Car accidents are challenging to deal with in the best of circumstances. But discovering that the person who caused your accident lacks automobile insurance can make a bad situation even worse.
According to the Insurance Research Council, 12.6 percent of motorists, or about one in eight drivers, were uninsured in 2019.
Luckily, North Carolina requires every driver to carry uninsured motorist coverage.
This means that when the driver who caused your accident lacks adequate motor vehicle insurance, you can still file a claim with your own insurance company to cover your losses.
Understanding your rights after an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist can be confusing.
Fortunately, at Mehta & McConnell, PLLC, we know how insurance companies operate, and we can answer your questions and help you maximize your compensation.
Our team of attorneys has over 30 years of combined legal experience handling car accident cases.
We’re not afraid to go toe-to-toe with insurance companies and can help make sure your rights are protected and that you don’t get taken advantage of.
What Is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage?
All North Carolina drivers must purchase a minimum amount of car insurance, including the following:
- $30,000 for bodily injury coverage;
- $60,000 for total bodily injury for all persons in an accident;
- $25,000 for property damage liability; and
- $30,000 per person minimum of uninsured motorist coverage (UM).
Underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) is also available with certain policies.
UM and UIM coverage might pay for some or all of your accident damages when the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured.
The difference between regular liability insurance and UM/UIM coverage is that your liability insurance pays claims for someone else when you cause an accident.
In comparison, your UM and UIM coverage compensates you when another driver injures you but lacks any or enough liability insurance to cover your damages.
Uninsured motorist insurance compensates you and any other passengers in your vehicle for injuries suffered during an accident with an uninsured driver.
This coverage is also available to people injured by unidentified hit-and-run drivers.
Underinsured motorist coverage is an essential backup to liability coverage because it compensates you when the driver who caused your accident has insurance, but their policy does not provide enough coverage to pay for all the costs associated with your injuries.
For example, suppose you have $100,000 per-person UIM coverage, and someone else’s negligent driving injures you. And let’s say that the at-fault driver carries $30,000 in coverage.
If your medical bills or other personal injury damages surpass that amount, the at-fault driver’s insurance will cover $30,000 in damages, and your own insurance company will pay up to an additional $70,000 as part of your UIM coverage.
Stacking refers to combining multiple insurance policy limits to cover damages resulting from an accident.
Though North Carolina has an anti-stacking statute, multiple UIM policies may still apply in some circumstances.
So, for instance, if the injured party owns other vehicles that carry separate UIM policies with different policy numbers, then the UIM coverage can be stacked or added together.
You may also stack separate policies from people in the same household who are related by blood or marriage.
For example, a college student who still lives at home could combine their UIM policy with their parent’s coverage if they have separate vehicles and insurance policies.
It’s important to note that UM/UIM coverage isn’t applied automatically. North Carolina has strict rules that dictate when an injured party can file a UM/UIM claim.
Because those rules can be complicated to understand, partnering with a car accident attorney who understands how underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage works can help you successfully resolve your claim.
Who Does an Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Policy Cover?
A UM/UIM policy covers the policyholder as well as the following parties:
- The spouse of the named insurer and relatives of both while living in the same household;
- Anyone who has the insured’s express or implied consent to use the vehicle;
- An invited passenger in the motor vehicle;
- The personal representative of any of the above; or
- Anyone in lawful possession of the vehicle.
If you are unsure about who your UM/UIM insurance covers, the experienced car accident attorneys at Mehta & McConnell can answer your questions, address your concerns, and walk you through the claims process.
How Much Will My Insurance Company Pay Me?
UM and UIM coverage usually pays the same amount as your car insurance liability policy.
If your motor vehicle insurance pays up to $30,000 per injured person at up to $60,000 per accident, your UM insurance limits will likely mirror those amounts.
However, your UM insurance may not cover all of your expenses.
For example, if you incur $60,000 in medical bills because of your injuries, and your UM insurance only covers $30,000, you will still have $30,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.
Unfortunately, your insurance company may also deny your claim even when you carry adequate UM/UIM insurance.
At Mehta & McConnell, our attorneys have years of experience aggressively negotiating UM/UIM settlements, and we can help you fight back against an insurance company that is trying to deny your claim.
Do I Have to Prove That I Am Legally Entitled to Damages to File an Uninsured Motorist Claim?
While investigating a UM/UIM accident, insurance companies often determine whether the uninsured or underinsured driver caused the injured party’s damages.
One common defense an insurance company may raise to avoid payment is the theory of strict contributory negligence.
North Carolina is one of only four states in the United States that applies strict contributory negligence.
Under this rule, an accident victim who is partially at fault for their accident is not legally entitled to collect damages.
That means that if an insurance company finds that the driver filing a UM/UIM claim is even 1% at fault for their accident, it may legally deny the request.
Because of this strict contributory negligence rule, North Carolina car accident victims should speak with a skilled car accident attorney before initiating a UM/UIM claim.
Contact Mehta & McConnell Today
If you were hit by an uninsured driver, the car accident lawyers at Mehta & McConnell can help you through the UM/UIM claims process.
We understand complex insurance policies and the tactics insurance companies use to avoid paying accident victims the settlements they deserve.
When you work with Mehta & McConnell, our experienced team will guide you through every step of the claims process and give you the personal attention you deserve.
At Mehta & McConnell, we are dedicated to working tirelessly for our clients so that they can get the best outcomes possible.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.