If an underinsured driver injured you, you may file a claim for underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage with your insurer. You may also sue the at-fault motorist if doing so makes financial sense.
A car accident attorney will evaluate your insurance policy, research the at-fault motorist’s financial status, and advise you of your options for seeking compensation.
Injured in an Accident with an Underinsured Driver Guide
- Underinsured Motorist Coverage Allows Accident Victims to Get Much-Needed Compensation
- Filing a Lawsuit May Be an Option for Those Hit by an Underinsured Driver
- How Common Is Uninsured and Underinsured Driving?
- Should I Hire a Lawyer to Assist with a Case Involving an Underinsured Motorist?
- Services Car Accident Lawyers Provide Clients Injured in Motor Vehicle Accidents
- Accident-Related Damages Your Attorney May Seek Compensation For
- Hire a Car Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible After a Collision
Who Does UIM Coverage Pay For?
The TDI notes that “most policies cover you, your family, and people driving your car with your permission.” Therefore, if any of these people suffer injuries in an accident with an underinsured driver, your UM/UIM coverage may pay for their medical care and damage to your vehicle.
How Much UIM Coverage Does the Typical Policy Have?
The TDI explains that auto insurers generally offer UM/UIM coverage in $5,000 increments. This means that a policyholder in Texas may have $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, or more in UM/UIM coverage. Insurers in other states may issue UIM coverage in different increments.
Some motorists purchase an amount of UM/UIM coverage that will:
- Cover the cost of replacing a totaled vehicle
- Cover substantial medical in case of a serious injury
Your attorney will review your auto insurance policy, determine if you have UM/UIM coverage, and identify how much coverage you have. The lawyer will then pursue UM/UIM benefits from your insurer if you have the necessary coverage.
Filing a Lawsuit May Be an Option for Those Hit by an Underinsured Driver
You can file a lawsuit against the underinsured motorist or other parties with liability for your accident.
Your decision to file a lawsuit may depend on:
- How much insurance coverage you deserve: If your auto insurance policy has comparatively high coverage limits for underinsured motorists, your insurer can cover your accident-related damages. In this case, you may not need to sue.
- The nature and cost of your damages: The cost of your accident-related damages will help determine whether you sue. If your damages cost less than insurance coverage limits, you may choose not to sue. If your damages cost more than coverage limits, you may need to sue.
- Which parties bear liability for your accident: For example, if a motorist’s employer has financial liability for your accident, an employer may have the financial wherewithal to cover your damages. On the other hand, a financially struggling motorist cannot cover your damages, even if your lawsuit succeeds.
Your lawyer may weigh other considerations when recommending whether to sue, pursue an underinsured motorist claim, or take another action.
How Common Is Uninsured and Underinsured Driving?
Underinsured drivers have insurance but may only have the minimum coverage required by state laws. Uninsured motorists are an even greater problem, as they have no insurance coverage to contribute towards accident victims’ losses.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) estimates that about 20 percent of drivers in Texas (one in five) lack insurance. These motorists put themselves and others at immense financial risk and are personally liable when they cause a collision.
Why Do Drivers Lack Adequate Insurance?
Drivers who purchase only the minimum auto insurance generally do so for financial reasons. Motorists want to save money on their insurance premiums, so they purchase only the required insurance.
Motorists who have no insurance at all may be uninsured because:
- They want to save money recklessly: Some motorists do not purchase auto insurance because they don’t want to pay the premiums or cannot afford them. However, this decision is reckless and short-sighted. If a vehicle lacks insurance, a motorist must not drive it.
- They lack a basic understanding of insurance requirements: Believe it or not, some motorists may not understand the specific insurance requirements to drive legally. Such ignorance of the law may lead the motorist to drive without the required insurance.
- Their insurance policy lapsed without the policyholder’s knowledge: Sometimes, drivers who lack insurance have made an honest mistake, allowing their policy to lapse without realizing it. Though not intentional, this mistake is just as costly as intentionally foregoing insurance. Every motorist has a duty to ensure their auto insurance is valid at all times.
- They drove illegally: Those who don’t have a valid license (whether because of failure to obtain one, suspension, or revocation) may also lack insurance. These individuals clearly disregard laws and put others at financial risk through their willful disobedience of insurance rules.
There is no legally valid reason to drive without insurance, but these are reasons why someone might.
Should I Hire a Lawyer to Assist with a Case Involving an Underinsured Motorist?
In many cases, car accident victims exchange insurance information, allow their insurers to hash out issues of fault and compensation, and move forward with their lives. However, cases involving underinsured motorists are never so simple.
When you do not have access to traditional insurance coverage that fully compensates your damages, you must consider all your legal options.
An attorney can help you do so and can assist in other ways, including:
- Shielding you from hostile parties (such as insurance companies): Insurance companies fight to avoid paying high sums for motor vehicle accidents. If an insurer can deceive you into accepting fault for an accident, accepting a lowball settlement offer, or making other mistakes, it may achieve its goal of withholding the compensation you deserve. An attorney will protect you from insurers.
- Allowing you to focus on your health: An insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit may drain your time, energy, and mental well-being. By hiring a lawyer to seek compensation for you, your recovery can remain the priority.
- Advising you about how to seek compensation: Your lawyer will rely on their experience, research into your case, and legal knowledge to recommend a path forward. That recommended path may include filing a lawsuit.
- Leading every step in the claims and legal processes: When a car accident lawyer accepts a case, they accept every responsibility associated with the case. This can significantly help car accident victims juggling several responsibilities.
These are many important reasons to hire a car accident lawyer after an accident with an underinsured motorist.
You face great risks when trying to handle your own case after a collision with an underinsured motorist.
These risks include:
- Worsening accident-related injuries: Your injuries may worsen because you’re under case-related stress, not dedicating enough time to treatment (as your case may require your attention), and engaging in case-related physical activity. You may even create new injuries, as untreated ailments can contribute to medical complications.
- Compromising mental health: Studies suggest that serious injuries and the perception that one may die can cause severe psychological trauma, even resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This explains why many car accident victims are not ready to deal with the stress and demands of a claim or lawsuit.
- Failing to obtain the compensation you deserve: Note that the more serious your injuries are, the more compensation you might recover from a personal injury case. However, you should not feel okay with losing any amount of compensation for accident-related damages.
- Paying out of your own pocket for case-related expenses: Personal injury firms pay the upfront cost of completing clients’ cases. If you lead your own case, you may not have anyone else to cover the cost.
These are substantial reasons to hire a lawyer. Whether it’s your health, lack of experience, lack of financial resources, or other reasons that lead you to hire a lawyer, the decision may deliver several benefits.
Services Car Accident Lawyers Provide Clients Injured in Motor Vehicle Accidents
Your car accident lawyer will manage every detail of your case, and their responsibilities may include:
Dealing with Insurance Companies
Your lawyer will handle every responsibility related to insurance companies, including:
- Filing of your claim
- Providing supporting documentation of injuries and other covered losses
- Receiving and responding to correspondence from insurers
- Drafting any necessary written documents and sending them to insurers
- Speaking with insurance representatives on your behalf
Someone needs to answer questions and discuss what happened with one or more insurers, but you should allow your lawyer to handle all communications. This reduces the chance you might say something that insurance adjusters might use to reduce or deny your claim.
Detailing Your Accident With Evidence and Testimony
Your lawyer will gather all relevant facts, witness accounts, and evidence related to your accident with an uninsured motorist. Useful evidence may include eyewitness accounts, photographs of damaged vehicles, video of the accident, and an expert’s reconstruction of the collision.
Calculating and Documenting Your Accident-Related Damages
Your attorney will calculate the cost of your accident-related damages. This figure will allow your lawyer to determine whether insurance coverage adequately pays for your damages or whether a lawsuit may be necessary.
Car accident lawyers also document their clients' damages, sometimes using:
- X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and other medical images of injuries
- Medical bills
- Bills for temporary transportation and vehicle repairs
- Your testimony about how the accident has affected you emotionally and psychologically
- Proof that you’ve lost income because of the accident
- Any other relevant documentation
By documenting damages, a lawyer can refute liable parties’ claims that your damages are fabricated or exaggerated.
Negotiating a Settlement
Your lawyer will represent you in settlement negotiations with liable insurance companies. An experienced car accident attorney will have ample experience in such negotiations. Your lawyer may have a clear, dynamic strategy for negotiating the settlement you deserve.
It is ultimately the insurance company’s decision whether to provide the compensation you deserve.
Completing a Trial
Most civil cases do not require a trial. In fact, relatively few do. However, any injury lawyer should be ready and willing to take a case to trial if it benefits the client.
The primary reason for going to trial is that settlement negotiations do not produce a fair offer. In this case, an attorney may need to start the trial process, making clear to liable parties that they will seek compensation from a jury. If liable parties still do not offer a fair settlement, your attorney may complete the trial process.
Accident-Related Damages Your Attorney May Seek Compensation For
Every accident victim suffers different damages, but some common types of accident-related harm include:
- Medical costs
- Lost income
- Decreased earning power
- Loss of bonuses, promotions, and benefits
- Pain and suffering
- Treatment costs for emotional and psychological trauma
- Repairs for a vehicle
- Replacement of a totaled vehicle
- Repair or replacement of other damaged property (such as a cell phone)
Attorneys conduct in-depth evaluations of clients’ damages. If you continue to experience harm because of your accident, your attorney will project the cost of damages you will suffer in the future.
Hire a Car Accident Lawyer as Soon as Possible After a Collision
Each state, including Texas, imposes deadlines for filing personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. If you wait too long, you may lose your opportunity to seek fair compensation for accident-related damages.
Research personal injury attorneys serving your area today. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by seeking a free case evaluation from an experienced lawyer today.