If you have been in an automobile accident, you may have several claims to consider. First, you may have a bodily injury claim to consider if you were injured and the other party was equally or more responsible than you. If that party does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance, you may have what is called an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim under your own automobile insurance. Finally, if you lose a loved one to a motor vehicle accident, you may have a wrongful death claim against the negligent party.
If you are injured in a motor vehicle accident, you may have several categories of damages. These include medical expenses, lost wages for time you may have been off of work, and future lost wages if you will not be able to return to your current job. In addition, you may be entitled to pain and suffering. If your damages total $100,000 but the other driver who is responsible only has a $25,000 liability policy, where will you recover the other $75,000 from? If you have underinsured motorist coverage under your own automobile policy, you should begin by looking at your limits. If you have $100,000 of underinsured motorist coverage, under most policies the $25,000 you recover from the negligent driver’s insurer will come off of your limits, leaving you with $75,000 of underinsured motorist coverage. If the other driver had no insurance, you would look to your uninsured motorist coverage. In this case, if you have $100,000 of uninsured motorist coverage, you will be looking entirely to your own automobile insurer for recovery.
In the above scenarios, you have three years from the date of the accident to sue the other driver and his or her insurer. Of course, you should always put your own automobile insurer on notice immediately after the motor vehicle accident, especially in light of the fact that you may not learn of the other driver’s liability limits until much later. The lower the other driver’s limits and the higher your damages, the more likely an underinsured motorist claim becomes. For automobile accidents occurring on or after February 6, 2016, you have three years from the date you resolve your bodily injury claim with the other negligent driver to bring a contractual claim (by lawsuit or, if required by your policy, by arbitration) against your own automobile insurer for underinsured motorist coverage if your insurer refuses to pay the full underinsured amount that the policy requires. The same is true if you learn that the other driver is uninsured. For automobile accidents occurring on or after February 6, 2016, you have three years from the date that you resolve matters with the uninsured driver to sue your own auto insurer if you feel the insurer has not paid the full amount of the uninsured claim that the policy requires.
Finally, in the unthinkable event that you lose a loved one to an automobile accident, depending on who else has survived the decedent, you may have a wrongful death claim. Unlike bodily injury claims, the time limit within which to bring suit for a wrongful death claim has recently been reduced to two years for auto accidents occurring on or after February 6, 2016.
Contacting a lawyer after being injured in a motor vehicle accident is always a good idea. Representatives for the other driver’s insurer will usually be looking to settle your claims quickly. Having a competent lawyer on your side will protect you against settling for an amount that does not fully compensate you for your injuries.