What Happens if I Get Injured in an Accident with an Underinsured Driver?

Getting into a car accident is often a stressful and scary experience. However, when someone else causes the collision, you hope their insurance coverage will kick in and cover your expenses and losses. This can give you some peace of mind in the aftermath of the accident.

If you later learn the at-fault driver doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to cover your injury-related losses, it can make an already difficult situation even more challenging. What are your options for seeking compensation for your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages? Will you be responsible for paying your costly bills?

An experienced car accident lawyer can assess your situation for free and explain what steps you should take if you find yourself in this unfortunate predicament. Remember, if you’ve suffered an injury in an accident, the most important thing is to get the medical care and legal advice you need. Don’t hesitate to contact an experienced car accident lawyer who can evaluate your case and fight for the full and fair compensation you deserve from any possible avenues.

Understanding How Insurance Works

To know what to do if you’re hit by an underinsured driver, it’s helpful to first have a basic understanding of how car insurance works. In most states, drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of liability coverage. This part of their policy will pay for injuries and damage they cause to others in an accident.

The specific minimum limits vary by state, but they are often quite low compared to the actual costs of a serious crash – typically only $10,000 to $25,000 per person injured. Once the at-fault driver’s liability coverage is exhausted, they are personally responsible for any remaining damages. The problem is, many people don’t have significant assets or savings beyond their insurance. That means collecting money from them directly is often not a realistic option.

This is where underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) becomes an option. UIM is an optional type of insurance you can purchase as part of your auto policy. If you’re in an accident caused by someone else who doesn’t have enough liability insurance to fully compensate you, you can turn to your own UIM coverage to make up the difference.

Unfortunately, far too many drivers either don’t purchase UIM at all or if they do, they only select the minimum limits, which are inadequate if they suffer severe injuries. If neither you nor the at-fault party has sufficient insurance, you may need to look to other sources of compensation, which an attorney can advise you on. But the bottom line is, if you’ve suffered a severe injury, you will likely need the assistance of a car accident lawyer to explore every potential avenue of recovery.

Challenges of Making an Underinsured Motorist Claim

Obtaining fair compensation after an accident with an underinsured driver is often much more difficult than in a typical car accident case. Insurance companies are out for profit and will employ various tactics to limit or deny payouts.

One of the biggest challenges is simply proving the extent of your damages. The insurance adjuster will comb through your medical records, looking for any preexisting conditions on which they can blame your injuries instead of the accident. They may also try to downplay the severity of your injuries or question the necessity of certain treatments.

The other major hurdle is if you exhaust the at-fault driver’s policy limits and have to turn to your own UIM coverage. In this scenario, you are now adverse to your own insurer. They will require extensive documentation of your injuries and losses. There also may be subtle pressure that if you pursue a UIM claim, they will raise your premiums or even drop your coverage.

A car accident attorney can help level the playing field and hold the insurance companies accountable. A good lawyer will investigate your case, gather evidence, handle all the paperwork and negotiations, and be fully prepared to file a lawsuit and take your case to trial if necessary.

Types of Compensation Available

If you’ve suffered an injury by an underinsured driver, you may be entitled to several types of damages, including:

  • Medical expenses (past and future)
  • Lost income
  • Reduced earning capacity if your injuries affect your ability to work
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Disfigurement or disability
  • Property damage to your vehicle

In some rare cases, you may also be entitled to punitive damages if the at-fault driver’s actions were reckless or egregious, such as driving under the influence. An experienced attorney can evaluate the full value of your claim.

What if the Other Driver is Uninsured?

If you’re hit by a driver with no insurance, as opposed to too little insurance, you will probably have to rely solely on your auto policy to cover your damages. This is where uninsured motorist coverage (UM) comes into play.

Like UIM coverage, UM is an optional add-on to your policy that will kick in if you suffer an injury from an uninsured driver. The difference is instead of just bridging the gap between the other party’s coverage and your damages, UM has to cover everything.

Unfortunately, the same challenges often arise when making a UM claim with your insurance company. They may still try to reduce their payout by disputing the severity of your injuries or blaming them on unrelated factors. An attorney can fight back against these unfair tactics and work to get you the maximum compensation possible.

Other Factors That Can Affect Compensation

In addition to the insurance coverage issues at play, several other variables can impact your case, including:

Statute of Limitations

When you get hurt in a car accident, you can’t wait forever to take legal action. There are laws called statutes of limitations that set strict time limits on how long you have to file a lawsuit. If you miss this deadline, you will probably lose your chance to get any money for your injuries and losses, even if the other driver was completely at fault.

The exact time limit varies from state to state. In some places, you may have as little as one year from the date of the accident to file suit. Other states give you two or three years. But in general, it’s best not to delay too long in speaking with a lawyer.

Building a strong case takes time. Your attorney will gather evidence, talk to witnesses, review your medical records, and negotiate with the insurance company. If you wait until the last minute to get started, there may not be enough time to build the strongest claim possible.

Also, remember that the statute of limitations may be shorter if the at-fault driver was a government employee or agency. In those cases, special rules require you to file a formal notice of claim very quickly, sometimes within just a few months of the accident.

The key takeaway is to consult an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible after a crash. They can review the specific deadlines that apply to your case and ensure everything gets filed on time to protect your rights.

Severity of Injuries

The amount of money you can recover in an accident case often depends on how badly you were injured. The more severe your injuries, the higher your medical bills, the more work you will miss, and the more pain and suffering you will endure. All of these factors are considered when determining the value of your claim.

For example, if you broke a bone or needed surgery after an accident, your case will probably be worth more than if you just got a few cuts and bruises. Likewise, if your injuries leave you with permanent disabilities or scars, you should receive more compensation since the impact on your life will be longer-lasting.

Of course, putting a dollar figure on something as subjective as pain and suffering is challenging. There’s no set formula. That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side. They can gather all the necessary documentation of your injuries and make the strongest possible argument for why you deserve maximum compensation.

Your attorney may also bring in expert witnesses to testify about the extent of your injuries and how they will affect you in the future. Doctors, physical therapists, vocational specialists, and economists can all help paint a picture of the accident’s impact on your health, career, and overall quality of life.

The bottom line is that more severe injuries lead to bigger settlements and verdicts. To get every dollar you deserve, you need a skilled lawyer who knows how to build a persuasive case and isn’t afraid to fight for you in court if necessary.

Policy Language

Before pursuing an underinsured or uninsured motorist claim, it’s important to carefully review the terms of your auto insurance policy. These types of coverage are optional in most states, so you will need to check whether you purchased them and what your specific policy says.

Certain conditions or exclusions may apply to UM/UIM claims. For example, your policy may require you to notify your insurance company within a certain time frame after an accident. You may also need their permission before agreeing to settle with the at-fault driver’s insurer, even if that settlement is only for the other driver’s policy limits.

Some policies also have clauses that allow your UM/UIM insurer to essentially take over your legal rights to sue the other driver. This is known as subrogation. It means your insurance company can go after the at-fault driver to get back any money they paid out to you on the UM/UIM claim.

If you don’t follow the proper procedures under your policy, the insurance company may try to deny your claim. That’s why it’s best to have an attorney review all the paperwork. They can make sure you don’t miss any important requirements or deadlines.

A lawyer can also push back if the insurance company tries to exploit vague or confusing policy language to avoid paying out. If necessary, they can file a lawsuit arguing that the insurer is acting in bad faith by unreasonably denying or lowballing your valid claim.

Remember, you faithfully paid your UM/UIM premiums and held up your end of the bargain. You deserve to get the full benefits of the coverage you purchased. An experienced attorney can go through your policy with a fine-tooth comb and fight to make sure the insurance company holds up their end of the deal, too.

Importance of Having Adequate UM/UIM Coverage

One of the best ways to protect yourself in an accident with an underinsured or uninsured driver is to purchase sufficient UM/UIM coverage on your auto policy. Consider getting more than the minimum limits so you have a cushion if you suffer a severe injury.

Review your policy periodically and consider raising your limits, especially if you have significant assets to protect. While more coverage means paying higher premiums, knowing you have protection in place is worth the peace of mind.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Trusted Car Accident Lawyer

If you’ve suffered an injury from a driver with insufficient insurance, don’t try to go through the claims process alone. The guidance of an experienced car accident attorney can help get you the full and fair compensation you need to move forward after a serious crash.

While you can’t control the insurance decisions of other drivers on the road, you can protect yourself and your family by purchasing UM/UIM coverage. Hopefully, you will never need it, but if you do, it can make all the difference in your physical, emotional, and financial recovery.

Don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation with a trusted car accident law firm in your area. A personal injury attorney can listen to your story, explain your options, and be your advocate during this challenging time. You deserve justice, so reach out for help today.