Uninsured Motorist Coverage May Be Your Best Friend in a Crash
Approximately 12.6% of United States drivers are driving their vehicles without the coverage of an auto insurance policy. In Colorado, the rate of uninsured drivers is higher at 16.2%, according to the Insurance Research Council. That’s one in six drivers breezing by you on the road without insurance.
If you are involved in an auto collision with one of those drivers, your first thought may well be that you’ve landed in a worst-possible scenario. But if you have uninsured motorist coverage, it will definitely help.
In Colorado, insurance companies are required to offer uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to everyone purchasing a policy (UCCS). Purchasing this additional coverage is optional, but if you have it, the policy will pay for damages done by an at-fault driver with low insurance limits or no insurance at all. In the event of a crash, the insurance would cover the policy holder (you), other drivers listed under the policy, and in some circumstances, your passengers.
All too often, we at Leventhal & Puga, P.C., hear from people who have been hit by a driver who has little or no insurance, and as a result, they don’t receive the compensation they need to cover their damages. These people have done nothing wrong and have auto insurance themselves, yet they still end up in a dire situation.
Uninsured motorist coverage alleviates this risk, allowing the policyholder to have control regardless of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy or lack thereof. That’s why we strongly recommend that you purchase as much uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) as you can comfortably afford.
Uninsured Motorists and Colorado Law
Driving without auto insurance in Colorado is against the law. When a driver is caught operating a vehicle without insurance, the penalties can include driver’s license points, a fine, license suspension, and community service hours.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop some people from taking the chance and driving without coverage.
How Uninsured Motorist Coverage Typically Works
In Colorado, auto insurers must offer an uninsured motorist policy that is equal to the amount that the policyholder’s regular car insurance policy covers. Colorado’s minimum liability limit is $25,000/$50,000, so if you purchase the minimum, you should be offered $25,000/$50,000 in uninsured motorist. But the insurance company must match up to the same amount of liability coverage that is on your regular policy, so if you have a higher policy, you must be offered more coverage. Uninsured motorist covers economic damage like medical bills, as well as some non-economic damages, like pain and suffering (RMIIA).
Let’s look at a typical situation: a driver finds himself with $200,000 in damages after a serious car crash where he was not at fault. The at-fault driver has only $25,000 in liability coverage. The at-fault driver’s policy would cover the first $25,000 but would end there. The original driver could then make a claim with his own insurance company for underinsured motorist coverage. The underinsured motorist coverage would pay the remaining balance in damages, up to the policy’s limit.
Bad Faith Insurance Cases
If you have uninsured motorist, your insurance company is expected to pay the remaining balance (up to your policy limits) of your crash bills not covered by the at-fault driver. If the insurance company does not pay, and has no good reason for delaying or denying your claim, it may be acting in bad faith. This means the insurance company is intentionally being deceptive or dishonest and not honoring the contract it has with you, the policyholder.
In order for a policyholder to demonstrate that his insurance company has acted in bad faith, he must prove that benefits due under the policy were withheld, and that the reason for withholding benefits was unreasonable.
If an insurance company denies your uninsured motorist benefits and does not give an explanation, or misrepresents relevant facts in order to deny the claim, you may have a bad faith case on your hands. You’d be well within your rights to file a lawsuit against your insurance company, and you may be able to recover even more money than the value of your policy, as courts tend to punish these companies with punitive damages to send a message.
If Your Insurer Is Being Unreasonable, Contact a Skilled Personal Injury Attorney
Some of the time, it takes only a simple demand letter to get insurance companies to pay the correct policy amount. When you’re negotiating an insurance claim, the demand letter lays out your arguments for why you should be compensated. It may include a description of injuries, proof of income loss, and an explanation for why the other driver was responsible for the crash.
A skilled lawyer can help you carefully craft all of these arguments so that the insurance company can’t find any loopholes. Sometimes, however, even a well-executed demand letter is not enough to make the insurance company do the right thing.
When an insurer denies a claim after a demand letter, ignores the demand letter entirely, or counter-offers an insultingly low amount, settlement negotiations become much more complicated. This is where it becomes essential to have a Denver car crash attorney on your team. At Leventhal & Puga, P.C., we have handled many tough insurance negotiations successfully across the country, and pursued many claims to a jury trial and verdict, if it was necessary to take care of our clients.
Our trial lawyers push negotiations with the insurance company, and will pursue a bad faith case if necessary. Almost always, insurance companies attempt to take advantage of policyholders who don’t have in-depth knowledge of what and how much should be covered, and withhold money that is rightfully theirs. Hiring an experienced legal team eliminates this tactic.
When you are injured due to the carelessness of another driver, you deserve to have a dedicated team fighting to achieve justice for you. Contact Leventhal & Puga, P.C. at (877) 433-3906 for an initial consultation at no charge. Since day one, we put our clients first.