As a responsible person, you make sure you are properly insured in the event that you are involved in an automobile accident. Sadly, many individuals are not so responsible and often operate their vehicle with either no insurance or inadequate coverage.
Fortunately, your automobile insurance policy may provide coverage for accidents caused by uninsured or underinsured motorists. UM/UIM coverage is meant to fill in the gap to ensure people have sufficient coverage for serious accidents.
However, the steps for bringing a UM/UIM claim are sometimes complex and many claims are denied. We hope that you find this article helpful and ask that you contact Johns Law Group to discuss your UM/UIM claim.
Understanding the Basics about UM/UIM Insurance
UM/UIM insurance stands for Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist insurance. It is a type of auto insurance coverage that protects you and your passengers if you are involved in an accident with a driver who either doesn’t have insurance (uninsured) or doesn’t have enough insurance to cover the damages (underinsured).
Here’s a brief explanation of each component:
1. Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage: This covers you, your passengers, and your vehicle if you’re involved in an accident with a driver who does not have any liability insurance. In many jurisdictions, driving without liability insurance is illegal, but unfortunately, there are still some uninsured drivers on the roads.
2. Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage: This comes into play when you’re in an accident with a driver who has insurance, but their policy limits are not enough to cover the full extent of your damages. In such cases, their insurance will cover up to their policy limit, and your UIM coverage will help make up the difference, up to the limits of your own policy.
UM/UIM insurance is optional in many states, but some states may require it or offer it as a default inclusion in auto insurance policies unless the policyholder declines it in writing. Even in states where it’s not mandatory, having UM/UIM coverage can be a valuable addition to your policy. It provides additional protection for you, your passengers, and your vehicle in case of an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver.
It’s essential to review your auto insurance policy and consider adding UM/UIM coverage if it’s not already included. It can offer valuable financial protection and peace of mind in situations where you might otherwise be left without proper compensation for damages and injuries caused by other motorists.
Specific Florida Rules and Concepts Regarding UM/UIM Insurance
UM/UIM insurance policies are highly regulated in the State of Florida. Insurance companies as well as policyholders must comply with specific requirements to obtain a valid policy.
1. No-Fault State: Florida is a “no-fault” insurance state, which means that after an accident, each driver’s own insurance typically covers their medical expenses and related damages, regardless of who was at fault. In Florida, drivers are required to carry Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, which pays for medical expenses and certain other costs regardless of fault.
2. UM Coverage Required: Florida law requires auto insurance policies to include UM coverage with limits that match the policyholder’s Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) coverage, unless the policyholder explicitly rejects it in writing. This means that if you have BIL coverage, you should also have an equal amount of UM coverage unless you’ve specifically opted out.
3. Stacking of UM Coverage: In Florida, you may have the option to “stack” your UM coverage. Stacking allows you to combine the UM coverage limits of multiple vehicles on your policy if you have more than one insured vehicle. This can provide higher coverage limits in case of an accident involving an uninsured or underinsured driver.
4. Rejection of UM Coverage: If you wish to reject UM coverage or choose coverage lower than your BIL limits, you must do so in writing. This ensures that you have been informed of your rights and have made a deliberate decision.
5. Contributory Negligence Rule: Florida follows a “contributory negligence” rule when determining liability in accidents. This means that even if you were more than 50% at fault for an accident, you cannot recover damages. However, if you were less than 50% responsible for causing the accident, your damages will be reduced by the degree of your responsibility.
6. Statute of Limitations: There is a limited time within which you must file a UM/UIM claim in Florida. Typically, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims, including UM/UIM claims, is two years from the date of the accident. If you fail to file within this time frame, you may lose your right to seek compensation.
Remember that insurance laws can be complex, and specific circumstances may impact how these rules apply to your individual case. If you’re involved in a UM/UIM claim, it’s best to consult with an experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and ensure you understand your rights and options.
Reasons Your UM/UIM Claim May Be Denied
UM/UIM claims can be denied for various reasons, similar to other insurance claims. Some common reasons why your UM/UIM claim may be denied include:
1. No UM/UIM Coverage: If you don’t have UM/UIM insurance coverage on your policy or you didn’t select it as an optional coverage, your claim will likely be denied. It’s essential to review your policy to confirm that you have this coverage before making a claim.
2. Missed Deadline: Insurance policies typically have a specific time frame within which you must report an accident and file a claim. If you fail to notify your insurance company within the required time, your claim may be denied. This is why it’s crucial to report the accident promptly.
3. Not Cooperating with the Investigation: Insurance companies may require you to cooperate with their investigation into the accident. This could involve providing information, documentation, or statements. If you fail to cooperate, your claim could be denied.
4. Coverage Exclusions: Insurance policies often contain certain exclusions that limit coverage under specific circumstances. For example, your UM/UIM coverage might not apply if the accident occurred while you were driving someone else’s vehicle that is not covered by your policy.
5. Disputed Liability: If there is a dispute over who was at fault in the accident, or if the insurance company believes you were partially or entirely responsible for the accident, they may deny your UM/UIM claim.
6. Policy Lapse or Non-Renewal: If you let your insurance policy lapse due to non-payment or your insurance company chooses not to renew your policy, you won’t have coverage when the accident occurs, and your UM/UIM claim will be denied.
7. Uninsured Status of the Other Driver: For an uninsured motorist claim, you need to demonstrate that the at-fault driver was indeed uninsured. If the other driver’s insurance status is uncertain or cannot be proven, your claim may be denied.
8. Statute of Limitations: As mentioned earlier, there is a limited time within which you must file a UM/UIM claim. If you exceed the statute of limitations, your claim will likely be denied.
9. Fraudulent or Misleading Claims: If the insurance company finds evidence of fraud or a deliberately misleading claim, they will likely deny your UM/UIM claim.
The first step in making a UM/UIM claim is confirming the amount of coverage the other driver has. Once you have recovered the limits of the other driver’s policy, you will need to assess if he or she can pay you additional money to settle your damage claims. Your UM/UIM carrier only becomes obligated to pay damages after you have confirmed that the other driver lacks adequate insurance coverage or financial resources to pay your damages. Only then, can a UM/UIM be brought.
You should not settle your claim with the other driver until obtaining the approval of the UM/UIM carrier. Before providing coverage for your claim, the UM/UIM carrier will want to confirm the other driver’s inability to pay. Failure to obtain the UM/UIM carrier’s approval could result in the denial of your claim.
Contesting a Denied Claim
It’s essential to thoroughly understand your insurance policy and the coverage it provides. If your UM/UIM claim is denied, you have the right to file suit against your insurance company for damages; however, you need to contest any cover. You may also be entitled to additional penalties if the insurance company denied the claim in bad faith. In Florida, recovering penalties for bad faith requires you to provide the UM/UIM carrier statutory notice of its bad faith conduct. The insurance company will then have 60 days to settle the claim or potentially face penalties amounting to 300% of the claim value plus attorney’s fees and other damages. Consulting with an experienced attorney who specializes in insurance claims can help you navigate the process and protect your rights.
Damages Available in a UM/UIM Claim
In a UM/UIM (Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist) claim, you may be eligible to recover various types of damages, depending on the circumstances of the accident and the specific coverage of your insurance policy. The damages that can typically be recovered in a UM/UIM claim include:
1. Medical Expenses: This includes the cost of medical treatment, hospitalization, surgery, prescription medications, rehabilitation, and any other necessary medical care related to the injuries sustained in the accident.
2. Lost Wages: If your injuries prevent you from working, you may be entitled to compensation for the income you lost during your recovery period. This can include both past lost wages and estimated future lost wages if your injuries result in a long-term or permanent disability.
3. Pain and Suffering: Non-economic damages, such as physical pain, emotional distress, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life, may also be recoverable. Calculating pain and suffering damages can be more subjective and may vary depending on the severity of the injuries and their impact on your life.
4. Property Damage: If your vehicle or other property was damaged in the accident, you can seek compensation for the repair or replacement costs.
5. Wrongful Death Damages: In the tragic event that a loved one is killed in an accident involving an uninsured or underinsured driver, certain family members may be entitled to recover damages in a wrongful death claim. These damages can include funeral expenses, loss of financial support, loss of companionship, and emotional suffering.
6. Permanent Disability and Impairment: If the accident results in a permanent disability or impairment that affects your ability to perform daily activities or work, you may be entitled to compensation for the long-term consequences of the injuries.
It’s important to note that the specific types and limits of recoverable damages may vary based on your insurance policy and the laws in your state. Some states have limitations on the types of damages that can be recovered in UM/UIM claims or may have specific requirements for seeking certain types of damages.
When filing a UM/UIM claim, it’s essential to gather as much evidence as possible to support your claim, including medical records, receipts, documentation of lost wages, and any other relevant information. An experienced attorney can also be valuable in navigating the claims process, ensuring you understand your rights, and advocating for your best interests to help you receive the compensation you deserve.
UM/UIM insurance coverage is a great way to fill in the gap when the other driver has no or inadequate coverage to pay your damages. However, UM/UIM are complex and often disputed or denied by insurance companies.
If you have questions about your UM/UIM claim, contact Johns Law Group to schedule a free consultation.