All motor vehicle accidents are stressful and can create terrifying scenarios. Many uncertainties and challenges may present as you try to get your bearings in the aftermath of a crash and deal with your injuries.
As a car accident victim, you may assume that you can file a claim for your losses with the insurance company. However, what happens when the other driver involved in the crash has no insurance or has a policy with too little coverage for the extent of your injuries and losses?
This is when uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage can provide compensation for the losses you otherwise may not recover. A car accident lawyer can explain your rights and how to protect them against insurers and the parties responsible for your injuries and other damages.
Table of Contents
- Is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage Under the Same Insurance Policy?
- What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
- What Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
- Is UM and UIM Coverage Mandatory?
- Who Can File a Claim Under an Underinsured or Uninsured Motorist Policy?
- Do You Need a Lawyer to Help You With a UM/UIM Case?
- How Can a Lawyer Benefit You After a Car Accident With an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist?
- What Damages Can You Seek Through a UM/UIM Claim?
- When Might You Need to File a Lawsuit in a UM/UIM Car Accident Case?
Is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage Under the Same Insurance Policy?
UM and UIM coverage is not part of basic liability insurance coverage for a vehicle. It is often a separate policy and, depending on your state, may be a combination under one policy coverage or separate policies. When deciding on the best insurance options, look into your state’s requirements and whether you must add on each of these policies separately or if they fall under the same additional coverage options.
The most important distinguishing factor is understanding that UM and UIM coverage is not part of your liability coverage. Assuming you have the coverage without making sure before an accident could put you in a challenging position should you find yourself a victim of an uninsured or underinsured driver on the road.
What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
The intent and purpose of uninsured motorist coverage are to help the occupants of a vehicle pay for losses from a car accident when they are in a crash with another driver with no insurance available. Although most states mandate liability insurance for vehicle owners, not all follow the requirements of the mandates or may voluntarily forgo coverage if not mandatory in the state where you live.
Uninsured motorists create a serious problem for victims of car accidents as they cannot seek the total losses they incur in a crash against the at-fault driver’s insurance. Reports indicate that approximately one of every eight drivers in the U.S. does not have vehicle liability insurance coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage attempts to alleviate that problem and burden for victims by providing a means to seek compensation.
What Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
Underinsured motorist coverage is similar to UM coverage in that it attempts to help accident victims who cannot seek compensation from an at-fault driver’s insurance for their motor vehicle accident damages.
The difference with underinsured coverage is that the other driver carried vehicle liability insurance, but it was insufficient to meet the damages from the crash. This unfortunate circumstance can occur in several instances.
For example, when a state has lower policy limit requirements for insurance, drivers may carry only the minimum, increasing the likelihood that insurance will not cover a victim’s losses. Additionally, when an accident involves multiple victims, per-accident limits often apply, making it more difficult for each party to get their fair share of compensation for their total damages.
Underinsurance presents unique challenges because although a driver has insurance to cover an accident, the maximum limits under the policy are insufficient to pay for all the damages caused. In these situations, a victim must find other possible avenues to recover their losses and seek compensation for their injuries, or they must personally deal with the brunt of the financial burden after a crash. Underinsured motorist coverage is one of the potential protections for a car accident victim when another driver’s insurance coverage is inadequate.
Is UM and UIM Coverage Mandatory?
The laws pertaining to uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage differ vastly depending on your jurisdiction. Of the 50 states in the U.S., 32 do not mandate any form of UM or UIM coverage. For example, some of the most populous states, such as California, Florida, and Texas, have no uninsured or underinsured coverage requirements.
However, 28 states require some uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
Each state treats uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage differently. While some states may require both types of coverage, others may treat it as separate policies and coverage. Additionally, the amount of coverage changes from one state to another where UM/UIM mandates exist.
For example, in Wisconsin, a driver must carry $10,000 in UM coverage. In contrast, in other states, such as Maine and Connecticut, a vehicle owner must carry $25,000 in coverage for UM and UIM coverage.
This coverage doesn’t count a state’s other bodily injury and property damage liability requirements.
Who Can File a Claim Under an Underinsured or Uninsured Motorist Policy?
UM and UIM coverage is specific regarding who can file a claim under the policy. For the coverage under an uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage to kick in, an insured must show that the driver at fault in the accident has no insurance or insufficient insurance to cover the victim’s damages. The victim eligible to seek compensation through a UM/UIM claim is the driver of the insured vehicle or other passengers in the vehicle at the time of the crash.
Do You Need a Lawyer to Help You With a UM/UIM Case?
UM and UIM claims and cases can give rise to difficult legal issues and challenges for an insured seeking compensation through this route.
For example, a car accident victim seeking compensation through UM/UIM coverage must not only prove the usual elements in a car accident case, such as the fault of the defendant and their damages, but a claimant must also show that there is a need for the UM/UIM coverage to begin with.
You may believe that since you are the named insured on a policy, seeking payment through coverage will be easier. However, that is not the case. Insurance companies treat all claims the same, whether you are their insured or a claimant seeking damages under their policy. The goal of insurance companies is not the same as a victim that seeks compensation under a UM/UIM claim.
A lawyer can make a noticeable difference in an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim by helping you sort through the chaos and organize and prepare your case to seek a successful outcome.
Lawyers understand the nuances and challenges a UM/UIM claim can present and help you understand your rights and benefits under your available coverage. Additionally, a lawyer can help you determine if you may have another path to compensation if your UM/UIM coverage is insufficient to cover the damages in a car accident.
How Can a Lawyer Benefit You After a Car Accident With an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist?
A car accident lawyer can take on many roles when representing a client in a car accident claim. Filing an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim is something you may not even consider when an accident first occurs. Hiring a lawyer from the outset can help you ensure that you consider all of the options under the law available to you based on the accident and facts of the case.
Victims of car accidents face enormous stress and pressure. The crash likely damaged your vehicle and left significant injuries that interfere with your daily life, causing you inconveniences and leading to health threats.
Once you hire an attorney, you can step back and let them handle all of the day-in and day-out tasks associated with your accident claim while you focus on healing from your injuries as best you can.
As part of a car accident involving a UM/UIM claim, your lawyer can:
- Investigate the accident
- Discover all available insurance coverage, including UM/UIM.
- Determine whether they can hold any additional party liable for your damages.
- Collect evidence to prove your claim.
- Calculate your losses following the car accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver.
- Negotiate with the insurer to seek the maximum damages in a settlement.
- Determine if a lawsuit against the insurer or another party may be necessary.
- Prepare for a trial and represent you in a trial should the need arise.
What Damages Can You Seek Through a UM/UIM Claim?
Car accident insurance can be complex to understand. Each policy has a different purpose, limits, and rules on what compensation covers and for whom. For example, the limits on a property damage portion of a policy have no relevance to the payment of your medical bills as that would fall under medical payments or the personal injury portion of coverage. Additionally, uninsured or underinsured policies may not apply in all accident cases.
For an insured to seek payment under this coverage, there must be a need that occurs because of the insurance status of another driver. A car accident attorney can help you understand what damages you are eligible for under what portion of the available insurance coverage in your case.
When you cannot procure the compensation you need through a claim against an uninsured or underinsured driver because they have no insurance or the insurance is insufficient, you can seek the remaining losses through a UM/UIM claim.
Damages that you may seek through a UM/UIM claim for losses include:
- Medical expenses and bills
- Loss of your income
- Pain and suffering
- Any future impacts, such as requiring medical treatment or loss of income
- Property damage
When Might You Need to File a Lawsuit in a UM/UIM Car Accident Case?
Although accident victims may think that most cases require a lawsuit, the truth is actually the opposite. Most car accident claims resolve in settlement negotiations between an insured’s attorney and the insurance company. Even when the damages are excessive and trigger the need for filing a UM/UIM claim, an attorney can often help their client reach a resolution through a settlement and avoid court.
Sometimes, a lawsuit is unavoidable and becomes necessary on your attorney’s advice based on the challenges and developments in your claim. Lawsuits can take time, and when you go to trial, it becomes the decision of the court whether to award damages and to determine the appropriate amount.
A UM/UIM claim may need to go to trial because:
- The insurer denied your claim. Insurers may deny a claim under a UM/UIM policy by claiming that the plaintiff has already received the compensation they deserve. They may argue that your damages do not exceed the compensation you already received as part of a claim under an underinsured driver’s insurance policy.
- You cannot agree on damages. A victim’s losses are often an area where the insurer will try to reduce your compensation. They can try to justify reductions to your damage claims for several reasons. When an insurance company continues to make low settlement offers and refuses to negotiate fair compensation for your damages as part of a UM/UIM claim, your attorney may advise you to file a lawsuit.
- The insurer does not accept liability. If the insurance company disputes the facts about the accident and believes that an insured is at fault for a crash, even if the claimant is another occupant in the insured’s vehicle, the insurance company may try to deny the claim and refuse to accept liability. An attorney can help evaluate your case to determine whether the evidence contradicts the determination made by the insurance company.
If an uninsured or underinsured driver injured you or a loved one, contact a car accident attorney to find out what compensation you may recover.
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