How Can a Car Accident Lawyer Help Me File a UM/UIM Claim?
If you suffered harm in a car accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you likely have many questions about what comes next. How will you seek compensation for your injuries and other crash-related losses?
A knowledgeable car accident attorney can help you understand your legal options and pursue maximum compensation.
Other Types of Insurance Claims You Can File If the Other Driver Has No or Insufficient Coverage
When you’re in an accident with an uninsured, underinsured, or hit-and-run driver, several types of insurance, including UM and UIM coverage, could pay for your losses. Here are four common types of coverage:
Personal Injury Protection (PIP) Insurance
Personal injury protection, or PIP, primarily covers medical expenses and income losses. However, it can also extend to cover the costs of rehabilitation services, funeral expenses, and, sometimes, childcare.
PIP is only available in certain states, primarily those with no-fault insurance systems like New York or Florida. It is unavailable in other states, such as Arizona and New Mexico.
A key advantage of PIP is that it pays out regardless of who is at fault for the accident. In an accident with an uninsured, underinsured, or hit-and-run driver, you can rely on PIP to cover various expenses.
Moreover, PIP can sometimes cover deductibles or copays that your health insurance or other policies might require, further lessening your financial burden.
Medical Payments (MedPay) Insurance
Medical payments coverage, or MedPay, offers limited coverage. It addresses medical and funeral expenses resulting from auto accidents. Like PIP, it offers no-fault coverage, so it pays out regardless of who caused the accident. This is particularly beneficial in accidents with uninsured or underinsured drivers, as it provides immediate financial assistance for medical costs.
Many crash victims use MedPay in conjunction with their health insurance. Like PIP, it can cover deductibles and copays from your health insurance. However, unlike PIP, MedPay doesn’t cover non-medical expenses like income losses or childcare costs.
After accidents with uninsured or underinsured drivers, health insurance is another possible safety net for medical treatment expenses. While it doesn’t pay for the costs of vehicle damages or lost income, health insurance takes care of your medical needs, such as hospital stays, surgeries, and doctor’s visits.
Health insurance is especially vital following severe accidents where medical costs often skyrocket. However, health insurance often comes with its own deductibles and copays. It also won’t cover certain accident-related expenses like rehabilitation or long-term care if they are not part of your health plan.
How Common Are UM Accidents?
Below are some eye-opening statistics about the societal cost of traffic accidents, U.S. auto insurance requirements, and the prevalence of motorists without proper auto insurance coverage:
- In one recent year, the total societal cost of motor vehicle crashes in the United States reached $340 billion. This includes police-reported and unreported crashes.
- This cost represents the value of lifetime economic costs for 36,500 fatalities, 4.5 million nonfatal injuries, and 23 million damaged vehicles.
- Auto liability insurance is mandatory in 49 states and D.C., with each jurisdiction requiring different types and amounts of coverage.
- New Hampshire is the only state that does not require auto liability insurance, but drivers must comply with alternative financial responsibility requirements if they choose not to have insurance.
- According to a Insurance Research Council study, roughly 12.6 percent of motorists, or one in eight drivers, lacked proper auto insurance coverage in one recent year.
- The percentage of uninsured motorists peaked at 13.1 percent in one recent year and has since decreased slightly.
- Mississippi had the highest rate of uninsured motorists in the U.S. in one recent year, with 29.4 percent.
- Other states with high uninsured driving rates included Michigan (25.5 percent), Tennessee (23.7 percent), New Mexico (21.8 percent) and Washington (21.7 percent)
- New Jersey had the lowest rate of uninsured motorists in one recent year (3.1 percent).
- Other states with low uninsured driving rates included Massachusetts (3.5 percent), New York (4.1 percent), Maine (4.9 percent) and Wyoming (5.8 percent).
- In one recent year, 21 states and the District of Columbia had uninsured motorist rates higher than the national average, while 29 states had lower rates.
Why Do Some People Drive Without Proper Insurance?
While most states require at least some level of auto insurance, many drivers on the road choose to go without it for various reasons.
Here are some common reasons:
- Cost Concerns: Often, the primary reason for not having auto insurance is the cost. Some drivers find the premiums too high and feel they cannot afford the expense. This is particularly true for those with limited income or financial hardships.
- Lack of Understanding: Some drivers might not fully understand the importance and legal necessity of having auto insurance. They might underestimate the risks and potential costs of being in an accident without sufficient insurance.
- Infrequent Driving: Individuals who drive very rarely might decide not to purchase insurance, possibly because they believe their lower likelihood of an accident doesn’t justify the cost of insurance.
- Vehicle Condition: Owners of older or less valuable cars sometimes skip insurance, believing it’s not worth insuring a car with little value. They might accept the risk of loss instead of paying for insurance.
- Past Violations or Accidents: Drivers with a history of traffic violations or accidents often face higher insurance rates. To avoid these increased costs, some choose to drive without insurance.
- Difficulty Getting Coverage: In some cases, drivers have difficulty getting insurance due to a poor driving record, lack of credit history, or living in a high-risk area. These challenges can lead them to forgo insurance.
- Personal Beliefs: Some drivers might drive without insurance due to personal beliefs or principles. They might oppose the concept of insurance or have other reasons for not wanting to engage with insurance companies.
UM Insurance and Hit-and-Run Accidents
If another driver flees the scene of an accident without providing contact or insurance information, you might face significant challenges on the road to recovery. Fortunately, if you have uninsured motorist (UM) insurance, you can rely on your policy to cover some or all of the losses you incur.
In hit-and-run accident scenarios, victims often have no way to claim compensation from the at-fault driver since that driver’s identity and insurance details are unknown.
UM insurance steps in to fill this gap. It covers medical expenses, lost income, and sometimes pain and suffering. This coverage prevents you from having to deal with the financial burden of the accident on your own.
A critical aspect of UM insurance in hit-and-run cases is that it can provide coverage for both bodily injuries and, in some policies, vehicle damage.
If you suffer harm and your car sustains damage in a hit-and-run, your UM policy might cover both. However, the specifics can vary based on your policy and state’s laws, so review your policy with a lawyer as soon as possible after the collision.
If another driver hits you and flees the scene, remember to report the hit-and-run accident to the police and your insurance company immediately. This increases the likelihood of identifying the at-fault driver and is often a requirement for making a UM claim, no matter who is responsible for the wreck.
Evidence in UM/UIM Accident Claims
Substantial evidence is essential in UM and UIM accident claims.
Lawyers often gather and present the following types of evidence to demand the compensation their clients deserve for crash-related injuries and losses:
- Medical Records: To prove injury claims, lawyers gather comprehensive medical records. These documents show the nature and extent of your injuries, treatments, and prognosis. They demonstrate the effect of the accident on your overall health and well-being.
- Witness Statements: Statements from people who saw the accident often provide robust evidence that can confirm your version of events. Sometimes, witnesses provide details about the accident that you might not remember or might not have seen.
- Photos and Videos: Photos or videos of the accident scene, damage to your vehicle, and your visible injuries can visually demonstrate the severity of the accident and the resulting devastation.
- Expert Testimony: In some cases, lawyers bring in experts, such as accident reconstruction specialists or medical professionals, to provide testimony. These experts can offer insights into how the accident happened, who is responsible, or the long-term effects of your injuries.
- Income Records: Lawyers use earnings records and other proof of income to prove financial losses, especially if you missed work or cannot return to work due to the accident. These might include pay stubs, tax returns, bank records, or statements from your employer.
- Personal Journals: Sometimes, lawyers encourage clients to keep journals detailing their recoveries and how the injuries affect their daily lives. You can use this kind of personal account to show how your injuries have impaired your quality or enjoyment of life.
- Insurance Policy Documents: Finally, lawyers review the insurance policy documents for both victims and at-fault drivers. These documents allow attorneys to understand the available coverage limits and make a case for UM or UIM claims.
How Can a Car Accident Lawyer Help Me File a UM/UIM Claim?
When dealing with a UM/UIM accident injury claim, a Phoenix personal injury lawyer can provide valuable assistance in numerous ways, such as by:
- Investigating the accident to identify liable parties and helpful evidence
- Exploring all possible sources of compensation to maximize your payout
- Gathering and analyzing police reports for details about the accident
- Collecting and reviewing medical records to document your injuries
- Consulting medical experts to understand the full extent of your injuries
- Working with financial experts to project long-term costs and losses
- Coordinating with accident reconstruction experts to establish fault
- Interviewing witnesses to gather statements supporting your claim
- Advising you on the legal process and your rights as a victim
- Helping you understand policy language and insurance coverage limits
- Identifying potential underinsurance issues with the at-fault party
- Calculating the total cost of your losses, including future expenses
- Obtaining and analyzing the at-fault party’s driving and insurance history
- Managing communications with all parties involved in the claim
- Filing all necessary legal or insurance paperwork for your claim
- Negotiating with insurance companies on your behalf
- Advising you on settlement offers
- Challenging any denials or lowball offers from insurance companies
- Keeping you informed about the progress of your claim
- Protecting your rights against aggressive insurance tactics
- Representing you in court if the case goes to trial
- Preparing and delivering compelling arguments in court
- Ensuring compliance with all legal deadlines and procedural requirements