This is an excerpt from one of the recent episodes of 'Do I Need a Lawyer?' hosted by: Gary Martin Hays.
I'm attorney Gary Martin Hays.
Now let's go to a question from one of our viewers:
Hi Gary. I need your help. I'm sending this email to you but I also want to speak with your personally if I may regarding this matter.
I was involved in a wreck about three weeks ago. The person that hit me admitted that he ran the red light. Two other witnesses are also on the police that put the blame on him. The police officer came and wrote out the report. I didn't stay around for long as the ambulance took me to Gwinnett Medical Center's emergency room.
Here's the problem. I picked up the police report a few days after the wreck. I called the insurance company that was listed for the person that hit me. Their records show that his insurance lapsed about a week before the wreck and he did not have any insurance.
Please help! I don't know what to do or where to turn.
-Ricky in Lilburn
Ricky - thanks for the email and I know we did speak about your claim.
Let me share with our viewers the answers that were given to you because we see this a good bit in the cases that we handle.
The first thing we will do is send a letter to the insurance company to have them provide us with an affidavit of coverage. Essentially they have to tell us under oath what coverage, if any, that they provide to the at fault driver.
If the insurance company provides proof that the coverage lapsed, we then write the defendant a letter. We let them know that the insurance company listed on the police report is showing they do not provide coverage.
We ask them to let us know what company does provide coverage.
If there is no answer to this inquiry, we often will hire a private investigator to search for coverage.
Now here is one other very important action we take for our clients as soon as we open their file:
We immediately send a letter to our client's insurance company to find out if their policy provide uninsured / underinsured motorist's coverage.
Let me explain these two coverages because these are very important and I encourage you to make sure you have this on your policy:
UNINSURED MOTORIST'S or "UM"
This is optional coverage you can have added to your insurance policy that protects you (up to the limits of your UM coverage) in the event the at fault party did not have insurance.
In Ricky's claim, assume the defendant did not go out and purchase insurance when their other insurance policy lapsed. We looked at our client's insurance coverage and discovered he had uninsured motorist's coverage of $50k/$100k.
This means that since the Defendant did not have insurance, Ricky's company would come in to provide coverage to him as though the Defendant had $50k in liability coverage.
In this economy, there are too many people driving around without any insurance coverage on their vehicles.
If they do not have coverage and you do not have uninsured motorist's coverage, then you are in a bind.
You would have to sue the person individually to try and recover anything. The time, the expense, and the potential for any kind of recovery down the road could make the cost of pursuing the case even greater than the potential recovery.
So please - protect yourself and purchase Uninsured motorist's coverage.
Let me give you another fact pattern where this UM coverage can help you:
In Ricky's case, the defendant had insurance, but only had the minimum limits of $25k.
Ricky, however, had Under-insured motorist's coverage of $50k/$100k.
If this was the traditional uninsured/under-insured motorist's policy, Ricky would have an extra $25k in coverage through the Under-insured motorist's policy.
$50k UM/UIM - $25k liability = extra $25k in under-insured benefits available
There are also UM/UIM policies which are known as "excess" policies. That is, they do not subtract the liability coverage from the available limits.
$25k liability + $50k UM/UIM = The total available limits would be $75k
Having UM/UIM coverage is the best way to protect you from the uninsured driver - or the at fault driver that has only the minimum insurance limits.
Think about it - on top of going to the doctor and getting treatment for your injuries, do you really have the time or the knowledge to take on the insurance company and their team of lawyers by yourself?
We handle the legal issues and investigate all sources of potential recovery - including researching our client's own policies to see if they have uninsured/under-insured motorists' coverage.
So if you, or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car wreck, please give me a call as soon as possible to discuss your case.