St. Louis Uninsured & Underinsured Motorist Claims
The law requires everyone driving a motor vehicle to have auto insurance. Unfortunately, not everyone follows the law or may not realize that their policy lacks essential coverage. Additionally, due to late or non-payments, auto insurance policies can lapse, thereby disrupting coverage for a period.
In Missouri, 16 percent of drivers don’t have auto insurance. In an attempt to protect residents against reckless drivers, the Missouri Legislature enacted uninsured motorist laws to help injured drivers obtain monetary restitution for their damages after an accident.
In the unfortunate circumstance that an uninsured or underinsured driver hits you, you have the right to be reimbursed for the harm caused to you by another person’s negligence. From a legal perspective, accidents involving uninsured or underinsured drivers can be complex, but that’s not a reason to be discouraged. The car accident attorneys at NST Law can help evaluate your case and explain how you might still seek financial coverage after a St. Louis underinsured or uninsured driver causes a car accident that results in your injuries or other damages.
The Difference Between Underinsured and Uninsured
Uninsured motorist accidents refer to those where the at-fault driver doesn’t have any insurance coverage. In Missouri, the law dictates that all drivers should have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. The minimum coverage is $50,000 per accident and $25,000 per person. Therefore, if you get injured by a driver that doesn’t have insurance coverage, your insurance should pay for all or part of your motor vehicle expenses, injuries, and other damages you incurred during the accident.
Underinsured driver accidents are those where the at-fault driver has insurance coverage, but the coverage limit is not high enough to compensate the victim for injuries and damages incurred from the accident. In this situation, you have to approach your insurance company to obtain the funds needed for accident-related expenses.
Unlike UM coverage, underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage is not mandatory in Missouri. You have to specifically ask for it when purchasing your policy. You can only recover the amount available per the at-fault driver’s coverage if you don’t have UIM coverage. Therefore, it’s highly recommended that you purchase a policy that covers underinsured motorists.
What are my options if an uninsured driver hits me?
If you’re in a car accident with a driver who doesn’t have auto insurance, the first thing you should do is contact a car accident attorney. Immediately speaking with a lawyer is also necessary after a hit-and-run accident since you must treat it as an uninsured motorist accident unless the authorities can track down the at-fault party and you can verify their insurance coverage.
It’s important to give the officers who respond to the accident as many details as possible so they can help you find a driver who flees the scene. In Missouri, hit and runs are treated the same way as uninsured accidents. Your attorney will advise you on the proper course of action to take.
Generally, you have two options if you’re involved in an accident where the at-fault driver lacks insurance or sufficient coverage as required by law:
- Sue the underinsured or uninsured motorist.
- File a claim with your insurance company.
Suing the underinsured or uninsured motorist may not be ideal if they don’t have any assets or stable income. Retrieving a judgment for compensation might be useless if they don’t have the funds to pay you. The better option is likely to file a claim against your own insurance company to recover compensation for your damages.
What happens if you’re underinsured and you're involved in an accident in St. Louis?
If you’re underinsured and involved in a car accident in St. Louis, you can file a claim for compensation from your insurance company, but you might not be fully covered. Choosing the right insurance coverage for your car is critical. Insurance companies in Missouri offer UIM coverage to protect you if the at-fault driver is underinsured. However, since the coverage is not mandatory, you should ask for it when purchasing the policy.
Process for Filing an Uninsured or Underinsured Accident Claim in St. Louis
Here are some things you need to do after a car accident involving an uninsured or underinsured driver to increase your chances of a satisfactory outcome:
Notify the Insurance Company Immediately
If you’re involved in an accident where the at-fault driver is uninsured or underinsured, you should notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Let your insurer know that you plan to file an uninsured or underinsured claim. However, you should NOT give a recorded statement to an adjuster or insurance company without first speaking with a lawyer.
Note that most insurance companies have strict deadlines on such claims. Therefore, if you delay notifying them, they might refuse to reimburse you. The sooner you report the accident, the better your chances of receiving compensation. Insurance companies should handle all claims promptly and fairly.
Hire an Attorney
Following up on an uninsured or underinsured claim can be stressful. Also, sometimes insurance companies refuse to pay the claim. Other times, they offer you unfair compensation. Hiring a personal injury attorney can help you off-load the legal aftermath of an auto accident so that you can focus on your recovery. Your attorney can negotiate with the insurance company to help you receive a fair settlement.
File Your Claim
You should file your uninsured or underinsured accident claim the same way you would file any accident claim. The only notable difference is that you’ll be filing a claim with your own insurance company as someone would do in a no-fault state. Missouri is not a no-fault state, but if the other motorist lacks insurance or sufficient coverage, you have the right to seek compensation from your insurance company if you have the appropriate auto policy.
Generally, it’ll take much longer to develop the claim because you’ll need proof of your medical and other incurred expenses resulting from the accident. However, you should file the claim as soon as you and your attorney believe the driver’s insurance is non-existent or cannot adequately cover your injury-related costs.
There will be pre-trial investigations, similar to car insurance claims. After compiling all of your medical bills, records, lost wages, and other damages, your lawyer can attempt to negotiate a fair settlement. If your insurance carrier refuses to make a fair offer, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit. Additionally, there’ll likely be depositions of witnesses. At this point, throughout the discovery phase, your attorney and insurer will negotiate a settlement figure. If they fail to reach an agreement, the matter goes to trial.
Facts You’ll Have to Prove at Trial
For your uninsured or underinsured accident claim to be successful, there are several facts you’ll have to prove, including:
- At the time of the accident, your insurance policy was in effect.
- Your insurance policy provides for uninsured (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage.
- The driver that caused the accident was uninsured or underinsured. In Missouri, you would handle a hit-and-run accident the same as an uninsured motorist accident.
- The claim you’re making against your insurance company complies with the Missouri Personal Auto Policy conditions, including notifying your insurer that you intend to file the claim and cooperating with them throughout the process.
- There was a good faith demand for the claim for damages, but the insurer refused to compensate you. You must show documentation of the insurer’s denial or refusal to pay your claim.
How can a personal injury lawyer at NST Law help me?
Accidents involving underinsured or uninsured drivers can be complex, and fighting with your own insurance company can be challenging. It’s important to hire a St. Louis personal injury attorney to help you through the claim process. Attorneys are familiar with state laws and can easily handle your claim on your behalf.
A qualified attorney will gather evidence, involve experts, and negotiate with your insurance company to get you maximum compensation. If the negotiations fail, your attorney can take your case to trial and ensure a fair payout for your financial losses.
If you’ve been in an accident where the driver is uninsured or underinsured, you still have a right to compensation. Your insurance company can reimburse you for damages to your motor vehicle, medical expenses that you incurred due to injuries from the accident, ongoing medical treatment, and more.
Contact NST Law today to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our attorneys and let us help you determine your best legal recourse.