by Scott Blumenshine
If you are seriously injured in a car accident, you may face mounting bills from the hospital, doctors, therapists, auto body shop and your regular monthly expenses that went unpaid while you are unable to work. If someone else caused the accident, you may feel that you shouldn’t be responsible for these bills, and you are right. That’s why Illinois requires all drivers to carry auto insurance coverage. When the other driver is uninsured, your uninsured motorist coverage is there to help you. When the other driver is underinsured, your motorist coverage fills in the gap between the other driver’s liability limits and your underinsured motorist coverage.
If an uninsured driver causes an accident, they may be subject to arrest and substantial traffic law citations and penalties for driving without insurance. While this may discourage drivers from going without insurance, and seeing the other driver charged may make you feel good, it does not provide you with compensation for your financial losses and pain caused by the accident. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you have a remedy.
Uninsured motorist insurance coverage is a substitute for the liability coverage that the uninsured motorist should have had. It applies to both the driver and passengers, and it covers everything that the at-fault driver’s policy would have covered including: emergency medical treatment, follow-up care, surgery, physical therapy, rehabilitation, medication, lost wages, and other economic damages. Uninsured motorist coverage would also pay for intangible damages including pain, suffering, disfigurement and disability. The policy limits for uninsured motorist coverage is usually equal to your own liability coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage applies when the at-fault driver had no insurance or could not be identified (such as in a hit-and-run). Claims are handled directly with your own insurance company.
An underinsured motorist policy provides similar coverage to an uninsured motorist policy but applies when the at-fault driver had an insurance policy with low limits. That means limits such as $20,000 that weren’t high enough to cover your total losses from the accident. You file a claim with your own insurance company, but you first must collect from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. You can file an underinsured motorist claim with your own insurance company even if you accepted a settlement less than the maximum limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy.
Drivers who go without insurance or buy policies that are at or just barely above the legal minimums frequently do so because they cannot afford any coverage or better coverage. They are typically low income individuals, don’t own their own home, and don’t have significant savings. Because of this, it can be virtually impossible to collect monetary damages even if you bring a lawsuit against them.
As a matter of protecting your rights, you may have to file suit against the uninsured or underinsured motorist. Your auto insurance company has reimbursement or subrogation rights against wrongdoers, so you may be required to preserve those reimbursement or subrogation claims by suing the wrongdoers and turning the case over to your insurer. Time limits and other rules apply to these claims, so please consider speaking to competent counsel before you jeapordize your claims.
Before taking any action, always speak to an experienced quality auto accident lawyer. If you accept an insurance check or sign a settlement agreement, you may lose the right to additional compensation even if you only later discover that you need additional medical care.
Your protection is the purpose of the uninsured and underinsured insurance law. When you make a claim against your insurance company, they should pay the claim. If they do not pay the claim, then you make a demand for arbitration. A lawsuit happens in court. Arbitration happens outside of court. Arbitrators are typically attorneys in private practice and the arbitration hearings typically happen in attorneys office. Scott Blumenshine is an arbitrator in uninsured and underinsured motorist claims.
Many people are concerned that their insurance coverage is jeopardized or their rates will increase if they make a claim. The law in Illinois prohibits insurers from dropping insurance coverage or raising premiums if you make a claim for which you are not at fault. If you have experienced a painful or disabling injury due to an uninsured driver, I would encourage you to consider speaking with a capable experienced injury attorney with a strong record in recovering uninsured and underinsured motorist benefits.
To learn more about uninsured, hit-and-run, and underinsured motorist coverage in Illinois, download Am I Covered?, an eBook by Scott A. Blumenshine of the Law Offices of Meyer & Blumenshine.