(ThompsonLawSTL) What happens if you get rear-ended by someone who doesn’t have any insurance? What happens if you get hit by a hit-and-run driver who leaves the scene of the crash, and you can’t ever identify who the driver was? What happens if your medical bills are $300,000, but the driver responsible for your injuries only has a state-minimum $25,000 policy? These questions (and many others) come to mind when evaluating Missouri automobile insurance coverage.
First, what is uninsured motorist coverage?
Missouri’s Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (Missouri Revised Statute Section 303.160, et seq.; https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=303.160) requires all insurance policies sold in Missouri to provide at least $25,000 for uninsured motorist coverage. This means that if you are injured by a driver who does not have insurance, you can recover against your own insurance company to help pay for your injuries and compensation. $25,000 is the state minimum coverage for an automobile insurance policy; typically, your insurance will have an uninsured motorist coverage limit identical to your liability limit on your policy.
The liability limits available under most policies fall under the following amounts: $25,000/$50,000, $50,000/$100,000, $100,000/$300,000, and $250,000/$500,000. Usually, any amount covered above the $250,000/$500,000 limit is covered by an umbrella policy. The two different amounts on the policy are the per person/per accident limits. For example, a liability limit of $100,000/$300,000 will cover up to $100,000 for any one individual’s claim and up to $300,000 for all claims arising out of one single accident. Therefore, if you have uninsured motorist coverage of $100,000/$300,000, you yourself can recover up to $100,000 for your claim, but all passengers in your vehicle can recover up to the $300,000 limit. No one person in this scenario can recover more than $100,000.
If you’re rear-ended by someone without insurance, you contact your insurance company and let them know you are making a claim for uninsured motorist coverage. Your insurance company can help you determine if the other driver does or does not have insurance. Your company will be motivated to help you figure this out – if they can show the other driver actually does have insurance, then your insurance company doesn’t have to pay – the other driver’s insurance will.
Second, what is underinsured motorist coverage?
Underinsured motorist coverage provides coverage if the driver who injures you has coverage that does not fully compensate you for your injuries. For example, say you are rear-ended by a driver who has a $25,000 policy but your medical bills are $50,000. That driver’s policy limit will not fully compensate you for your injuries. The $25,000 limit covers only half your medical bills and doesn’t provide you with any compensation for your pain and suffering. Your policy may have underinsured motorist coverage, which will provide for additional coverage in a situation like this.
Missouri law does not require policies to include underinsured motorist coverage, and therefore there is a wider variety of types of coverage available. The coverage may be offset by settlement money received from the underinsured driver, or it may operate as “excess coverage.” It may or may not “stack” with other policies to provide additional compensation if you insure multiple vehicles. Whether these types of variations apply will depend on how your policy is written.
Making a claim
It’s important to keep in mind, though, that when you make claims like these against your insurance, you’re in an “adversarial” relationship against them. Your insurance company in cases like these will have adjusters and staff attorneys who evaluate your claim on the company’s behalf. The company will defend the claim and will try to limit any payment it makes to the lowest possible number. You will want to consult an attorney to see whether you might be in a better position by hiring an attorney to negotiate with your insurance company. Sometimes you will not need an attorney, for example, if you have minimal injuries. If you have serious injuries or a dispute exists as to who was responsible for the crash at issue, you will almost certainly want to hire an attorney to make sure you have the best possible chance at the compensation you deserve. Additionally, you will want to hire an attorney if you have a complicated underinsured claim to make sure that you are able to properly recover your underinsured coverage. Often companies will require you to jump through specific hoops to make such a claim.
If you have questions about any of these issues, give me a call! I’d be happy to talk to you and help.
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