufficient insurance to pay for the damages he has caused. Uninsured means that the negligent driver has no insurance coverage, even though every state requires a minimum amount of liability coverage (usually $25,000).
Missouri requires all drivers to maintain at least $25,000 of liability insurance for bodily injury ($50,000 per accident), and $25,000 of uninsured coverage for bodily injury ($50,000 per accident). Those amounts have remained unchanged for many years, and although increased insurance coverage is relatively inexpensive, many drivers maintain only the bare minimum of coverage. Given the cost of healthcare, that coverage is often insufficient to cover medical expenses resulting from a collision, let alone lost wages and pain and suffering. It is always good to speak with your insurance agent to ensure you have adequate uninsured coverage.
It is also good to speak with your insurance agent to ensure that you have adequate underinsured coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage is designed to bridge the gap between the total amount of damages sustained in an automobile accident and the liability limits of the other driver’s policy.
Unlike uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured coverage is not required by law, and your policy of insurance may or may not include underinsured coverage. If you or your insurance agent had the foresight to include underinsured coverage in your auto policy, you may be able to make a claim on your own policy. The purpose of underinsured motorist coverage is to provide additional coverage for those injured by a negligent motorist whose liability coverage does not fully pay for the damages he has caused.
Here is how it works. Suppose you are injured in a car accident by a negligent driver, and your damages are $200,000. These damages could include lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, permanent disability, and more. If the negligent driver has liability insurance with policy limits of $100,000, that driver is underinsured. Once the negligent driver’s insurer has paid its liability limits of $100,000, you should then be able to collect the remaining $100,000 of your damages from the underinsured coverage on your own policy. People who are injured in accidents are often unaware of the different policies of insurance that may be in place to protect them, and insurers often are not forthright in volunteering that information. The attorneys at House Packard are skilled at obtaining that information.
When a driver maintains underinsured motorist coverage, that coverage may also extend to any passengers or other persons injured in the collision. Questions as to persons entitled to compensation from underinsured coverage, the circumstances that trigger this coverage, and the procedure for collecting that compensation often involve the careful interpretation of the provisions of your auto policy.
Like any insurance claim, underinsured motorist claims require experienced and knowledgeable evaluation of all damages. Your insurance company will likely have a team of adjusters and lawyers working to avoid or minimize any payment to you. To make sure you obtain fair and just compensation for your damages, give us a call.
- Aaron M. House