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Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage: The basics

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage, often referred to as UM/UIM coverage, is insurance you buy from your automobile insurance carrier to pay you benefits in the event that you are in an accident and the at-fault driver has low, or no insurance of their own. Colorado law requires that all automobile insurance companies offer such coverage unless it is waived by a person named on the policy. UM coverage is for the situation where the at-fault driver has no insurance. UIM coverage applies when the driver has some, but not enough insurance to cover all of your injuries. If you did not waive it, you have at least $25,000/$50,000 in coverage. The $25,000 is the most that one person can recover in an accident. $50,000 is the total amount the insurance company will pay for injuries suffer by more than one covered person who was also injured in an accident. Do not be confused by the shorthand; “$25k/$50k” is not $25k in UM and $50k in UIM. It is the single person/total person limit of either UM or UIM coverage per accident.

Do not be fooled either. You are not entitled to $25,000 (or whatever the limits are) automatically. Your insurance carrier will ask you to prove that you are entitled to what you are claiming. If you are in a car accident and your medical bills are $60,000, and the at-fault driver only has $50,000 in coverage, you should be entitled to at least $10,000 in UIM payments. In fact, you are entitled to more than just your medical bills. You are also entitled to pain and suffering, lost wages, and damages for any physical impairment or disfigurement because Colorado law allows you to recover these kinds of damages if you win a lawsuit. Your insurance carrier must include them when paying you on a UM/UIM claim.

An often overlooked type of damages is lost future wages. Those are wages you anticipate you will not earn because you must go to doctor’s appointments, or, in serious cases, you may not be able to do the same work at all, and will be forced into a lower career track. You could be losing income until you reach retirement age. You are entitled to recover, from you UM/UIM carrier, those losses, up to the limit of your coverage, as well. But to convince your carrier to include them in a payment to you often means hiring an economic damages expert whose opinion is supported by your doctor. They must calculate lost income over time, caused by the accident. Such experts use factors like age, gender, career field, the possibilities of upward mobility, and education. That is why picking the right expert, with the experience, knowledge, and credibility to convince an insurance company or jury that you have lost more than just out-of-pocket medical expenses is critical. A good lawyer can put all the pieces together to present a compelling case to the insurer.

Understand that your insurance carrier will try to pay you less than the limits of your UM/UIM policy. That is why you need an experienced attorney who knows how much a jury will award you for damages other than your medical bills. Only experienced attorneys who have asked jurors to award damages like lost future wages, and have won substantial damages awards, know how much your UM/UIM insurance should cover for your injuries and losses caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver. When your insurance company knows what your lawyer can get you, the insurer knows it has to deal fairly with you. Jeff Springer has won substantial jury verdicts in all kinds of cases, including soft-tissue injuries where lesser attorneys would settle for less. Call us for a free consultation.