When the person that causes the car crash does not have enough insurance to compensate you for your injuries, then you may have a claim for underinsured motorist benefits. This is a claim that you make against your own insurance company to supplement the compensation that you receive from the at fault party’s insurance company. Here is the story of one of our underinsured motorist claims:
Leslie was a passenger in a vehicle driven by her friend in Iowa. A man failed to yield from a stop sign and caused a T-Bone collision at highway speeds. Leslie suffered a dislocated hip and acetabular fracture. She was airlifted to the hospital. The doctors popped her hip back into joint. She required a few months off work but she continued to have pain in the hip. Two years after the accident, x-rays revealed early arthritic changes in the hip. The defense attorney tried to argue that her pain was from pre-existing back pain and not from the hip injury resulting from the accident. Leslie hired attorney Rich Ruohonen to pursue the underinsured motorist case. The insurance company offered $30,000 to resolve the case. Rich took the case to a jury. The jury awarded $448,000.
Every one of us has protection against these underinsured drivers built into our policies. Minnesota requires that all automobile policies have underinsured motorist benefits. This means that your own policy will pay the amount over and above the amount paid by the at fault party to fully compensate you for your injuries. Your insurance carrier then has the right to sue the underinsured driver to get the money back.
This leads to several questions:
Will my premiums go up if I make an underinsured motorist claim?
No. The only time that your premiums can be raised following an accident is if you were at fault for the accident. If you make a claim on your policy that is based upon the fault of another person, then your rates will not go up.
How do I know which policy should pay the underinsured motorist benefits?
The policy that covers the car you are in is the first policy that you turn to for underinsured motorist benefits. If you have purchased a higher limit of coverage on your own policy, then you may have the right to go to your own policy for the higher limit of coverage. You also may be entitled to coverage on a policy of any family member with whom you live. Making sure that you make the claim to the appropriate insurance company is important and may require the assistance of a lawyer.
Should I hire a lawyer if the claim is against my own insurance company?
Yes. Just because it is your own insurance company is no reason not to hire a lawyer. Although insurance adjusters are nice people, they do not necessarily put your interests before theirs. They are a business and they want to make a profit. Also, there are complexities in the underinsured motorist law that will make the assistance and guidance of a lawyer invaluable. For instance, you need to be careful to pick the appropriate policy to make the claim against. Some policies may provide extra coverage, so picking the right policy could result in better compensation. There is a specific procedure that must be used to settle with the at fault party if you intend to pursue an underinsured motorist claim.
If this special procedure is not followed, then you will lose your right to any underinsured motorist benefits.
You may also be able to settle with the at fault party for less than their policy limits and still be able to bring a claim for underinsured motorist benefits. You may be given an extended period of time to bring the underinsured motorist benefits. This will allow you to have a safety blanket in case something with your injury gets worse over time.
If you, or a loved one, have been injured in a car crash, call Terry, Slane & Ruohonen, at 612-TSR-TIME, for a free consultation. Our attorneys are skilled, aggressive litigators with years of experience dealing with insurance companies. We will handle all of the paperwork for you and file your claim. Contact us today.