You Have Options When Injured By An Uninsured Or Underinsured Motorist
If you’ve been hit and injured by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you can recover damages under the terms of your own insurance policy that covers uninsured/underinsured events. While you can file a claim with your own insurer and may ultimately have to, in the state of North Carolina you do have a right to arbitration in underinsured/uninsured cases.
Arbitration often expedites the settling of your claim, but special rules apply that may require the assistance of a lawyer familiar with the process. If you settle your case by yourself, you may forfeit important legal rights to claim against your own insurance. Nichols Law Firm helps people recover compensation for their injuries under the terms of their own insurance policy in cases involving underinsured or uninsured motorists.
If you’ve been hit and injured by an underinsured or uninsured motorist, contact personal injury lawyer Chris Nichols today to schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help you protect your rights and interests.
Consult With A Lawyer Before Accepting Any Offers
Insurance companies are in business to make money. In order to minimize the amount they pay in claims, it’s not unusual for an insurer to try and settle a claim as soon as possible after an accident. An insurer may offer to pay you a settlement in an underinsured case, telling you the amount offered is the best you can hope to recover. However, if you accept the offer, you’ll be asked to sign a statement waiving your right to seek further damages under the claim. If you sign, you forfeit the right to seek additional money through subrogation and waive your right to sue for additional compensation.
If you’ve been hit by an underinsured or uninsured motorist, you have a duty to contact your insurance company and let them know. Your insurer will want to evaluate your claim and may decide to pay your and pursue further damages against an underinsured driver through subrogation. Although your insurer may attempt to tap into other sources of insurance on an uninsured or underinsured driver, your claim recovery is limited by your policy limits.
Many insurance companies do not look for additional insurance coverage when you have been seriously injured. You may be entitled to make a claim from your own insurance, or from other family members’ insurance in addition to the negligent party. At Nichols Law Firm, we will help you find all of the insurance coverage available for your claim.
We work to make sure you receive as much compensation as possible while protecting your rights and interests. In certain cases, it may make sense to sue the driver who hit you in order to recover damages under their homeowners or umbrella policy coverage.
Prompt Action Is Important
There are a number of issues that must be considered in uninsured/underinsured cases. If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of an underinsured/uninsured motorist, contact personal injury attorney Chris Nichols today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.
What is Undersinsured and Uninsured Insurance?
Insurance coverage and accident claims in North Carolina can be complex, especially if they involve UIM policy benefits.
A collision with a motorist with insufficient policy limits (too little insurance) to cover all damages may trigger UIM coverage which may serve as an additional avenue for recovery.
UIM or “Underinsured Motorist” insurance normally involves making a claim against your own insurance company after the negligent driver’s insurance has paid out the “policy limits”. UIM insurance is your way of making suree you have enough insurance coverage in the event you are badly injured in a car wreck.
Increasingly, insurance companies, even if it involves their own insured, dispute coverage and payment for valid claims.
The insurance company may act like these are “adverse claims” or an “adverse interest,” even though they are made by their own client.
Carriers represent the best-interests of the insurance company, not their insured client. But, the law in North Carolina requires your insurance company to act in good faith toward you when you make a UIM claim.
As such, UIM coverage disputes in North Carolina may be reviewed by a trial court if a lawsuit is filed for bad faith on the part of the carrier or some other form of declaratory judgment cause of action is filed regarding insurance coverage.
When is UIM coverage available?
UIM coverage can come from your own auto or business insurance policy, even if the car you were injured in was not your own. UIM coverage also can cover pedestrian accidents and single car wrecks (if you were a passenger).
To figure out how much UIM coverage (money) is available to an injured person, there are several factors to consider, including:
1. How many “claimants” seek to recover under the UIM terms of the policy?
2. How was the primary policy exhausted (in other words, who did the primary policy get paid to and how much money was paid- “exhausted” means all the possible insurance coverage was paid out and zero funds remain available to the injured person))?
3. Was the tortfeasor’s policy exhausted due to a “per-person” cap or the “per-accident” cap?
What does UIM cover?
“UIM” is the acronym for underinsured motorist insurance policies. They are different from “UM” or “un-insured motorist” protection.
Both types of insurance coverage pay for injuries that are the ordinary and expected results of negligence. Negligence must be the “proximate cause” of the damages claimed.
Damages you can claim under UIM and UM include:
- Medical Bills
- ER Emergency Room expenses
- Ambulance and transport fees
- Surgical costs
- Rehabilitation, Treatment, and Physical Therapy
- Devices and Medication
- Lost wages
- Permanent injury
- Permanent diability
- Job loss due to injury
- Out of pocket expenses for medical care
- Pain, suffering and inconvenience
- Wrongful death of a loved one
- Loss of use of part of the body
- Permanent pain
UIM coverage is something you may carry on YOUR policy to protect you when another negligent motorist has too little liability insurance. It doesn’t take much injury to exceed the “statutory minimum limits” of $30,000 in accidents with serious bodily injuries.
UM coverage is another form of insurance you may carry on YOUR policy to protect you when the negligent driver doesn’t have any form of insurance. They are said to be “un-insured.” That’s what “UM” stands for, uninsured motorist protection.
The insurance laws in North Carolina require some level of insurance coverage for all vehicles on the roads
If someone says, “I’m insured,” they are likely mistaken. The vehicle they’re driving is insured unless they have purchased additional insurance like UIM which insures the person, not just the car
Liability insurance means that even if the negligent driver is driving someone else’s car, there is insurance coverage. That vehicle is required to have minimum liability protections.
Sometimes a negligent driver has insurance coverage when they hurt someone on both the car they are driving (if someone else owns it) and from their own car insurance policy which covers them when driving a borrowed car.
North Carolina requires all drivers to have minimum limits of insurance. The statutory “minimum limits” for car insurance in NC are:
- $25,000 property damage
- $60,000 per accident bodily injury (shared by all injured)
- $30,000 per person bodily injury (no person can get more than $30,000)
- $30,000 per person Uninsured motorist coverage
- $60,000 per accident Uninsured motorist coverage
Obviously, it’s entirely legal to buy more insurance than is minimally required under the insurance laws. Sometimes when people buy insurance they think they have “full coverage” or are told they are buying “full coverage.” In NC, when someonbe says “full coverage” what they probably mean is “minimum insurance coverage as required by law”. Minimum coverage does NOT include Under Insured (UIM). Minimum coverage is usually not enough for serious injuries.
In fact, it’s a really good idea to carry more than the minimum limits, as personal liability for damages is a very real possibility. In NC, you can typically buy liability and UM/UIM insurance in amounts of $30,000, $50,000, $100,000, $250,000 and up to one million. Some companies offer custom coverage amounts. UM and UIM coverage is much cheaper than liability coverage and you can buy more of it without increasing your liability coverage.
“UM” coverage may apply in instances where the negligent driver’s policy has lapsed or if the vehicle owner failed to pay the premium. Insurance may also be denied to people who have a revoked license.
Driving a car, or any motor vehicle on the public streets or highways of North Carolina without insurance is a Class 1 Misdemeanor.
That’s a serious criminal charge.
It carries a maximum period of jail time of up to 120 days. Penalties under the criminal justice system are in addition to any civil cause of action for damages due to negligence or gross negligence in the operation of the vehicle.
How does UIM coverage work?
Courts in North Carolina have a “straightforward analysis” to figure out how much coverage is available under the UIM terms of the policy.
The trial court first makes a determination of whether there is UIM coverage available. If the injured party is not covered under a UIM policy, the inquiry stops there.
In the event there is UIM protection, the court then determines how the injured party or parties are allowed to receive compensation. It makes a difference if there is more than one person making a claim for damages.
The method of payment involves reviewing how the “at-fault” motorist’s insurance is “exhausted.” The inquiry involves answering the following questions:
· Was the policy exhausted due to a cap set for “per person” liability?
· Was the policy exhausted due to the “per accident” cap?
Related Legal Issues
Raleigh Personal Injury Lawyer – Chris Nichols
Car accident cases in North Carolina can be complicated, if not confusing at times. Sorting through whether insurance coverage exists and who pays for an accident often takes reviewing the accident report and insurance policies.
Fortunately, Chris Nichols is used to helping people with just such issues.
In fact, Chris wrote the book in North Carolina on the very complicated legal subject of Medical liens, which can also be an important considering in settling insurance claims.
Raleigh accident lawyer Chris Nichols is an experienced courtroom lawyer, legal advocated, and dedicated professional.
He is a former President of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice. He regularly consults with plaintiff’s lawyers throughout the state on complex litigation.
Chris offers a free consultation for injury claims involving:
- Car accidents
- Trucking Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
Legal fees are earned on a “contingency” basis. That means there is no legal fee without a settlement or judgment.
Fees are contingent on obtaining a recovery. That may be as part of pre-suit negotiations and settlement. It may also require filing suit, taking depositions, and ultimately arguing a case to a jury. Most personal injury claims settle without going to trial so it’s important to have a legal professional advising you each step along the way.
If a claim falls under a UIM policy in North Carolina, that claim may also require bringing a Declaratory Judgment action against the insurance company to make sure the insurance company is being fair in deciding coverage.