With car insurance rates constantly on the rise, and economic uncertainty plaguing many drivers, there are many uninsured or underinsured vehicles on the roadways. This is a reality that every driver must face, and if you are in an accident with an uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist, you will have to determine what options are available to you to help recover financial compensation for property damage and/or personal injury expenses.
While filing suit against the uninsured or underinsured party is only a viable option in some cases, filing a claim through your own insurance company can be an effective way to recover damages from the accident. The third option is to pay the expenses out of your own pocket, and this may make sense if your claim is very small and you have not suffered any injuries or lost time at work.
What is uninsured motorist (UM) coverage?
When the other motorist in your accident does not have any car insurance at all, you can file a claim with your insurance company under your UM coverage, if you have it on your policy. Your uninsured motorist coverage will pay for damages up to your policy limits for medical bills not covered by no-fault coverage which pays for medical bills no matter who is at fault for the accident.
UM coverage will pay for injuries sustained by you, your passengers or anyone driving or riding in your vehicle with your permission. The limits of your policy will dictate how much you can collect for damages, and cannot exceed your own liability limits. For example, if your maximum liability amount is $150,000, then your UM coverage cannot exceed $150,000.
In addition, if you are riding in someone else’s vehicle at the time of the accident, it will be that person’s UM coverage that takes the primary role in the claim, while your UM coverage will become secondary. The UM claim process should work similarly to any liability claim.
What is underinsured motorist coverage?
When you are involved in a crash with someone who has insurance but low maximum liability limits on the policy prevent you from collecting fully for your damages, you can file a claim under your own underinsured motorist coverage.
As with UM insurance, the amount you can collect will be affected by your own policy limits. You will need to prove to your insurer that your claim is worth more than you were able to receive from the other driver in order to successfully complete a claim. For example, if your medical bills totaled $25,000 but the other driver’s insurance policy only paid $15,000 due to policy limits, you could file a claim under your underinsured motorist clause for the remaining $10,000.
Should I file suit against the uninsured motorist?
In many cases, uninsured motorists do not have much in the way of financial assets, so filing suit can be ineffective. In such a scenario, the judge will see that the at-fault party is unable to pay and you may not receive compensation for your losses. In some cases, the judge will set up a payment plan to enable the defendant to begin reimbursing you, but for an indigent defendant, it could mean that you recover a low sum.
If you have reason to believe that the responsible party has hidden assets or income that makes suit worth pursuing, hire an attorney who specializes in uninsured motorist cases to help you build a strong case and file suit. In some cases, you could be able to recover all damages.
What if I need a lawyer after an accident with an uninsured motorist?
If you have been in an accident with an uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist and need help with your claim, Cordisco & Saile LLC can help. Call us today at 215-642-2335 to set up a free consultation.