This page gives a brief overview of Uninsured Motorist Coverage, including a discussion of how it applies to medical bills, loss of wages, property damage, and passenger liability coverage.
The number of underinsured or uninsured motorists on America’s roads has been increasing at an alarming rate for the past several years. This means there’s a good chance if you get into an accident the other driver won’t have insurance, or his insurance won’t be enough to cover your injuries and property damage.
According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC), in the United States 1 out every 5 drivers on the road today – that’s 20% – are either uninsured or underinsured. As remarkable a percentage as that is, the IRC expects the number to continue to rise in the coming years.
Let’s use an example to explain the concept of Uninsured Motorist Coverage further…
You were stopped at a red light when out of nowhere a driver struck your car forcefully from behind (known as a “rear end collision”). Afterwards you’re on the side of the road, with the trunk of your car now practically in the back seat. Your passenger, a good friend, is in obvious discomfort. Now the fellow who ran into you is trying to explain how he didn’t realize his car insurance expired last month. Now what?
Your car will be in the shop for a week and it’s going to cost thousands of dollars to repair. You’ll need to rent a car to get back and forth from work.
Because of the increased adrenaline your body produced at the time of the accident, you probably won’t feel any pain until days afterward. But when the pain does come it can be debilitating. Your friend has whiplash. You’re both probably going to incur medical bills and may need to see a chiropractor for therapy. What’s even worse is you both may have to miss work while recovering.
Who’s going to pay for all this?
The at-fault driver was uninsured. (An uninsured motorist is someone who doesn’t have any insurance, their insurance did not meet state-mandated minimum liability requirements, or their insurance company will not cover the accident). A “hit and run” driver can also be considered an uninsured motorist.
What many drivers don’t realize is that when you purchase car insurance you can pay a little extra every month for a separate insurance policy, or “insurance policy rider.”
These riders are generally referred to as “Uninsured Motorist Coverage.” The purpose of an Uninsured Motorist Policy or Rider is to provide coverage exactly for circumstances like these, where the driver is uninsured or underinsured.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage may cover:
- the repairs to your car
- a rental car
- reimbursement for lost wages
- recovery for pain and suffering
- present and future medical bills for you and your passenger
- reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses
That’s the good news. The not so good news is that insurance companies’ claims processes are usually delayed and overwhelming. Attempting to negotiate with an insurance company on your own is difficult unless you have negotiating experience. Skilled claims adjusters are trained to minimize your claim so their employer insurance company will only have to pay a fraction of what you rightfully deserve.
Important steps for recovering present and future damages under your uninsured motorist coverage…
- Consult with a qualified personal injury attorney. Most offer a free initial consultation, and if they accept the case you won’t have to pay them anything until the case is settled.
- Find high quality physicians and chiropractors who agree to wait to be paid until your insurance settlement is finalized (otherwise the physician may send any unpaid medical bills to collections).
- Find a car rental company which will bill your insurance company directly so you don’t have to pay first and get reimbursed later. (Auto insurance companies often contract with a particular car rental agency and may require you to use their rental company.)
- Coordinate body shop repairs with the claims adjuster.
- Acquire the proof your insurance company needs to reimburse you for lost wages. You should be able to simply request a letter from your supervisor detailing the time you missed and your normal wage.
- Work closely with your physicians and chiropractors to secure medical narratives describing your injuries, diagnoses, and prognoses. (A medical prognosis is a written statement from your doctor describing how the auto accident injuries will affect you in the future. This can include future treatments, medical costs, and pain you may continue to suffer.)
In a serious auto accident, negotiating a fair settlement is best left in the hands of a skilled personal injury attorney. Accurately determining the amount your insurance company should pay for your present and future damages can be tricky. Likewise, negotiating a fair settlement with a trained claims adjuster requires skill and bit of moxy.
However, if it’s a relatively minor accident you may be able to settle the claim on your own. Read more about different cases of negligence to determine if you should hire an attorney or not.