What happens when the person who hit you does not have enough insurance? If your damages are minor, their policy might cover what you need anyway. If you sustained major losses, however, you have the option of suing an underinsured driver when coverage falls short.
It is likely that the at-fault driver and/or their insurer will fight back against your lawsuit. A Tacoma car accident lawyer can protect your rights by building a strong case and negotiating hard for the damages that the insurer does not cover.
How to Get Compensation After an Accident With an Underinsured Driver
If you suffered serious injuries and financial losses because of an accident, you have the right to pursue compensation from the responsible party. Normally, your damages would be covered by the at-fault party’s insurance. If, however, they do not have enough insurance to meet your needs, you still have options.
There are two main ways you can get additional compensation after such an accident:
Filing a Claim With Your Own Insurance
Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (UIM for short) is meant to protect you in exactly this type of situation. It can help cover losses like medical bills if the liable driver does not have the means to cover them.
Personal injury protection (PIP) insurance can also help you recover money for your injuries. Unlike liability insurance, which only pays out when you harm someone else, PIP coverage will pay for your own injuries regardless of fault.
Filing a Lawsuit Against the Uninsured Driver
If you do not have UIM or PIP insurance, then your best bet is suing the underinsured driver when their coverage falls short. This process involves:
- Finding enough evidence to prove that they are liable in your case
- Calculating how much your injuries are worth based on how much they will cost you now and in the future
- Sending a demand letter outlining your injuries and how much money you need for them
- Negotiating with the at-fault party’s legal representative and/or taking them to trial
For a free legal consultation, call 206-558-5555
How Much Insurance Coverage Drivers Need
Every state has different requirements regarding how much insurance drivers must carry. As an example, Washington State’s Office of the Insurance Commissioner explains that all Washington drivers and motorcycle riders must carry liability insurance. This type of coverage will pay for any damage the driver inflicts on someone else.
In Washington State, the minimum insurance requirements are as follows:
- $25,000 for each person injured or killed in the accident
- A total of $50,000 for all people injured or killed in the accident
- A total of $10,000 for all property damage
Why a Driver Might Be Underinsured
Being underinsured means that a driver has some, but not all, of the insurance required by their state. A driver might be underinsured because:
- They cannot afford the full amount of required insurance.
- They think they will not ever need insurance, and so refuse to spend the money on “pointless” insurance coverage.
- They misunderstood how much insurance was required or what their policies covered.
- They let part of their insurance coverage lapse and forgot/did not bother to renew it.
What You Can Get by Suing an Underinsured Driver
If you are considering filing suit, remember that you have a limited time to do so. Each state sets its own deadlines for when accident survivors like you must begin their cases. Again, using Washington State as an example, RCW § 4.16.080 sets a three-year deadline.
Compensation for Accidents Caused by Underinsured Drivers
First, you and your attorney can review how much compensation you have received (or expect to receive) from what little insurance the liable party has. For example, perhaps their policy covers your property damage but not your medical bills.
Once you have identified the areas where the driver’s coverage falls short, you will know what to ask for in:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of wages or employment
- Repair expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Reduced quality of life
- Loss of consortium
Suing Uninsured Drivers Presents Many Challenges
Insurance coverage is mandatory for a reason: most drivers cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars out of their own pocket if they cause an accident. Insurance protects both them and the people they injure. If you end up having to sue the driver personally, you might run into obstacles like the following:
- The liable party might claim they do not have enough money or assets to cover all of the damages you are asking for.
- The liable party might declare bankruptcy. This could prevent you from recovering any compensation from them.
- The liable party’s attorney might try to pin the blame on another party or even on you. If there was a third party involved, you certainly have the right to sue them. On the other hand, if the liable party is successful in blaming you for the crash, contributory fault laws in your state could reduce the amount of compensation you receive.
Getting Legal Help With Suing an Underinsured Driver
You do not have to let the above challenges stop you from pursuing the money you need after a reckless driver hits you. A personal injury lawyer can guide you through the entire process by:
- Finding proof of the liable party’s negligence
- Figuring out the best way of pursuing damages in your case (e.g., filing a suit versus filing a claim)
- Calculating how much money you deserve and fighting hard to get you that amount from the insurer and/or the liable party
- Handling all of the administrative tasks, such as filing paperwork, that will keep your case running smoothly
- Addressing all of your questions in a timely manner and being there to support you in your hour of need
Want Help Suing an Underinsured Driver? Call Our Firm
Suing an underinsured driver when coverage falls short can be a challenge, but you do not have to do so alone. Get in touch with our team today and request a free case review. Jackman Law Firm is available to clients around the clock and will return your calls on the same day.