Underinsured Motorist Accidents
Tennessee law requires drivers to carry a minimum of $25,000 in liability insurance coverage per person and $50,000 per accident. This amount of coverage is insufficient to compensate someone in case of catastrophic injuries. Almost a quarter of Tennessee drivers are uninsured, but of those who are insured, some are not insured sufficiently in case they cause a catastrophic injury. If you have been seriously hurt in an accident with a driver who has insufficient insurance and no significant assets, you may need to bring an underinsured motorist claim against your own insurance policy. Car accident lawyer Mark Hartsoe has guided many people in the Knoxville area through this process, and he can advise you on your rights and options.Establishing Liability for Underinsured Motorist Accidents
Underinsured driver coverage applies if you are involved in an accident that is another driver's fault, and that driver has insufficient insurance coverage. You can make a claim against your own insurance company up to the limits of your own underinsured motorist coverage. However, you can only make this claim if your own underinsured coverage is greater than a negligent driver's policy limits. In general, you cannot obtain underinsured motorist coverage that is more than the liability insurance coverage you obtain. So, if you obtain only $25,000 in case of your own negligence, you can only obtain $25,000 in case of an underinsured driver.
Suppose for example that a negligent driver runs a stop sign, T-boning your car, when you had the right of way. You suffer $100,000 worth of damages. If the negligent driver's liability insurance coverage is $25,000, but your own is $100,000, however, you can make an underinsured motorist claim. You may be able to settle with the negligent driver for $25,000 and settle with your own insurer for $75,000. You can potentially recover from your policy any amount that exceeds the coverage of the negligent driver.
In some cases, there are stringent rules regarding when an insured must notify his or her insurance carrier about an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim. For the latter, you should let your insurer know that you are likely to make a claim as soon as you realize your damages are greater than what a defendant's liability policy will cover. For example, if you are unable to walk after a car accident and the at-fault driver's coverage is only $25,000, but your own coverage is $200,000, you should notify your carrier to preserve your right to make an underinsured motorist claim.
An underinsured motorist case proceeds similarly to the usual car accident claim with pretrial discovery and depositions taken. The key points to prove are that the other driver owed you a duty of care, breached that duty with some careless action, caused the accident because of the breach, and thus forced you to incur the damages for which you are seeking compensation. Although your insurer owes you a duty of good faith and fair dealing, it may try to show that the accident was partially your own fault to reduce the amount it will have to pay you. In Tennessee, a victim’s recovery may be reduced by his or her percentage of comparative negligence, and it may be barred altogether if he or she is 50% or more at fault for an accident. Due to this rule, insurers may try to persuade you that the amount you settled for with the at-fault driver is all you would have been awarded had the case gone to trial with a jury. This is one reason why it is critical to have experienced representation in your uninsured motorist case.Consult a Knoxville Lawyer for Guidance after an Auto Accident
After a car accident, your primary concern should be rest and recovery. Instead, many victims must haggle with their own insurance companies to get the compensation they need and deserve for serious injuries. Motor vehicle collision attorney Mark Hartsoe is dedicated to representing Knoxville residents and other people across Tennessee who are hurt in underinsured motorist accidents. For a free initial consultation, call (865) 524-5657 or contact us via our online form.