If you are involved in a car accident it is vital that you know the proper steps to follow to ensure you are protected from a legal standpoint.
As with any auto accident, we always advise that victims call the police, gather evidence, speak to witnesses, get medical treatment, and contact an attorney. (Learn more about what to do after a car accident here.)
However, there are some common mistakes that people make when they are involved in a car accident, especially in accidents involving an underinsured or uninsured driver.
There are some common misconceptions about how to handle these types of accidents, and whether you can still receive compensation if you are injured.
In order to understand how to handle your Car Accident case if you are hit by an underinsured or uninsured driver, you should first understand how the insurance companies treat accident injuries.
Insurance and Car Accidents
When a client is involved in a car accident, Insurance companies have certain protocols and procedures that they follow to protect their interests.
Usually, these procedures include sending a claims adjuster to investigate the accident, as well as contacting the accident injury victim to gather as much information from them as they can.
Unfortunately for the victims, the insurance companies are looking out for their bottomline, and use whatever information or inconsistencies that they find in order to reduce the payout that they must give.
During the investigation stage of a Car Accident Settlement case is where the majority of mistakes are made by victims.
One of the most common mistakes made by victims is talking to the insurance company without first consulting with an attorney. When an insurance company contacts a victim, they will ask them questions about how they feel or if they were injured, and if they say "No", then the insurance company can use that as evidence to reduce their settlement amount.
Remember, the insurance company is looking out for their best interests, not yours.
Now that we have gone over how insurance companies approach car accident injury cases, we can discuss the effect that an underinsured or uninsured motorist can have on your accident injury case.
If the Driver is Underinsured
A driver is deemed to be underinsured when the amount of coverage that they have is insufficient and cannot cover the cost of damages that the person they hit has suffered.
If this happens to you, then you would most likely be going after your own insurance company for compensation, through your "Underinsured Motorist Coverage".
Underinsured Motorist Coverage is a form of coverage that provides compensation to the victim of an accident when the at-fault driver's policy is not large enough to cover the amount of damages.
However, Underinsured Motorist Coverage only provides coverage if your coverage amount is greater than the underinsured driver's policy.
So how do you know if the other driver is underinsured? It may take some time before this is determined.
To determine if the at-fault driver is underinsured, you and your attorney must first arrive at the total settlement amount that you are owed.
To get to your final settlement amount, it may take time because you must have your property damage assessed and repaired, as well as complete your medical treatment.
Once all of this has been completed you can compare the settlement amount you and your attorney have deemed as fair, and compare it to the amount of coverage the at-fault driver has available.
What if the Driver Does NOT Have Insurance?
When you are hit by a driver that is simply uninsured, it is a similar situation to when you are hit by a driver that is underinsured.
However, unlike when you are hit by an underinsured motorist, an uninsured claim does not take much time to file, as it is obvious that the at-fault party is not going to be able to cover your damages.
One common misconception when it comes to being hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist is that people assume you will need to sue the driver directly in order to get compensation.
Although on rare occasions this does occur, it is usually not the route taken because generally an uninsured or underinsured driver is not going to have the finances themselves to cover any sort of damages.
Just as in a case where the driver is underinsured, if there is no coverage available, you will again be getting compensation for your injuries from your own insurance company.
How does the Amount of Insurance Effect the Legal Process?
When your car accident lawsuit involves a driver who was underinsured or uninsured, the claims process is very similar to if the at-fault driver had sufficient coverage.
The legal process will begin with the investigation of the accident, disclosure of evidence and medical records, and recording of depositions from witnesses.
However, there is one major difference between accident injury cases where the at-fault driver is adequately insured and when they are not.
In a case when they are not adequately insured, and you are going after your own insurance, if your attorney and your insurance company cannot agree on a settlement amount, you cannot file a lawsuit.
Instead of filing a lawsuit, your case will go to "Binding Arbitration", where your case is heard by three arbitrators who decide the outcome, which is final (no appeals).
You never expect a car accident to happen, but if you have been involved in an auto accident, there are many factors that can affect the outcome of your lawsuit.
Even if you do not end up involved in a lawsuit, speaking with an attorney after an accident is still valuable to be sure that your rights are protected, and to arm yourself with knowledge in case you are ever involved in an accident again.
To speak with one of our Car Accident Attorneys at The Brown Firm, please click on the link below.