Uninsured or Underinsured Drivers
What is an Uninsured Driver and can I Recover Damages if He Causes My Injuries?
Unfortunately, unless the driver who caused your injuries has sufficient assets to prevent a bankruptcy filing, the only method to recover damages from an uninsured driver would be if you bought uninsured motorist coverage yourself.
This type of coverage is designed to protect for exactly this situation — when an uninsured driver crashes into you and causes you injury.
According to the Insurance Research Council, nearly 13% or one in eight drivers on the road in the United States in 2014 did not have automobile insurance. With numbers like that, it certainly pays to add the extra coverage onto every automobile insurance policy you buy. In fact, in Indiana, it is required that every insurance agent offer you the opportunity to purchase uninsured motorist coverage each and every time you are offered insurance. Furthermore, if you decline the coverage, it cannot be done orally and there must be a written document that shows your intention to decline this option.
What Happens if I Have Uninsured Motorists Coverage and I am Injured? Will my Insurance Raise my Rates?
No. In fact, it would be very dangerous for your automobile insurance company to deny your claim and then raise your rates. This would show “bad faith” on the part of the insurance company and open it to a bad faith claim by you where you can seek compensatory damages (the money you lost), mental anguish damages (how the denial affected you emotionally) and punitive damages (damages designed to punish this behavior and act as a deterrent to doing it again).
Instead, your insurance company is required to “step into the shoes” of the uninsured driver and provide coverage for him as if it was his original insurance company. This allows the insurance company to allege all defenses to the action that the uninsured driver would have (such as fault).
When you are injured by an uninsured driver (and you have the coverage), your claim is a “hybrid” claim — you are entitled to damages for the personal injury (tort) and breach of contract by your own insurance company if they refuse to pay (breach of contract).
Make certain your attorney understands both claims and alleges both claims on any legal documents filed in court to start your case.
What is Underinsured Coverage?
Underinsured coverage happens when the driver who caused your injuries has insurance policy limits for a lower or lesser amount than your own uninsured motorist coverage. For example, the minimum amount of auto insurance under Indiana law is $25,000 (Twenty Five Thousand Dollars) and most drivers, understandably, pick this amount as their insurance coverage.
But, if your medical bills and other damages exceed that $25,000, you can claim “underinsurance motorist coverage” if your own UM/UIM Motorist Coverage exceeds that amount (say, like $100,000 One Hundred Thousand Dollars).
In that situation, you can seek the original $25,000 from the tortfeasor’s insurance company (the driver who committed the tort) and then claim the additional $75,000 Seventy-Five Thousand Dollars from your own insurance company. Indiana law does not allow “stacking” insurances by adding the insurance policy limit of the underinsured driver plus your own UM/UIM coverage (in that case “stacking” would be $125,000 One Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand Dollars). Indiana says only the amount of the highest policy limit can be recovered and “stacking” is not allowed.
Am I Suing my Own Insurance Company in an Uninsured Situation? What if I Don’t Want to do That?
Sort of. But, it would be foolhardy to not use the coverage you have been paying for over an extended period of time. Additionally, the amount you can recover would far exceed any feared “rise in rates.”
It’s important to talk to an experienced attorney in the Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage situation.
In his 30+ years of legal experience, Attorney Jeff JJ Shaw has never lost a single UM/UIM jury trial. Not once.
Call Shaw Law Offices. Hire us from the comfort of your own home in less than 10 minutes. Call or Text (877) 225-5742.
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