How will my uninsured motorist coverage handle a hit and run?

by Dee
(Phoenix, Arizona)

I was rear ended by a driver that pushed me into the car in front of me and then took off. My policy had $5000 in medical coverage and uninsured motorist of $25,000, with a bodily injury of $100,000 per person/ $300,000 per occurrence.

My car was totaled (hit front and back) and I have medical costs of $16,600 over the past 6 months of treatment for my neck and back injury with two damaged discs. I will likely be released from treatment on June 6, 2016.

The medical of $5000 and uninsured $25,000 are covering the $16,600 in medical with $13,400 of uninsured remaining.

I have two questions:

1. What might be an approximate acceptable range they will make their first settlement offer to me?

2. Will the remaining $13,400 of uninsured be the max my policy will pay out in a settlement, or will part of the $100,000 bodily injury total per occurrence come into play to cover my settlement in excess of the balance of the uninsured part of my policy?

Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "How will my uninsured motorist coverage handle a hit and run?":

Dee (Phoenix, Arizona):

Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage can include all damages for your injuries, including but not limited to pain and suffering, together with all outstanding medical bills and wage loss resulting from an accident.

UM will also provide additional coverage for damages caused if the at-fault driver did not have sufficient limits on his or her bodily injury coverage. In your case, because the at-fault driver didn't stop, the insurance company will presume the driver did not have sufficient coverage.

It is likely the property damage portion of your claim will be handled by a separate claims adjuster from the one who is handling the personal injury aspect of your claim.

However, before going any further, consider this...

Some injury claims can be managed by a victim without legal representation. Those claims include relatively minor injuries such as minor bruising, contusions and abrasions, whiplash, minor burns, strains and sprains to muscles, tendons, and ligaments, etc.

More serious injuries like fractures, disk herniation, head trauma, 3rd degree burns, disfigurement, loss of body parts, and similarly serious injuries should always be handled by an experienced personal attorney. Your injuries are certainly serious enough to require legal representation.

The primary reason for hiring an attorney is the extent to which you can negotiate your own claim. If you represent yourself, the insurance company claims adjuster already knows how much he or she is are going to offer you. Once the adjuster reaches the maximum offer, regardless of whether or not that amount is fair, their position will be "Take it or leave it."

The adjuster will do this knowing you have no recourse to make the insurance company pay more. However well you believe you are negotiating, you can be sure the adjuster has much more experience than you.

The adjuster may make statements like, "You are a great negotiator," or "You reached the limit." Or "I'm going to have to check with my supervisor because the amount is way over the amount we would normally offer on this claim," or similar statements, but it's likely the adjuster is, for lack or a better term, "playing" you.

That will not happen with an experienced attorney. Insurance companies almost always settle serious injury claims for much higher amounts when attorneys are involved. They do so because the attorney has substantial recourse, primarily being able to file a lawsuit in higher court, if necessary.

Insurance companies don't like lawsuits, as they protract claims and cost thousands of dollars in legal fees for their attorneys. In most cases, insurance companies would rather pay a settlement than have to litigate.

In your case, the bodily injury coverage of $100,000 per person will also be applicable to your claim. You would be best served by seeking the advice and counsel of several personal injury attorneys in your area. Most will not charge for an initial office consultations.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Moreover, it is very likely an experienced personal injury attorney will be able to negotiate a much higher net settlement than you could do on your own, even after attorneys fees are deducted.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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