Underinsured Motorist Claims
West Plains, MO Car Accident Attorney
Every day, all across this country, negligent drivers with inadequate insurance
coverage are responsible for causing serious accidents resulting in catastrophic
personal injury and death. All states require a minimal amount of bodily
injury liability coverage on every policy sold in that state. In Missouri,
every automobile insurance policy must provide a minimum of $25,000 per
person in bodily injury liability coverage. In order to maximize their
risk of exposure and corporate profits, insurance companies like to write
the $25,000 minimal coverage policies, particularly to high risk motorists
most likely to be involved in accidents.
As a result, these drivers usually carry the least insurance coverage for
the harms they inflict. If you have been injured by an underinsured motorist,
a West Plains personal injury attorney from
Henry & Williams, P.C., can protect you from large insurance companies who don't want to
give you the
compensation you deserve.
free initial consultation with our qualified injury attorneys - over 60 years of combined experience
working for you!
Explaining Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Underinsured motorist coverage is optional. This means that you only have
that coverage if you pay a premium. While all insurance policies issued
in Missouri provide uninsured motorist coverage, only those policies for
which a premium is paid will provide underinsured motorist coverage. The
purpose of underinsured motorist coverage is to provide you, your family
and the passengers of your vehicle with additional bodily injury coverage
when the at-fault party causing your accident had insurance, but not enough
to cover your injuries or coverage in an amount less than your underinsured
motorist coverage limits.
Every automobile policy which has underinsured motorist coverage will contain
a definition of an underinsured motor vehicle. Generally, an underinsured
motor vehicle is defined in either one of two ways. First, your policy
may define an underinsured motor vehicle as one which is insured but its
coverage is less than your
damages. Secondly, some policies define an underinsured motor vehicle as one which
is insured but its limits are less than your underinsured motorist coverage.
As to the latter definition, the claim becomes more complicated when the
at-fault parties insurance coverage is not less than but equal to your
underinsured motorist coverage.
For example, the at-fault party may carry $25,000 in coverage and you may
have $25,000 in underinsured motorist coverage. In that instance, you
are entitled to your underinsured motorist coverage by operation of statute
which makes your coverage excess to that of the negligent party. However,
if the at-fault party carries $50,000 in coverage and you also carry $50,000
in underinsured motorist coverage, further investigation is necessary.
Sometimes your underinsured motorist coverage will be considered excess
and sometimes it will not, depending on an overall reading of the entire
contract with the insurance you have purchased. Usually, only a personal
injury attorney who handles underinsured motorist claims on a regular
basis will be able to make that determination.
What is covered in underinsured motorist policies?
Underinsured motorist coverage is always available to the policy holder
or the person whose name appears on the automobile policy. However, the
coverage does not end there. Usually, and in most instances, the underinsured
motorist coverage extends to family members of the named policyholder
as well as to passengers of an automobile which is insured. You do not
have to be a policyholder, family member of a policyholder or passenger
to be eligible for underinsured motorist benefits. You may also be entitled
to underinsured motorist coverage if you were a pedestrian, bicyclist,
motorcycle rider or passenger, or even a bystander so long as the negligent
motorist who caused your injuries was operating an underinsured motor
vehicle at the time of your accident.
The underinsured motorist coverage required by Missouri law is for bodily
injuries. Bodily injuries include compensation for the obvious losses
of past and future medical bills you may incur as a result of the accident,
past and future lost earnings as well as your pain and suffering. Most
policies do not cover property damage such as the damage to your vehicle,
although some underinsured motorist coverage will cover property damage
if an added premium is paid for that coverage.
Requirements in Making an Underinsured Motorist Claim
Yes, there are some very important conditions which must be met or your
underinsured motorist coverage claim may be denied. Some of those requirements
include the following:
- If suit is filed against the at-fault party, your policy will normally
contain a requirement that copies of the suit papers be promptly submitted
to your carrier to put them on notice of that suit. Failure to provide
that notice may cost you your coverage.
- If you reach a settlement with the at-fault party and their insurance carrier,
your policy will almost always require that you obtain prior written consent
from your insurance company before concluding that settlement. Failure
to obtain that prior written consent may cost you your coverage.
- You must exhaust or use up the full amount of the at-fault party's
insurance to be eligible for your underinsured motorist coverage. Failure
to exhaust that coverage will deprive you of yours. In other words, if
the at-fault party carries $50,000 in coverage, you cannot settle for $49,900.
- When you settle with the at-fault party's insurance company, you should
not sign a full release of all claims, but rather should sign a limited
release reserving your underinsured motorist claims. Most law offices
handling these claims, will want to include a special paragraph specifically
reserving the underinsured motorist claim when signing off on the release
of the claims against the at-fault party and their carrier.
Can underinsured motorist coverage be stacked?
In Missouri it is possible in some instances to stack your underinsured
motorist coverage. Under the concept of stacking, if you have more than
one vehicle with underinsured motorist coverage, you may be entitled to
the benefits on each of those vehicles. Usually, however, you will need
to be injured in an accident while you were a passenger in a non-owned
vehicle in order to stack your underinsured motorist coverage. Stacking
of underinsured motorist coverage depends on an interpretation of the
policy language and your particular insurance policy and usually an attorney
who handles underinsured motorist claims can advise you as to whether
or not your policies can be stacked. It would be wise to determine whether
or not your underinsured motorist coverage can be stacked before settling
your claims particularly if you have sustained serious injuries or have
lost a family member and have a wrongful death claim against your insurance company.
Contact a Mountain Grove, MO car accident lawyer to learn more!
If you offer to settle your underinsured motorist claim, leave the offer
to settle open for at least 30 days, and the insurance company fails and
refuses to pay the claim without just cause or excuse, the court or jury
may award you damages not only for your injuries but for attorney's
fees, penalties and interest as well. In regard to an underinsured motorist
claim, it is important that you secure the services of an attorney with
experience handling these claims so that he or she can properly submit
your claim with supportive documents such as medical records, medical
bills, photographs, tax returns, wage loss verification from your employer,
life expectancy tables, etc., so that if your claim is denied you will
have a basis to request the court to award attorney fees and penalties
against the insurance company for not paying your claim.
Contact a Mountain Grove, MO car accident attorney to learn more!