According to the Insurance Research Council, 1 in 8 American drivers are uninsured. Uninsured Motorist coverage (UM) provides coverage should you or your passenger be injured in a collision with an uninsured driver. Because you make this claim with your own insurance company, you might assume it is unnecessary to hire an attorney. But your insurance company will act to minimize the amount paid on your UM claim, just as it would any other claim by a third party. Because of this, many drivers find that they must hire an attorney to receive a fair and complete settlement offer under a UM policy.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage Basics
Uninsured Motorist coverage, or UM, pays for medical expenses and other damages if you or your passenger are in a collision caused by an uninsured motorist. UM pays for:
- Medical Expenses
- Lost Wages if you cannot work.
- Pain and suffering
Underinsured Motorist Coverage, or UIM, provides coverage if you are hit by another driver that is insured but does not carry enough coverage for your losses. In Illinois, liability insurance must contain UM coverage at minimum levels as a matter of law. Illinois drivers may purchase additional UIM coverage.
Why You Need an Attorney
Insurance is a business. Insurance companies will seek to minimize the amount paid on claims, whether the claim is made by a third party or their own insured. Many people find it difficult to negotiate or deal with insurance company tactics without an attorney.
Exploitation of Financial Hardship
Insurance companies know people face economic hardship after an accident—victims may have lost a car or time and income from work and have substantial medical bills. At times of financial hardship, it is easier to manipulate a person into acting against their self-interest. Some insurance companies use this vulnerability to minimize claims under UM policies.
The Three Ds
Your insurance company may use the “Three Ds” to minimize your claim:
- Delay communications and investigations.
- Devalue claims with low offers and incomplete settlements.
If you suspect your claim is being delayed, wrongfully denied or devalued, it is time to bring in counsel.
Insurance Company Tactics
Your insurance company may use the following tactics to delay, deny or devalue your claim:
- Intentionally delaying communications with you.
- Delaying the investigation of your claim.
- Making requests for unnecessary paperwork or documentation.
- Making a “lowball” offer and creating a high-pressure environment for acceptance.
- Manipulating you into admitting fault.
- Pressuring you not to hire an attorney.
- Misrepresenting the law and/or the policy limits.
Why You Need an Attorney
Once you hire an attorney, the insurance company will communicate with you through your attorney. You will no longer have the stress of dealing with the insurance company directly and wondering if they are telling you the truth.
Your attorney will be able to see past delays and denials and put a reasonable value on your claim. Consider hiring experienced counsel familiar with your insurance company. If your attorney has a history of being tough and effective in prior claims, they may be more likely to make a reasonable settlement offer.
UM Coverage Limits and “Stacking”
Do not make assumptions concerning your policy limits without consulting an attorney. Some policies allow you to “stack” insurance policies for a modest increase in your premium. Stacking allows you to combine multiple vehicle coverage limits if you insure multiple vehicles. So, if you are in an accident with an uninsured driver, and the accident is not your fault, you can use the policy limits of the car you were driving and further add the policy limits of another car on the same policy or another policy. For example, if you had policy limits of $100,000.00 for the car you were driving and $100,000 for another vehicle on the same policy, you could claim policy limits up to $200,000.00. Consult an experienced attorney—you may have more coverage than you think.
The Cullotta Bravo Law Team Knows UM Claims
If you have been in an accident with an uninsured driver and find the claims process overwhelming, you are not alone. Cullotta Bravo has helped many people to secure fair and timely settlements under UM policies, and they are here to help you. To schedule a free consultation, call 630-898-7800 or contact us online for more information.