You may find yourself in an accident with a driver who either has no insurance or has some insurance but not enough liability coverage for the entire accident. Instead of paying the extra money out of your own pocket, you can utilize uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage from your own policy, if you have it. Such coverage is entirely optional in some states and mandatory to varying degrees in others. It is generally a good idea to have such coverage, and our LA auto accident attorneys can help.
When to Use the Coverage
You can choose to use this coverage any time you are in an accident and unable to get the other driver’s insurance information either because they will not give it to you or it was a hit-and-run accident. The other driver may also simply not have any liability coverage. You must cover all your damages using your own coverage. You could use a combination of uninsured motorist coverage, collision coverage for vehicle damage and your own health insurance if you don’t have enough coverage for injuries under your auto policy.
In many cases, the other driver has some insurance, but his liability limits are not high enough to cover the entire cost of the accident. You can only reasonably expect to claim damages up to the maximum allowed by the at-fault person’s policy. In this case, you must cover the remainder using your own insurance.
Filing Two Claims and Limitations
In the case of an underinsured motorist, you will file a claim against both the other insurance company, a third-party claim, and your own insurance, as an underinsured motorist claim. These claims will probably happen concurrently because they are highly connected to each other. It is likely that you will settle both at the same time because the third-party claim settlement may impact your underinsured motorist claim.
There are limitations to how much you can claim from your underinsured motorist coverage that is very important to keep in mind and is easy to overlook. In most policies, if you file against the other insurer, you can only claim the difference between your maximum coverage and what they pay. For example, if the other driver has $100,000 in liability coverage and you have $150,000 in underinsured motorist coverage, then you can only claim the difference between the two, or $50,000, from your underinsured motorist claim. You cannot, as it might seem at first, claim $250,000, or the maximum of both policies.
There may also be a strict time limit on filing an underinsured motorist claim. Many policies have a 30-day window to the file the claim, so you should let your insurance company know your intention to file as soon as possible. If you even suspect that you may need the additional coverage, then you should let your insurance company know your intent. The actual payout will be resolved as part of the process of determining damages and liability.
Other Options for Coverage
If the combination of your third-party claim and your uninsured motorist coverage doesn’t resolve all your accident expenses, you may wish to consider other types of coverage you have access to. Your auto policy may also have collision coverage, which you may use to make up the difference. The downside is that you would pay a separate deductible to use your collision coverage, and it may raise your rates for an accident that wasn’t your fault.
If you know that you won’t get enough money to cover your accident from your auto policy, you could file a health insurance claim to cover some or all your medical expenses, relieving your auto policy of that coverage. The downside here is that you will have to pay a separate health insurance deductible, which probably much higher than your auto deductible.
Settlement and Lawsuit Restrictions
It is also important to understand the strict limitations on settlements and future claims and lawsuits. Once you settle a case and sign a release, you cannot file a second claim for the same damages or a second lawsuit for the same accident against the same defendant. You should always consider carefully before settling with any driver in a car accident case and be sure you have gotten the maximum amount of damages possible from that person’s insurance.
An attorney may clarify how these sorts of claims work and what limitations or restrictions will apply to your case. An attorney may also be able to help ensure you get the maximum damages possible and advise you on what amount is a reasonable settlement.