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Injured by an Uninsured Driver?

| Jan 14, 2016 | Motor Vehicle Accident

Driving in Arlington Heights and the surrounding areas carries with it the strong possibility for an auto crash with injuries. The most recent Illinois Department of Transportation Crash Facts and Statistics report documents 27,075 crash related injuries and 211 deaths in Cook County alone. Illinois motorists are required to provide liability insurance for the damage and injuries they cause, but uninsured motorists slip through the system.

When drivers with a history of causing crashes have liability coverage in force, the policy is often written by high-risk carriers. Many of these policies are written with state minimum limits: 25,000 per person, 50,000 per accident, 20,000 property damage. If an accident causes serious injuries, the policy limits won’t cover all of the damages caused by a negligent driver. An Arlington Heights auto accident attorney can explain the importance of purchasing adequate UM and UIM limits to protect insureds from situations such as these.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage or Underinsured Motorists Coverage?

As UM and UIM coverages are mandatory in Illinois, policyholders should have a working knowledge of these coverages. They should also know when it’s appropriate to place an insurance company on notice of a potential claim.

Underinsured Motorist coverage provides supplemental insurance, which contributes to an insured’s injury claim when the responsible driver doesn’t have enough coverage to pay the entire amount.

Uninsured Motorist coverage is a bit more complicated. It comes into play when an insured is injured by the negligent actions of an uninsured driver. A typical Personal Auto Policy defines “Uninsured” as a driver:

  • Who doesn’t have insurance,
  • Is driving a vehicle without legal permission
  • Who leaves the scene unidentified (hit and run)
  • Whose insurance company has declined coverage
  • Whose insurance company is insolvent.

An Arlington Heights auto accident attorney can review a policy to determine if UM/UIM coverages are available for a crash-related injury.

Placing an insurance company on notice of a UM or UIM claim

A company providing UM or UIM coverage should investigate, evaluate, and settle the insured’s injury claim, but it’s not usually an automatic process. When the insurance company sets up a claim for the insured’s covered first party damages–auto damage, medical payments, car rental–the claim representative usually develops enough information to know if there is potential for a UM or UIM claim. Still, they might leave it up to the insured to ask for an injury settlement.

  • It’s important for an insured to place the insurance company on formal written notice of the intent to make a UM or UIM injury claim.
  • Prior to notifying the insurance company, an insured should file a traffic crash report in compliance with state police and insurance policy requirements.
  • Notice to the insurance company should include any available information that verifies the responsible driver is an “Uninsured Motorist” as defined by the policy.
  • An insured should consider consulting with an Arlington Heights auto accident attorney early on in the claim process to minimize potential problems.

The next move is up to the insurance company.

Once they are placed on notice, the company must handle the injury claim the way the other driver’s insurance company would have handled a claim had a policy been in force.

  • The Claim Department should establish a separate liability claim file with a separate adjuster assuming the role of liability carrier for the person who caused the accident.
  • The insured must cooperate in providing medical bills, legal notices, statements, and any relevant information the company requires.
  • A claim representative will determine liability and establish an injury reserve for the company’s potential dollar exposure.
  • The insured’s Uninsured Motorists coverage would owe the value of the insured’s uncovered bodily injury damages.
  • If the insured sustained severe injuries and the responsible party had insurance but not enough to pay the value of the claim, the insurance company should set up an Underinsured Motorist claim instead.
  • The insurance company might eventually be liable for a judgment awarded by a court against the responsible party, but only if the insured complies with all policy duties and responsibilities before filing suit.

Evaluating and settling an injury claim

Insureds might find that claim handling has gone high-tech over the years. Insurance companies still rely on humans to develop medical, liability, and other injury information; but they allow computers to finish the task. After the initial claim development is accomplished, some companies turn the information over to a computer to make the final analysis and injury evaluation.

Claims professionals once believed that an injury affected each injured party in a different way. Computer programs such as Colossus now perform the tasks digitally in a process that allegedly removes the “variance” in claim evaluations. Unfortunately, when injury claims are evaluated by computers, it can make negotiation unfair and unnecessarily one-sided. This makes it crucial that injured persons consult with an Arlington Heights auto accident attorney before attempting to conclude any UM or UIM claim.