Auto Accidents: Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Frequently Asked Questions

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage is a type of insurance that you may buy when you purchase your own car insurance.  It is designed to protect you when you are involved in an accident caused by a driver who doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance to fully compensate you for all of your injuries.  If you purchased it, it provides coverage for you or anyone in your car when your car is involved in a wreck.  It also covers you in almost unlimited circumstances as long as you are injured by an uninsured/underinsured driver — it can apply when you are in someone else’s car, while you’re a pedestrian, while you’re riding a bike, or while you’re sitting on your front porch.

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about uninsured/underinsured motorist claims:

Backup Cameras Can Help Reduce The Risk Of Backover Accidents

I was recently reading the book Out Of My Mind to my son.  It’s the story of a young girl who is brilliant, but who can’t communicate with others because she was born with cerebral palsy.  One of the most difficult “scenes” in the book is when  (SPOILER ALERT HERE), the young girl sees her little sister walk behind their car, but the girl can’t communicate this to her mother, who backs into the sister.

This is a scenario that scares me daily as I’m walking through parking lots with my kids.  Though I preach to them to be aware,  my kids don’t understand that the rear windows of most trucks, SUVs, and minivans are too high for their drivers to see any kids walking by.

This is a real problem throughout the country.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 228 people die and 17,000 are injured each year in backover accidents.  Well over half of those fatalities are in children, and seventy percent of those are backed over by a parent or close relative, with one-year-olds being the most hit. 

Fortunately, backup cameras can greatly help reduce the risk of backover accidents.  These cameras, which are now available in almost half of the 2012 new cars, allow drivers to see children and other objects that are behind them. These mirrors may also become more popular due to federal government regulations.  In  2008, then President Bush signed legislation that would require manufacturers to include that the cameras be required in new vehicles.  That requirement is expected to be issued by the end of the year.

In the meantime, keep an eye on your kids and an eye out for other kids to help decrease the risks of these tragedies.

 If you or a loved one has been involved in a backover accident, please feel free to call us.  Victims of backover accidents may make recoveries against the other driver, but may also have claims against uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance policies.

Finding Sources of Recovery — Another Reason To Hire A Personal Injury Attorney

One of the most important things a personal injury lawyer can do is to identify potential sources of recovery.  It seems easy enough, but it’s been an issue in at least two new cases in the last couple of months.

In one case, the potential client came to me after getting the run-a-round from an insurance company.  This is one of the most organized clients I’ve had in a long time, and she was on top of everything.  She came and told me that the recovery was going to be limited to the other driver’s insurance and to her underinsured motorist coverage.  But after talking to her, I was able to identify another policy of insurance that might help her.   That was bringing significant value to her claim.

Similarly, another client came to me after his prior lawyer said there wouldn’t be enough insurance to help him.  Again, I was able to identify potential coverage that even the first lawyer had missed.  This added tens of thousands of dollars to his potential recovery. 

While this doesn’t happen all the time, it is fairly common.  Lay people like to think they can handle their own claims (and in some cases they can).  But in many instances, an experienced personal injury lawyer can bring value to the claim in ways that you haven’t thought about.

What Does Your Texas Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance Cover?

I am beating my head against a wall talking to an insurance company this morning.

Here’s the situation:  My client is a professional driver  (I won’t tell you what kind).  While driving on the job, he was hit by someone and seriously injured. 

In this situation, there are three potential places where an injured person can make a claim.

First, they can obviously make a claim against the driver that caused the wreck.

Second, an injured person can make a claim against any uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage that applies to the vehicle that the injured person is in at the time of the wreck.  Here, my client can make a claim on any um/uim policy that covers the vehicle he was driving.

Third, (and this is where it gets tricky and caused my headache) an injured person can make a claim against the person’s own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for any personal vehicle where the person is the named insured.  As I’ve explained on this blog a number of times, your personal policy um/uim policy covers you whenever you are injured in a vehicle wreck caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, whether you are in your own car, someone else’s car, riding a bike, walking along the street, or even sitting on your front porch.

And that brings us to today.  I have spent 20 or so minutes on hold trying to explain this concept to various insurance company representatives, only to be told that they “don’t have anything to do with a wreck involving my client’s” work vehicle. 

They don’t get it.

And it makes me wonder how many people they and other insurance companies are ripping off.  This time, they may just not understand the law, but I’m confident that there are other carriers that might know the coverage applies and mislead their insureds, who don’t know any better. 

And then it goes to the insurance agent who sells the policy.  Do they understand this distinction?  What are they telling their customers?

This is just another example of why it’s so important to hire an attorney who knows the area of the law and to make sure that you have a good agent.

Lesson From Austin Hit & Run Accidents: Buy Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Last Friday, in a tragic  hit and run wreck, an alleged drunk driver hit a group of pedestrians, including UT soccer players Kylie Doniak and Leah Payne.  

Our thoughts are certainly with the injured and the families of the injured, especially Ms. Doniak, who was seriously injured. 

But the incident is also a lesson to others.  In this case, a witness, Sisto Perez, followed the driver and restrained him until police arrived.  But this case is the exception. 

A story about the wreck on Fox 7 cited Austin Police Department statistics that there are 800 hit and run accidents in Austin every month.  Only 6% of the non-injury hit and run wrecks are solved, and only 25% of the hit and run wrecks involving injuries or fatalities are solved.

These statistics are a good reminder about the necessity of purchasing uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your automobile policy, which will provide coverage for most of these claims.  Hit and run drivers are a constant problem, and often, the only protection you will have for your injuries in these situations is your own UM/UIM coverage.  So when you’re purchasing insurance next time, make sure you purchase insurance to protect yourself.

For additional information on uninsured and underinsured motorist claims, you can visit our uninsured/underinsured motorist page.

And certainly, if you or a loved one is involved in a car wreck with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, please feel free to call us at (512)476-4944 and we’ll try to help.

Lesson From Cedar Park: Buy Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance

Cedar Park made news earlier this week when the city declared that it’s adopting a zero tolerance policy towards uninsured motorists — every uninsured motorist stopped for a ticket or involved in an accident will now be given a citation instead of a warning. 

While I applaud the efforts, I also wonder, “Why now?” 

It shouldn’t be newsworthy that Cedar Park  (or Austin or any other Texas city) is actually enforcing the laws designed to prevent uninsured motorists from driving on our roadways.

The fact that it made the news (and almost every news outlet) is a stark warning sign that uninsured motorists are a problem.  In fact, Texas data indicates that 20% of the motorists on the road do not have the state mandated insurance.

It is also a reminder that you need to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage when you purchase your car insurance.

This coverage protects you  and your family when you’re involved in a wreck with one of these uninsured motorist drivers.

But uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage doesn’t just protect you from wrecks with uninsured motorists.  It also protects you when you’re in a wreck with an underinsured motorist — a driver who has at least the state minimum insurance, but doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the harm caused by all of your injuries.  While twenty percent of Texas drivers don’t have insurance, when they do have insurance, the vast majority only have the state minimum  (currently $30,000).  While that is enough to cover your injuries in a minor wreck, it might not even be enough to cover a trip to the emergency room and certainly not a surgery.

What does that mean in real life?  I’m sitting here looking at a list of auto accident cases that my firm will wrap up in the next month to six weeks once the paperwork is finalized.  Of the five cases on the list, four of them involved a claim against my client’s uninsured/underinsured motorist carrier.  Additionally, the fifth case would have required an uninsured/underinsured motorist claim had the other driver carried a minimum $30,000 policy (instead the other driver was one of those rare drivers with a much larger policy).

That additional coverage is often the difference necessary to make sure that they can get the medical care they need or pay their mortgage or other bills after being off of work.  In short, it’s important.

That’s why I always advise my clients to make sure they purchase sufficient uninsured/underinsured motorist when buying their car insurance.  You spend a lot of money on car insurance to protect others.  But you need to spend a little bit more to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Austin School Bus Wreck Is An Example Of The Need For Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

  I’ve written often about the need for you to buy uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage when you purchase your automobile insurance coverage.

Yesterday, there was a bus wreck in Austin when a car apparently ran a red light and hit the bus, almost forcing it over a bridge.  Though reports say no one was hurt, four kids were taken to Dell Children’s Hospital. 

This wreck is a prime example of why it is so important to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. 

In Texas, the minimum insurance that a driver is supposed to purchase is $30,000/$60,000 coverage.  That means the most the insurance company could be forced to pay to any one person in a wreck is $30,000, and the most they could be forced to pay to all of the injured persons combined is $60,000.

Multi-victim wrecks, like this one, really test the $60,000 limit.  Even if everyone has small claims, when there are 20 or 30 people injured, that $60,000 doesn’t go a long way.  The only way to make sure that you’re fully compensated is by having your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to protect you.

While most of us aren’t on buses any more, our kids may be.  And while we might not be in a bus wreck, it is very possible that we’re in  multi-vehicle wreck where five or six people are injured.  Again, one or two of those people going to the hospital will eat up that entire $60,000.  And like the bus wreck, the only way to make sure you’re compensated for your losses is to have UM/UIM insurance.

Texas Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage: If I Settled With The Other Driver, How Do I Calculate What My Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance Company Must Pay Me?

Some states have complicated rules to calculate what an uninsured/underinsured (“UM/UIM”) carrier must pay.  Texas isn’t one of them. 

 In Texas,  the insurance company simply gets a credit for the limits of the other driver’s insurance.  If your claim is worth $50,000 and the other driver has $30,000 in insurance, then your company owes you $20,000.

Texas Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims: The Insurance Company Says It Gets A Credit For Its Other Payments. What Is It Talking About?

If you make a personal injury protection (“PIP”) claim or a medical payments (“MedPay”) claim, the insurance company is entitled to a credit for that amount.  For example, if your UM/UIM claim is worth $20,000, but your insurance company has already paid you $5,000 for PIP, then your insurance company will only owe you $15,000.

The exception to this is when your claims exceed the value of your policy limits.  For example, if your UM/UIM claim is worth $40,000, but you only have $30,000 of UM/UIM insurance, the company must say the full $30,000 even if it had already paid you some amount for PIP or MedPay.

Texas Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims: My Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Carrier Asked For An Examination Under Oath. What’s That?

Uninsured/underinsured insurance policies contain provisions that allow your company to insist on a process called an examination under oath.  In this process, you will attend a meeting with a lawyer for the insurance company and a court reporter.

 The reporter will administer an oath, much like you see on tv when people are sworn into testify in court.  The attorney will then ask you questions, and the reporter will take down all of the questions and all of your answers.  Because you are sworn under oath, your testimony is subject to the same penalties of perjury as if you were testifying live in court.

 Insurance company lawyers have a number of tricks designed to trip you up during an examination under oath.  As a result, it’s really important to properly prepare for an examination under oath.  Your attorney should spend a fair amount of time helping you prepare for the examination under oath.

Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke

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