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What Damages Can Be Recovered in an Underinsured Motorist Claim in Michigan?

Not all auto insurance policies are created equally. Motorists may elect to carry minimum personal injury liability coverage that’s woefully inadequate if a serious accident happens. This is where underinsured motorist coverage steps in. Michigan underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage may be the only option to recover losses. If you have UIM coverage, your own insurance company steps in and covers what the underinsured driver’s company cannot. Let Goodman Acker help you learn about what damages you can recover through underinsured motorist coverage.

What Is Underinsured Motorist Coverage?

People standing outside after car accident and talking about insurance
Image via Flickr by daveynin

Underinsured motorist coverage is part of your auto insurance policy that kicks in when the responsible party’s insurance cannot cover all of the costs of injury and damages. In Michigan, it isn’t required by law but is essential to protect your family from the many underinsured motorists on the road. Minimum liability coverage through auto insurance companies is dangerously low for covering a driver’s liability and protecting victims should the driver be responsible for an accident. Inadequate coverage also exposes responsible parties to severe financial consequences.

In July 2020, Michigan’s no-fault insurance law changed, setting default liability minimums to $250,000 for one injured person and $500,000 for two or more injured parties. Motorists have the option to elect coverage as low as $50,000/$100,000.

Underinsured motorist coverage uses the injured party’s auto insurance to cover what exceeds the responsible party’s insurance limits. It covers pain and suffering compensation and other costs like lost wages or earning ability. It’s best to have an attorney handle underinsured motorist claims to ensure the steps are followed properly. Underinsured motorist claims have many filing requirements:

  • Proof the other driver is underinsured, the accident was their fault, their insurance company has maxed out its payout, and the other driver’s policy won’t pay all of the damages.
  • Compliance with notice and other contractual requirements of the injured party’s underinsured motorist insurance policy.
  • Compliance with the injured party’s underinsured motorist policy’s filing deadlines. Noncompliance may void UIM coverage.
  • Review of other provisions regarding payments and if nonresident family members are covered.

When Do I File a UIM Claim?

Determine the need to file a claim and pursue it as soon as possible. Underinsured motorist coverage contracts often have strict deadlines for filing claims, allowing about a month to determine if a claim is needed. This means you need to determine the extent of damages from an accident as soon as possible to determine whether the responsible party’s insurance can cover all of the damages. This decision may be easy if the responsible parties carry state-mandated minimum coverage since it’s quickly maxed out.

Claims require proof of the responsible party’s fault. Determining who is legally liable for an accident requires a thorough investigation of the facts. Insurance companies likely will conduct their own investigation, which seeks to limit their liability. Personal injury attorneys need to similarly protect their clients with access to investigators and other experts who specialize in complex technical details in personal injury cases. Expert witnesses can provide information or give testimony to help your case.

Underinsured motorist coverage typically cannot exceed the policy owner’s liability maximum. This coverage isn’t costly, but it could cause insurance companies financial issues if the insured had low liability amounts and high uninsured motorist coverage amounts.

Will My Insurance Company Investigate a Claim?

Your insurance company will investigate the case, checking on medical care and other details related to the accident. Having legal representation will help ensure claims are properly filed and that all requirements are met.

Personal injury lawyers and their colleagues will work to uncover facts and evidence. This may include accident reconstruction, which often is short on analysis in police records. Law firms can add detailed analysis to show the factors at play in an accident, how it caused injury and damage, and which party is responsible. Law firms also coordinate reviewing security footage, interviewing witnesses, and monitoring social media and other online communications.

What Role Do Attorneys Play?

Personal injury cases are complex and involve a lot of paperwork, medical terminology, and legal processes. Attorneys are prepared to handle the process and ensure no steps are missed or any essential documentation slips through the cracks. Attorneys can effectively communicate with the other side’s lawyer, especially during the fact-finding phase of litigation, where documents and facts are shared. Similarly, personal injury attorneys are well-versed in dealing with insurance companies and standing their ground, ensuring clients aren’t pushed to settle for lesser amounts.

Working with a personal injury attorney will get you the best end result, whether it be a settlement or jury verdict. Many cases are negotiated through a settlement rather than going to trial. Personal injury attorneys work to negotiate settlements, which are a compromise where plaintiffs give up the right to sue in exchange for a payment from a defendant or insurance company.

If a settlement isn’t possible, a trial is the next step. Personal injury attorneys plan a strategy to help plaintiffs maximize their compensation for injuries, loss of work, and other expenses.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) is a third option an experienced personal injury attorney could employ. This method of working out a case could involve mediation or arbitration. Mediation is a process where a facilitator helps bring the parties to an acceptable agreement. Arbitration is a process where multiple people in a panel serve as judges to make a binding decision on a case, bypassing a trial through a decision made with a majority vote.

What Is Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

Uninsured motorist coverage protects drivers in case of an accident with a motorist who carries zero insurance or in the case of a hit-and-run accident. Similar to underinsured motorist coverage, uninsured motorist coverage protects you, the insured members of your household, and passengers. It is also an optional element to auto insurance policies.

Contact Goodman Acker

Underinsured motorist coverage claims are challenging to navigate. Protecting your rights by hiring an attorney who will represent your best interests is essential. Michigan laws on auto insurance liability are evolving. Personal injury cases resulting from an auto accident can be emotional, and accident victims can feel pressure to settle. Personal injury attorneys can look beyond the emotional aspect and work to get their clients the best possible outcome. Underinsured motorist claims require special attention to ensure that contracts are followed and claims are paid out. Contact Goodman Acker today for a free consultation.

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