Why Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage Insurance is Key

Many times situations surprise us where we think we are without recourse or will fall into financial straits when injuries occur, but in cases where someone is injured in an auto accident by another driver who did not have insurance or the insurance is insufficient to cover the injuries, if you have your own auto policy or are covered as a household member, you will want to find out how much Uninsured or Underinsured motorist coverage (aka UIM) you have available to you. Looking to this UIM coverage is key in many situations.

WHAT IF THE OTHER DRIVER DOES NOT HAVE INSURANCE?

For example, where someone is involved in a hit and run and can’t catch the plate of the other driver, or where the other driver is operating without the permission of the owner and the insurance denies your claim for non consensual use: these are all situations where it is critical that you are aware of how much uninsured motorist coverage you have available to you, because there may be no Bodily Insurance (BI) insurance available to you or as I like to call it “at fault insurance” where the at fault party’s insurance company pays for medical bills and pain and suffering.

The mandatory minimum limits for UIM coverage in Massachusetts are $20,000 per person $40,000 per accident pursuant to G.L. c. 175, §113C; G.L. c. 175, §113L. It is important to note that this is the same as the mandatory minimum of Bodily Injury (“BI”) in Massachusetts. BI insurance is the part of the policy of the at fault party, which pays for non at fault person’s injuries. This is to say that if you are injured through someone else’s fault, and for one of the previous reasons, or other reasons, there is no Bodily Injury coverage available to you through that person’s policy, then you will turn to your Uninsured Motorist coverage.

HOW TO MAKE AN UNINSURED-UNDERINSURED CLAIM

To successfully recover on an uninsured-underinsured motorist claim, you must prove 1) you are an insured, 2) that the at fault driver is an uninsured-underinsured motorist, and 3) that the uninsured-underinsured was negligent, insomuch that the you are legally entitled to recover from him or her.

WHAT IF THERE IS BODILY INJURY COVERAGE BUT IT IS NOT ENOUGH

And if you are injured through someone else’s fault and they do have $20,000 in BI but that is not enough to cover your medical bills and pain and suffering that is where Under Insurance comes into play. Every dollar you have over their BI limit can be added to cover you but it cannot be stacked.

CAN I ADD OR ‘STACK’ MY UNDER INSURANCE ON TOP OF THE BODILY INJURY MONEY

There is no adding or ‘stacking’ of uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage under any Massachusetts automobile insurance policy issued on or after January 1, 1989. G.L. c. 175, §113L(5); Arbella Mut. Ins. Co. v. Hughes, 36 Mass.App.Ct. 926 (1994). This means an injured party may only recover up to a maximum of one uninsured-underinsured policy limit.

For example, if you only have the minimum of $20,000 in Under Insurance and the at fault party only has the BI minimum of $20,000, you cannot add or stack your $20,000 of Under Insurance on top of the $20,000 of BI. In fact, you will get nothing extra over the $20,000 from the at fault party’s policy.

But if you had $50,000 in Under Insured benefits you would add $30,000 to the $20,000 from the BI policy to obtain a total of $50,000.

WHAT IF THE AMOUNT FOR UIM IS DISPUTED?

Disputed claims for uninsurance and underinsurance benefits are brought against the insurer in arbitration. The arbiter decides the questions of liability and damages. Lawsuits regarding to uninsured-underinsured claims are only lodged against the insurer to resolve a coverage question and to enforce arbitration of the claim pursuant to the insurance policy.

HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO SUE ON A UNINSURED-UNDERINSURED CLAIM?

Uninsured-underinsured claims are subject to a six-year statute of limitations. Goodman v. American Cas. Co., 419 Mass. 138 (1994). The statute of limitations period starts when the insurer either refuses to submit to arbitration or denies the claim. Peerless Ins. Co. v. Boyle, 422 Mass. 1011 (1996); Berkshire Mut. Ins. Co. v. Burbank, 422 Mass. 659 (1996).

As we can see, these situations are not simple and the help of an attorney can greatly ease the stress of dealing with such personal injury issues and increase your chances of obtaining a higher recovery amount for your accident. If you need help with this or any other accident related issues please call Brabant & Huynh LLP at 617-934-0913 your personal injury attorneys and we will be glad to help you evaluate your case and ease the burden of going through the process.