Uninsured Motorist

Uninsured or under-insured motorist protection (UIM) is one of the most important, and yet often overlooked, types of coverage that any driver should have.  The coverage is not expensive and acts to step into the shoes of a negligent driver who does not have liability insurance (or does not have enough insurance).

The State of Washington makes it illegal to drive without having a minimum of $25,000.00 in liability insurance.  Liability insurance, also referred to as bodily injury (BI) insurance, covers a driver in the event that he or she injures another with their vehicle.  The minimum coverage of $25,000.00 is, however, an out-dated and often insufficient amount of coverage for many automobile accidents.   For example, if you are seriously injured in an automobile accident and have a claim worth $100,000.00 or more, without UIM insurance, you are gambling that the same driver who negligently caused your injuries has a large insurance policy to cover your losses.  The reality is that high risk drivers often cannot even obtain high limits from an insurance company because of the company’s fear that they will cause a serious accident.

As an example, if you have a case worth $100,000.00 and the liability limits of the driver who caused the accident are $25,000.00, you will only be able to obtain the $25,000 from his insurance company.  While you might be successful in getting more money out of the driver personally, this rarely happens.  By having adequate UIM coverage, you protect yourself against this situation.  If your limits are $100,000.00 then you would be able to obtain the $25,000.00 from the negligent driver and then the remaining $75,000.00 from your own company.  There is a lot more to it in practical application due to the requirements to repay any health insurance, etc., but the overall numbers provide an important illustration.

The purpose of UIM is to make up the difference between the value of your insurance claim should you be injured by someone with low limits or who failed to purchase liability insurance.  This type of coverage is exclusively to protect you and your family and should not be declined.  This fact is all the more true in light of the current economic recession where many people are forced to make difficult decision regarding their finances, and betting that they won’t get caught or cause an accident, more and more drivers are dropping their liability insurance.

The law in Washington requires that your insurance company offer you this coverage in an amount of coverage equal to the limits of your liability coverage.  Declining this type of coverage must be done in written form.

If you have a UIM claim with your own insurance company, you owe your company certain duties of good faith and fair dealing and cooperation.  Your company owes you these duties as well.  This is quite different from dealing with another person’s insurance company, where that company owes you no duties whatsoever.  This is a double-edged sword, however, in that the companies can effectively use the requirement of your “cooperation” against even reasonable persons who don’t know the case law in Washington surrounding these types of claims.  Our firm has extensive experience handling UIM claim and would be happy to consult with you free of charge regarding your claim.

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