Often negligent drivers will not have adequate insurance to cover the damages they cause, or regrettably, will lack any insurance at all. As a result, an accident victim must review their own auto insurance policy to determine if they carry either uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
At the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C., we highly recommend you purchase these two forms of insurance coverage. In Michigan, they are not required, but due to the astounding number of motorists driving Michigan roadways without adequate insurance, they are a necessity.
The minimum amount of bodily injury insurance coverage in Michigan is $20,000. However, many drivers fail to pay their insurance premium, allowing coverage to lapse and thus leaving the accident victim with nothing.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage is insurance an owner purchases from his or her own insurance carrier that basically steps into the shoes of the uninsured at-fault person who caused the injuries. The claim is made against the accident victim’s own insurance company. These claims come into play when the at-fault driver has no car insurance.
The typical uninsured motorist claim involves a hit-and-run situation, where a person is injured in a car accident, either as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, and the at-fault driver leaves the scene without being identified. In this situation, it is obviously impossible to file a claim against the at-fault person. To receive pain and suffering damages though, a victim can file an uninsured motorist claim with their own insurance company.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Underinsured motorist coverage is similar to uninsured motorist coverage, except in this situation the insurance carrier steps in the shoes of the at-fault driver by providing additional insurance coverage for the accident victim.
For example, if the at-fault person has only $20,000 in liability insurance, but you sustained damages that exceed this low $20,000 liability coverage, you may look to your own policy, through underinsured motorist coverage, to provide additional compensation for your injuries. Underinsured coverage is purchased from your own auto insurance company and claims are made with this same carrier.
Here is an example of how underinsured motorist coverage works:
Person A is hurt in a car accident. Person B, the other driver, is at-fault. Unfortunately, Person B only has the state minimum $20,000 bodily injury coverage. Person A has $100,000 in damages but also purchased an insurance policy that has $100,000 in underinsurance motorist coverage. Person A can collect the full $20,000 from Person B, and then collect the remaining $80,000 from his or her own insurance company.
It is important to understand that both uninsured and underinsured motorist claims are contractual in nature. They are not governed by a specific statute or Michigan law. In other words, what each individual policy states is generally the rules the policy holder must follow. Often, these policies have onerous notice provisions and shortened statutes of limitations, making it difficult for uninformed policy holders to receive money even when they have a good claim.
Because of these notice provisions, it is extremely important you contact an experienced auto accident lawyer immediately if you or a loved one is involved in a car, truck or motorcycle accident to find out your rights and the proper way to establish a claim.