Car insurance is an interesting animal. We are required to have it if we want to drive our cars, and it is supposed to be there to protect us if (a) we need to repair our car, (b) we cause damage to someone else’s car, and (c) if we injure or kill someone in an accident. However, there is a fourth area of protection that many people do not realize exists which can be very important if you are injured in an accident. It is called Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Protection. Essentially, it provides insurance coverage for bodily injuries and pain and suffering caused by an other driver that either has no insurance or has inadequate insurance to cover your injuries. Basically, your insurance company “steps into the shoes” of the uninsured driver in order to provide you with payment for your injuries.
Uninsured motorist insurance is not mandatory and is oftentimes costly. The insurance company is required to provide you with the option to buy uninsured motorist protection and if you choose to reject it, you must sign a form indicating you were told about the option and rejected it. (You can take a look at the rejection form here) While uninsured motorist coverage can be costly, it is an extremely important level of protection needed for your family. Florida has a terrible problem with uninsured drivers and if you are unfortunate enough to be injured in accident caused by an uninsured driver, you could be left with nowhere to turn to pay for your medical bills, lost time at work, and pain and suffering. With uninsured motorist coverage, your insurance company will provide that much needed protection.
However, what happens when you request that your insurance company pay a claim for injuries sustained by an uninsured driver? You would think that your insurance company would be there to protect you and pay you for your losses, especially given the added cost of purchasing uninsured motorist coverage. For some insurance companies, this is true. They take care of their insureds and pay claims in a fair and honest manner. For other insurance companies, the experience of making your claim may be just as unpleasant as the accident itself.
A recent example of such a situation made national headlines when Progressive Insurance refused to pay a claim made by the family of a young woman that was killed in an accident with an uninsured driver. Instead of paying the claim, Progressive hired lawyers and proceeded to take the position that the uninsured driver was not at fault and, instead, Progressive’s own insured driver (the deceased young woman) was at fault. The case proceeded to trial and, at trial, the uninsured driver sat at the same table as Progressive’s lawyers, spoke with Progressive’s lawyers in the hallway at breaks, and Progressive defended the case as if the uninsured driver was their client instead of the family of the deceased young woman. You can read more about this case at Abovethelaw.com, here.
Sound crazy? It is not crazy at all. In fact, it is common and happens all the time. In a case like the one described here, the insurance company took a position that they often take: a position of defense and damage control. Progressive obviously felt that they had a chance of prevailing and proving that their insured driver caused the accident, thus obviating their need to pay the claim. And sometimes, these defenses are successful. In this particular case, the defense failed and the family was awarded $760,000.00.
Here at the Leto Law Firm, we are very experienced in handling auto injury cases as well as uninsured motorist cases. It is quite common, and more often the case than not, that an auto insurer will force an injured person into litigation and to trial before paying a claim. This is the rule, not the exception and requires an auto injury lawyer that is experienced in handling these situations. It is sad enough that the family of this young girl passed away in a tragic car accident, but to have to defend the case against the same insurance company that you have paid premiums to for years only makes things that much worse.