In some situations, it is difficult or impossible to get the driver who injured you and caused your accident to pay for the damages they caused. The police might not be able to find the driver if they fled the scene of the accident. Sometimes the driver does not have insurance or adequate assets to compensate you for your injuries. And often, the damages you sustained may be more than the amount of the driver’s insurance coverage.
However, you still have options in these situations. Your personal injury lawyer can guide you to take advantage of uninsured coverage and underinsured coverage to pay for the damages, medical bills, and suffering you’ve endured.
What is Uninsured Coverage?
If you have auto insurance in Missouri or Kansas, you automatically also have uninsured coverage from your auto insurance carrier, which protects you in case you are involved in an accident with a driver who does not have insurance or if the police fail to find to find the driver responsible for your accident.
While it is mandatory to have auto insurance and to remain on scene after an accident in Kansas and Missouri, many drivers are in fact uninsured. Also, as recently as 2017, the number of hit and runs committed yearly in the United States have grown by 60%. That is about one in eight drivers.
As a result of the high rate of these irresponsible behaviors, we are seeing more victims of hit and runs and those who have been hit by someone without insurance in our office seeking help. Thankfully, it is mandatory for you to purchase uninsured coverage for yourself, so if you have insurance, we can help you make an uninsured claim.
In Kansas and Missouri, the minimum uninsured coverage you can purchase is $25,000. Note that this is also the minimum coverage the at-fault driver should have had and may not cover your full cost, especially after a serious accident. Increasing your coverage beyond the state minimum is a wise idea, as additional uninsured coverage is inexpensive and the risks of being hit by an irresponsible driver seem to be increasing.
What is Underinsured Coverage?
What happens if the driver who caused your accident has insurance but the limits are not enough to cover all of the damage, injuries, and suffering you incurred? All insurance policies have a maximum policy limit, and in the case of severe accidents, your costs may rise well above the coverage provided by the at-fault driver, especially if they have only purchased the minimum legal coverage.
In this scenario, your underinsured coverage can be used to make up the gap between the at-fault driver’s maximum coverage and the costs you incurred from the accident. In order to use underinsured coverage, the at-fault driver must be deemed an “underinsured motorist.” You must have also purchased the underinsurance coverage before the accident. And the underinsured insurer (your insurance company) generally must be given the opportunity to “substitute a draft.” If it is not afforded this opportunity, your underinsured coverage may be jeopardized. This is one reason hiring an experienced personal injury trial lawyer is essential.
It’s also important to understand that most insurance carriers and policies require a setoff of the amount of the underinsured coverage. This means that in general, the maximum payout from the underinsured policy is reduced by the amount you receive from the at-fault driver. An experienced personal injury lawyer will read the relevant policies to make sure that you receive the full benefits afforded under any relevant policy.
For example, say you’re hit by a driver who has the bare minimum insurance coverage of $25,000. You suffer significant injuries, and your medical bills alone total $132,000. Your underinsured coverage is $100,000. You receive $25,000 from the at-fault driver. Under most policies, the maximum amount of underinsured coverage you will receive is $75,000, not the $107,000 needed to cover your medical bills (and this doesn’t even account for other damages, such as pain and suffering).
Because most policies include a setoff provision for underinsured coverage, the amount you receive from the at-fault driver is subtracted from your own underinsured coverage provision.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your uninsured coverage is added to the amount you get from the at-fault driver. Instead, the total amount of your underinsured coverage is the total amount you can receive for the accident from all sources. That is why it’s so critical to have adequate underinsurance coverage, to protect yourself in the case of serious accidents. Be sure to talk with an excellent insurance agent with a reputable company who can help make sure you are adequately protected.
Before you talk to your insurance company about whether or not you can claim underinsurance coverage after an accident, speak to a personal injury lawyer. Your lawyer can make sure your insurance company treats you fairly and in accordance with the terms of any applicable policy.
Increase Your Underinsured and Uninsured Coverage Today
Don’t let someone else’s irresponsibility effect you. If you have been involved in a car accident, or if you want to talk with an attorney about adequate insurance coverage, call Aaron House today for a free consultation at 816-875-4260.