The Plain Truth About the Practice of Personal Injury Law

Friday, February 25, 2011

"But I Thought I had Full Insurance Coverage on my Car ?"

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Several years ago the State of Illinois enacted a mandatory insurance law requiring  liability coverage for all motorists and vehicles.  At first glance the law appears to address the problem of injuries caused to other motorists and pedestrians by uninsured drivers. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. As a Chicago PI, Personal Injury Attorney I know the importance of this area of the law which I share here in with motorists and potential clients.

The mandatory insurance law merely requires the purchase of $20,000., liability coverage. In this day and age of skyrocketing high health care costs, the minimal coverage is grossly inadequate.  If an injured person sustains permanent, life altering  injuries and disability, the at fault driver is effectively uninsured. What can motorists do to protect themselves against a catastrophic event?

The simple answer is the purchase of as much uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as your automobile liability insurance company will sell you.  What is this coverage and how do I get it?

Uninsured motorist coverage protects its insured's from injuries and damages caused by the negligent operation of a motor vehicle by an uninsured driver. Underinsured motorist coverage is slightly different in that it provides coverage for losses which exceed the maximum liability insurance coverage purchased by the at fault driver.  Finally, these policies also cover injuries and damages caused by the actions of a "hit and run" motorist.

As a personal injury attorney based in Chicago I regularly represent individuals that have been severely injured by the negligence of uninsured/underinsured motorists. During our initial meetings these persons will tell me that the at fault driver had " full insurance coverage".  When I ask them for the amount of the applicable liability policy insurance limits they universally do not know. My follow up question is  how much uninsured/underinsured coverage do you have? The answer remains the same.

The net effect of this inadequate insurance coverage is best illustrated  by the following actual case in which I represented an motorist whose auto was struck head-on by an intoxicated individual that crossed the center line of the road.  My client underwent emergency surgery to remove his spleen, repair broken bones and associated injuries.  He remained in intensive care for several weeks and did not attain maximum medical recovery for more than one year.  His medical bills exceeded $500,000. and lost more than $200,000. in wages.  Beyond the task of recovering from his injuries my client was shocked to learn that the intoxicate motorist only had liability insurance coverage of $50,000.  When I reviewed my client's insurance policy it disclosed that he had underinsured motorist coverage of $100,000. I had the unpleasant responsibility to tell my client that the most that he could ever recover for his injuries and lost wages was  $50.000 from the first policy and an additional $50,000 from his own policy.  He looked at me and said why didn't the intoxicated at fault driver have more liability insurance coverage? After he calmed down I asked him why he had not purchased more uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage? Ironically, approximately two years later his wife was the victim of a similar auto collision caused by a motorist with only $25,000. in liability insurance coverage. When I reviewed my clients' insurance policy I observed that since the first case he had purchased $2,000,000., in uninsured/underinsured insurance coverage.  Needless to say, the second case came to a much happier ending than the first.

Uninsured/Underinsured motorist insurance coverage is relatively inexpensive and most insurance brokers fail to recommend purchasing it in an adequate amount.  Take a few minutes and read the "declaration pages" of you motor vehicle insurance policy to determine your present coverage.  I promise you will be happy that you did!

Rick Grossman

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