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Posted in Insurance claims on September 1, 2016   |  by Gary Burger

Underinsured Motorist Coverage

All auto insurance policies carry uninsured motorist coverage (in Missouri and Illinois) in the amount of $25,000. This provision means that if you, a family member or friend are injured in an automobile accident and the driver who was at fault did not have insurance, and is uninsured, your insurance pays. This includes compensation for medical expenses, wage loss, pain and suffering and emotional distress. Every policy holder has this coverage and it is the same as if the other driver actually did have insurance-but your insurance policy provides coverage for the other driver’s negligence.

Uninsured coverage applies in a wide variety of situations. If there is a hit and run or phantom driver, your uninsured coverage applies. If your car is struck by a driver who then drives away and you don’t know who it is, if you’re walking and you are struck as a pedestrian by another driver who leaves, or a circumstance where you do not know or cannot track down the identity of the phantom driver, you have an uninsured claim under your own policy to recover all your damages. More typically this coverage is used in cases where the driver who rear ended you or pulled out and struck you or did not look when they changed lanes and struck your car does not have insurance. Also they could have failed to pay their premium and their insurance was cancelled even though they had an insurance card at the scene and you think they had insurance. Under these circumstances, you can recover under your uninsured policy.

Amount of uninsured coverage and stacking are two important areas. You may just have the minimum uninsured amount, or you may have bought higher uninsured coverage. The car crash lawyers at Burger Law can figure this out for you, or you can call your insurance agent and find out yourself. Have them email you the terms of your policy or your declaration page. Sometimes insurance companies print this off on your insurance card. Many times insurance companies sell $50,000 uninsured policies so you may have that amount of coverage.  In addition, there is a legal idea called “stacking” insurance coverage. The law in Missouri is that you get to stack the minimum $25,000 uninsured from every vehicle you own under that same policy.

This is because uninsured coverage is mandatory and the State of Missouri, both through statutes and court decisions, require that coverage. For example, if you are injured and your vehicle has $25,000 of uninsured coverage, but you also own two other vehicles that are insured on that policy, you will have $75,000 in uninsured coverage. Insurance companies will never tell you this and very often try to settle uninsured motorists claims directly with their claimants without advising them about stacking. I have had instances where a family with very large damages is contemplating a $25,000 settlement that is being pushed by an insurance company. Upon inquiry we discovered that family had 3 additional cars and actually had $100,000 in coverage available. If you settle for the $25,000 and sign a release, you cannot go after the additional coverage. There are also unique circumstances if you are driving a company vehicle or are a pedestrian that provides you this coverage as well.

Make sure you get fully compensated for all damages regardless of whether you are pursuing an uninsured claim against your own insurance company. You should make sure you get all your medical treatment and reach your maximum medical improvement. Your claim should include all of your medical expenses, your wage loss damages, and all the pain you have gone through and the emotional distress you have experienced. You also should get your medical payment coverage in addition to your uninsured claim.