Casey & Devoti Legal Blog
Can I Recover More Than the Other Driver’s Insurance Limits?
by Matthew Devoti
The circumstances are uncanny. The families of two men horribly injured in collisions reached out to me within a matter of three weeks. Both men suffered injuries that required extended hospitalization and multiple surgeries. Neither man was at fault for the crashes that put them in the hospital.
Our practice includes the representation of people injured in automobile collisions. Often the impact causes severe, traumatic and permanent harm, including crashes involving a drunk driver or distracted driver. Information collected during the investigation of these two collisions suggest that cellular phone use contributed to cause one impact while alcohol use contributed to the other.
Little doubt exists that the motorists that caused these collisions do not have enough insurance coverage to fairly compensate the people they’ve harmed. In both situations, the driver who’s at fault has liability insurance, but not enough to care for our clients. In other words, she’s “underinsured”.
Unfortunately, we are seeing this situation more and more often. Multiple conditions contribute to the problem. These include the rising cost of medical care, health insurance plans becoming more aggressive in attempting to recover benefits paid on behalf of the injured person, and motorists simply trying to save a few dollars off their monthly insurance premium by reducing their liability coverage. Whatever the cause, the lack of adequate coverage adds to the harm experienced by our client as bills accumulate while the injured person labors to recover from his injuries and get back to work.
Fortunately, you can do something to protect yourself from the underinsured motorist. Many automobile insurers offer a type of protection called “underinsured motorist coverage”. This coverage refers to coverage intended to provide a recovery source for someone who has been injured by a negligent motorist whose own liability coverage is insufficient to fully compensate the injured person – the negligent driver is “underinsured”.
Underinsured motorist coverage exists to supplement the liability coverage purchased by the drunk, distracted or otherwise negligent driver. In this circumstance, the injured person makes a claim against their own insurance policy after he has exhausted the limit of the liability coverage available to the negligent driver.
However, to make an underinsured motorist claim, the injured person must have purchased underinsured motorist coverage before the date of their injury. The coverage cannot be retroactively applied.
This coverage is typically purchased from the insurance coverage that provides your motor vehicle liability coverage. In many cases, underinsured motorist coverage is purchased along with “uninsured motorist coverage” or coverage that protects you in the event you’re involved in a collision with a driver who doesn’t have any liability coverage of any kind. To purchase the coverage, you must ask for it; underinsured motorist coverage is not required in Missouri and, uninsured motorist coverage, is not a standard part of most policies.
Talk with your insurance broker or agent and ask them to price coverage for you. Underinsured motorist coverage is extremely reasonable in many cases. And, purchase as much coverage as possible – since the coverage is often reduced under most policies by money received by you from the driver that caused you harm.
Finally, never hesitate to seek legal counsel should you believe you possess an underinsured motorist claim. Many policies require the injured person step on certain bases to put their claim in a position to be paid. Experienced legal counsel will walk you through the steps necessary to successfully facilitate your underinsured motorist claim, including those items required to resolve the underlying claim against the negligent driver.
Casey & Devoti is a St. Louis-based personal injury law firm. Together Partners Matt Casey and Matt Devoti have nearly 40 years of trial experience. They handle a variety of personal injury matters, including: car, truck and train accidents, victims of impaired and distracted driving, medical malpractice and birth injuries, product liability, slips/trips/falls, elder care and sexual abuse, Workers’ Compensation, and wrongful death. Matt and Matt proudly serve clients throughout metropolitan St. Louis, southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois. If you or a loved one have been injured by the negligence of another, call the office today for a free, no-obligation consultation: (314) 421-0763.