While 48 states in the country require drivers to have minimum car insurance coverage, coverage for under-insured motorists is generally optional. Depending on your state, required coverage generally includes bodily injury insurance for a minimum of $25,000. There will also likely be coverage required for personal property damage and uninsured motor coverage. Note that the uninsured coverage only covers drivers with zero auto insurance and does not include under-insured drivers.
What is an Under-Insured Motorist?
The definition of under-insured motorist will vary by insurance companies as well as by state. Some define an under-insured driver as having coverage below the cost of your damages. If the other driver causes physical damage to you and your bills are more than the $25,000 minimum coverage, they will likely be considered under-insured.
Other insurance companies will define the motorist as being under-insured if their coverage for that incident is less than your own coverage for under-insured drivers. For example, if you carry under-insured for $50,000 and their policy covers $25,000, they may be considered an under-insured motorist.
Options For Settlement
If you are in an accident with an under-insured driver, you have a couple of options available that do not require a lawsuit. These options include the other driver paying cash for the damages, or settling with the insurance company. Keep in mind that few drivers will have thousands of dollars available to pay for the damages. If settling, you may need to obtain your insurance company’s permission before settling. If you don’t, you may lose your coverage.
If settling, keep in mind that you may have costs related to the accident which are not known at the time. Examples of this include neck or spinal damage which occurs but is not shown on x-rays or MRI images at the time of the incident. You will also want to ensure the settlement includes lost wages and any possible tax liabilities as a result of a settlement.
When to Sue The Under-Insured’s Company
While you may choose to sue the other insurance company, it is not required. Even if you choose to settle, suing is later an option. For example, if they ignore the settlement, you can then sue. If you offer to settle with the other insurance company, it is recommended you leave the offer open for at least 30 days. If they do not pay the claim without a legitimate reason, we highly recommend suing the company. You will be able to sue for more than just injuries. This allows you to also sue for attorney’s fees and other penalties.
Why Should I Hire an Attorney?
While it may be tempting to handle the matter with the other party yourself, it may not be the wisest choice. The other party may not offer you as much as you need for medical bills in the future. You should consider hiring an attorney before discussing settlement options. While there are no guarantees, a qualified personal injury lawyer will help you fully understand your options. In addition, they are able to make sure you fully understand your potential financial needs. Finally, a qualified attorney can make sure the other party’s insurance company doesn’t pressure you to take a low offer.
A qualified attorney will understand the entire process and ensure all documentation is properly filed. While this is not a guarantee, they may be able to keep you out of court. Some insurance companies will offer higher settlements upon learning an attorney was hired.
Contact us if you would like to discuss your accident. Their is no charge for the initial consultation. We can help you fight for the money you need to recover from the damages.