Every automobile insurance policy has an option for uninsured motorist coverage. Do you need it? What if you do not have it? In California, many drivers flaunt the law and drive without liability insurance coverage. Many other drivers only have the minimum required liability coverage of $15,000.
Uninsured motorist coverage allows a person injured in a collision to receive compensation that they cannot recover from the party at fault. We recommend that you secure uninsured motorist coverage in an amount at least equal to your liability coverage amount.
Here is a true case example for why we recommend such coverage. In May 2015, Attorney Russell Kohn, along with attorney Suzanne Skolnick, represented a 60-year-old man in an underinsured motorist claim against Truck Insurance Exchange (Farmers Insurance).
The claimant was injured in a rear-end collision that occurred while he was in the course and scope of his employment as a school district security officer. He sustained back, neck and shoulder injuries and had undergone four and a half years of treatment, including neck and back epidural injections and two lumbar radiofrequency ablation procedures by the time the matter reached arbitration.
The claim against the underinsured motorist settled for his $15,000 minimal policy limit. The case then proceeded to arbitration on the underinsured motorist coverage of his employer’s automobile insurance policy. Less than one week before the hearing, Farmers increased its offer to $175,000, which our clients rejected.
At the arbitration hearing, the judge determined total damages in the amount of $681,606.20, which included the following items: past economic damages of $156,606.20; future medical expenses of $75,000; past pain and suffering damages of $150,000; future pain and suffering damages of $250,000 and loss of consortium damages for the client’s wife of $50,000.
After reduction for the worker’s compensation benefits and the third-party recovery, the net award for our client totaled $520,000.
As you can see, we were able to recover our client’s full damages because he had underinsured motorist coverage available. As you can also see, the damages include the same components that can be claimed against the at-fault party, such as, past and future medical expenses, lost earnings and pain and suffering. Please also note that it is necessary to recover the at-fault party’s policy limit before pursuing an underinsured motorist claim, and that policy limit will be offset against your underinsured motorist recovery. Also, if the case does not settle, then it is litigated much the same as a case against the at-fault party with the exception that instead of a court trial, it is resolved by a private arbitration hearing outside of court.
The procedures leading up to the arbitration hearing, including the hearing itself, are just as complicated as that of a lawsuit against the at-fault party. Thus, the complexities and technicalities of litigation make an uninsured motorist arbitration difficult to handle without the assistance of an attorney. If you or a relative have further questions involving an uninsured motorist claim, contact our office for a free consultation.
Attorneys Russell S. Kohn and Suzanne Skolnick have offices in Carlsbad and Oceanside, where they limit their practice to personal injury law. For a free initial consultation call (760) 721-8182 or (760) 585-7092 or email [email protected].