One evening in mid-June 2022, one of our clients, Colbert, was driving home, when another driver, moving at a high rate of speed, was turning into a gas station and drove into Colbert’s lane. Colbert was transported to the hospital by ambulance with substantial injuries.
Although the police report showed that the accident was clearly the other driver’s fault (red car in the diagram from the police report; hitting Colbert’s green car), as is frequently the case, the driver that hit him had no automobile insurance.
How can this be? State laws, including Missouri, where Colbert’s accident happened, requires that drivers maintain a “minimum level” of insurance coverage including $25K per person for bodily injury.
Other times, someone is in an accident caused by a driver who has this “minimum” coverage, but that coverage (e.g., $25K in Missouri) is less than the medical and other damages caused by the accident. These drivers are called “underinsured motorist” (vs. “uninsured motorist” for those with no insurance).
When Colbert hired Burger Law, the only thing he knew was that the driver who hit him provided “no proof of insurance” to the police officer.
Although consulting an attorney when in a vehicle accident is always wise, it is especially so when you have to navigate what to do when the other driver is uninsured or underinsured.
To begin with, we have the tools to determine if the person really has insurance. And we can determine what coverage they have.
And if they don’t have insurance, as was the case with the person who hit Colbert, Burger Law can seek compensation from the client’s insurance. Specifically, when people purchase automobile insurance, they often wisely purchase what is called “UM” or “uninsured” and “UIM” or “underinsured” motorist insurance.
Thankfully, Colbert’s policy did include “UM Bodily Injury” coverage. This coverage is made precisely for the situation he found himself in this accident. This insurance pays for his “bodily injury” damages when the at-fault driver has no insurance.
People often think that because such insurance payments would come from their own insurance company, and not the other driver’s company, they will not have any problems getting payment.
Unfortunately, this is not really the case. Despite collecting premiums from their customers for uninsured motorist coverage, insurance companies often resist fully compensating their customers when they need to use it. Just like at-fault driver insurance companies, they may offer just a fraction of damages sustained.
They will likely require documentation of the medical bills and not suggest their customers seek recovery for future medical care that might be necessary or wage loss, or emotional distress damages, or pain and suffering. Insurance companies are businesses and every dollar they pay out (including to their own customers) is lost profit.
After Colbert’s primary medical treatment was done (by October 2022), we drafted a comprehensive “demand letter” to his insurance company which laid out his real damages including medical bills and lost wages and asked for payment of “full policy limits” of $25K.
That letter went out in November 2022, and in December 2022 (almost six months to the day after accident), Colbert’s insurance company offered him the full $25K.
Some cases take longer to settle and some cases don’t settle at all and need to be litigated. Regardless of what path a particular case takes, having an attorney, like those at Burger Law, to navigate this process is critically important to get you the compensation you deserve.