This is probably the most important question of all questions about insurance, because unfortunately, and in our firm’s experience, this happens more often than not, and insurance companies know that this is also an issue. This is also a situation that arises when Bodily Injury coverage amounts are not enough to compensate for past, present and future medical expenses, lost wages, lost capacity to earn and pain and suffering.
There is a coverage that is called, “UM”, which stands for Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist. In many situations handled by our firm, we have run into the issue that the “tortfeasor”, or by layman terms, the responsible driver who caused the accident, does not maintain BI or maintains adequate BI coverage for their BI portion of their policy. If you turned down UM coverage, you may recall that your insurance company may have required you to sign a document confirming that you have turned down UM coverage. You make a claim against your own UM policy in the event that the tortfeasor does not maintain BI, or does not have a large enough BI policy to cover the economical damages arising from your injury.
The best way to frame this is by example. A very common injury sustained from car accidents known as “whiplash” is caused from the force of the impact that causes an unnatural “jerk” in your neck, side to side, or back and forth. Whiplash has an extensive spectrum of severity, from soft tissue injury similar to a stiff neck, to herniated disc or discs in your spine. Impact can cause damage to your neck and back on your spine and injuries sustained to this region could end up requiring a multitude of pre-surgical treatments and potentially require fusion surgery on your spine to fix the injury. Surgical cases require extremely high cost of medical treatment, which will remain ongoing, potentially for the rest of your life. Therefore, these types of injuries could greatly surpass a policy that maintains BI coverage limits of $10,000.00 or $25,000.00 requiring additional sums that can be demanded from your UM policy over and above what the BI policy was unable to compensate.
UM coverage is claimed against your own insurance company to collect, and some people are deterred from making these claims out of concern of their insurance company surcharging or terminating their policy as a result of making such a claim; therefore, it is important to note that your insurance is governed by law and by public policy not to take any such “retaliatory” measures against you for making any such claim to your UM policy, and that is the purpose of maintaining this coverage. Your UM policy is specifically paid for these circumstances.