Insurance is complicated. There are many terms, clauses, guidelines, exclusions and definitions. I’m going to talk generally about some of the main types of insurance that you should have to protect you in a car accident. If you ever have any questions about your policy, do not hesitate to give me a call.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured Motorist Coverage protects insured drivers from the costs of their injuries that are the result of a car accident in which the other driver is at fault and doesn’t have liability coverage. Uninsured Motorist Coverage is usually found as a separate clause in certain insurance policies, and it covers the costs of bodily injury to the insured driver when the other driver was driving illegally without liability coverage. The policy owner usually pays a premium for the inclusion of the clause in their policy, and in the event of a car accident in which the other driver is uninsured, the insured driver’s provider pays the difference between the amount the uninsured driver can personally pay and the amount the insured driver would have otherwise been entitled to receive. I can’t recommend you getting this enough. There are so many people on the road that do not have insurance! You can read all my blog posts about uninsured drivers here:
In addition to drivers without liability coverage, Uninsured Motorist Coverage also protects insured drivers from “phantom drivers.” Phantom drivers are drivers who flee the scene of a car accident before being identified. These accidents, commonly known as “hit-and-runs,” are also generally covered by Uninsured Motorist Coverage because the insured driver is otherwise unable to recoup the costs of the accident unless the phantom driver is somehow identified. If a witness successfully identifies the phantom driver by identifying his or her license plate, the insurer will often consider it sufficient information to identify the phantom driver and deny the insured driver’s Uninsured Motorist Coverage. I cannot tell you how common these cases are, especially among truck drivers! You need this type of insurance to properly protect you.
If a phantom driver cannot be identified or the other driver simply does not have liability coverage, Uninsured Motorist Coverage generally covers the insured’s medical expenses, lost wages, and other expenses related to injuries resulting from car accidents in which an insured driver. Missouri law requires that insurers protect insured’s with Uninsured Motorist Coverage policies from phantom drivers.
Still, insurance companies may choose not to pay uninsured motorist coverage. If that happens, Missouri law allows us to sue for vexatious refusal to pay by the insurance providers unwilling to pay for the costs associated with an Uninsured Motorist Claim, a claimant must sue the uninsured motorist or unidentified phantom driver for his or her injuries to prevail against the insurance provider on a breach of contract action. This is a bunch of legal jargon, that basically means that we must punish your insurance company for failing to pay you the money that you were deserved.
Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage, which is the name for the main form of Uninsured Motorist Coverage, usually covers both the insured driver as well as passengers for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages. Both the insured driver his or her passengers are usually covered in the event of a phantom driver as well. Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage can sometimes cover injuries to the insured driver’s passengers or family members who are driving the vehicle at the time of the car accident. Health insurance also covers an insured’s injuries resulting from a car accident, but each plan has a unique deductible and limit. Finally, if the injuries are serious enough, disability insurance may also apply.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Underinsured Motorist Coverage provides insured drivers financial compensation for car accidents in which the other driver is at fault and has liability coverage, but the other driver’s policy does not cover the full costs of the insured driver’s bodily injuries. Most people drive with a 25,000 dollar policy limit, making any serious car accident impossible to recover. In order to get proper compensation, it is best that you have underinsured motorist coverage. In these situations, the insured driver’s provider will pay the difference between the other driver’s liability policy limit and the full costs of the insured driver’s injuries. However, in cases of vexatious refusal to pay by insurance providers unwilling to pay for the costs associated with an Underinsured Motorist Claim, the process for recouping the costs from the provider is the same as with vexatious refusals to pay for Uninsured Motorist Coverage clauses. We must sue the underinsured driver for his or her injuries to prevail against the insurance provider on a breach of contract action. Another caveat, the insured (you) must demand payment from the underinsured driver’s provider before suing his or her own provider for its breach of the Underinsured Motorist Coverage Clause. We can walk you through this very technical process.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage Limits
The limits for Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage clauses range from $20,000 to $1 million. When deciding how much Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage is necessary, you should consider several factors, such as how much your car is worth, the type of medical insurance you carry, and whether you have short or long term disability access through your employer. Many customers choose an Uninsured Motorist Coverage policy that equates to their bodily injury liability limit. We can help you decide how much uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is appropriate in your situation. We can also help you collect your uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage if you have been in a car accident.
Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage State Laws
Both Missouri and Kansas require Uninsured Motorist Coverage but do not require Underinsured Motorist Coverage. Additionally, Kansas is a “no-fault” state, meaning drivers in Kansas must buy Personal Injury Protection Coverage, which pays for the insured’s injuries a well as passenger injuries regardless of the party at fault. Although Personal Protection Injury Coverage usually has a lower limit than Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage, the Kansas mandate requiring drivers to have both is likely a better protection to drivers than the level of protection required in Missouri.
An umbrella policy is a form of liability coverage that is in excess of other specified policies, including car insurance policies. In accidents in which an insured driver is deemed at fault, the negligent driver’s car insurance policy pays up to its limits, and if there is are additional uncovered costs for which the driver is still liable after his or her policy has paid up to its limit, the umbrella policy pays for the remaining amount up to the its own limit. Umbrella policies can be beneficial when applied to car insurance policies because they offer protection in the event of a car accident in which the insured driver is at fault and the costs of property damage or bodily injuries exceed the insured driver’s policy liability coverage limits. In situations like these, umbrella policies pay for the additional costs, protecting insured drivers from Underinsured Motorist Coverage claims as well as other personal liabilities that can result from car accidents. It is extremely smart to have an Umbrella Policy. I have an umbrella policy and it helps me have peace of mind when I am driving on the road. I know that my family and I are protected when we are in a car.
If you have any questions about your policies and you feel overwhelmed by all of the options, give me a call. It took me many years to learn all the ins and outs of insurance and all of the laws are constantly changing. I can help you pick the proper policy to protect your family. Further, if you have been in an accident, it is important to know what insurance is available to compensate you for your injuries. Call us immediately after your accident.
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Adam Krause is a personal injury, mass tort, business litigation, and employment discrimination attorney who practices in Kansas City, Missouri. He graduated from the University of Missouri Kansas City School of Law and has been practicing law for several years now. Adam Krause has made a career of taking complicated litigation and presenting it in the most elementary terms for a jury of your peers to understand. Learn more about his experience here.