What is Uninsured Motorist Coverage, and Do I Need It?
Uninsured Motorist Coverage was created by and is fully governed by the California insurance code. it is intended to compensate for injuries caused by those lacking adequate injury liability insurance. It compensates for the same damages that you could recover against the at-fault driver, including medical expenses, loss of earnings, and pain and suffering.
Do you need it? You should take into account the cost of the coverage and whether your medical expenses and loss of earnings are already covered by other insurance coverage. The only damages left uncovered may be for pain and suffering and you may not want to pay for such coverage. However, pain and suffering are usually the largest portion of any injury claim!
If you purchase this coverage realize that under current California law, the policy limit is reduced by any amount recovered from the at-fault driver's liability insurance. Hopefully, the legislature will do away with that offset someday soon!
What Legal Duties Does My Insurance Company Owe Me?
The insurance company (also known as the "insurer") owes its insured a "duty of good faith and fair dealing." The insurer has a duty to assist the insured in presenting the claim. That means the insurer must tell the insured if something they need to evaluate the claim is missing and help the insured obtain the information. There are California regulations that insurers must follow. Nevertheless, they often do not. This failure later leads to insurance bad faith claims against insurance companies.
What Happens if I Don't Agree with the Settlement Offer Made?
If you do not agree on either liability or damages, then the insured must serve a formal demand for arbitration by mail upon the insurance company. The claim proceeds much like any other litigation with the usual discovery procedures. The hearing is before a single arbitrator agreed upon by both the injured victim and their insurance company. There are very limited appeal rights. All of these procedures are laid out in the California insurance code.
If I was Driving for My Job, Can I Recover Benefits Under Both Worker's Compensation and Uninsured Motorist Coverage?
You can pursue both worker's compensation and uninsured motorist benefits. Usually, you must wait until the completion of the worker's compensation claim to pursue the uninsured motorist claim.
Recently our office handled an underinsured motorist claim against Wesco Insurance Company. Our client had been hit in his work truck by a drunk driver who had run a red light at 40 miles per hour. Our client was a young, tough construction superintendent, who suffered injuries to the discs in his lower back and neck and also had hip and shoulder injuries. He eventually underwent a lumbar discectomy and fusion surgery, and his doctors felt that he would also require neck and hip surgery at some point in the future. We settled with the at-fault driver for his minimal $15,000 bodily injury liability insurance limit. We then settled with our client's own insurance company for his $35,000 underinsured motorist coverage limit. Our client's employer's vehicle policy also provided underinsured motorist coverage. Our settlement demand was met with a token $25,000 settlement offer.
Because of the bad faith settlement positions taken by Wesco Insurance Company, we were forced to arbitrate the case and achieved an arbitration award of $741,000 in damages. It pays to have a knowledgeable aggressive attorney in your corner when dealing with stingy insurance carriers.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist claims involve many unique and sometimes complex issues. It is always a good idea to consult an attorney who is experienced in handling these claims. Kohn Law Office provides free initial consultation on injury claims, and all cases are handled on a contingency basis where there is no fee unless there is a recovery. If you have questions, we would love to help, so please call us at 760-721-8182.