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UNINSURED and UNDERINSURED MOTORIST CLAIMS

You may be injured in a motor vehicle accident where the other driver has no insurance, or insufficient insurance, to cover your claim.  If you have proper insurance coverage, you then have a claim against your insurance company for your injuries.  This is called an uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist claim.  Your insurance company is thus responsible for whatever the wrongdoer would have been responsible for.  Thus your insurance company becomes your adversary and you need the help of a lawyer.  As in other claims, do not give your insurance company any statements, either in writing or tape-recorded.

Why not go after the assets of the person who caused the accident, instead of making a claim against your own insurance?  If a person has no insurance or inadequate insurance it is extremely unlikely that that person would have sufficient assets to pay your claim.  If he had sufficient assets he would have obtained sufficient insurance.  If you attempt to go after him directly you will merely push him into bankruptcy.  This will provide you with no compensation.  Further, your insurance company, after paying your claim, will usually attempt to collect from an uninsured motorist.

An uninsured or underinsured motorist claim is handled as specified in your insurance policy, and in conformance with state law.  Thus if your policy’s uninsured motorist coverage has a time limit by which you must file for arbitration, failure to abide by that time limit will bar you from obtaining any benefits under the policy.  Thus it is important for your lawyer to obtain a copy of that policy and review it. 

These claims are usually handled outside the courts in an arbitration (an informal, non-jury trial).  Sometimes these are decided by a three member panel of attorneys selected by your attorney and the insurance company’s attorney.  At other times they are heard by the American Arbitration Association.  Sometimes the insurance company will agree to have what is called a binding mediation in front of an expert such as a former judge.  There are some situations where an arbitration award can be rejected, and the matter can be taken to court for hearing in front of a jury.

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