When a driver with uninsured motorist coverage gets into an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance, the process is the same as any other kind of coverage. Your policy will normally state that you are covered under your uninsured motorist coverage if you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. As previously mentioned, your uninsured motorist coverage is separate from your liability coverage. You will have to show proof to your carrier that the other driver is uninsured. I normally do that in my office a couple of different ways.
Sometimes, I’ll have the at fault driver sign something in writing that they are uninsured. Some insurance companies will do their own investigation and check to see if the person has assets or if the vehicle has some coverage. The fact of the matter is that it has to be proven that the person is an uninsured driver. Once it’s proven, your company proceeds as if they were the other person’s insurance company. You handle everything the same way.
When it comes to underinsured coverage, the process is a bit different. Underinsurance means that the other person has minimal coverage. For instance, if someone has $25,000 in coverage and you have $100,000 in underinsured motorist coverage, you first have to pursue that person up to the limits of their policy. When they have offered the limits of their policy, then you can go to your carrier. Prior to pursuing an underinsured motorist claim, I highly recommend that you enlist the assistance of a lawyer. Your policy will prescribe the ways in which you have to do this, and it must be done correctly or they won’t pay the excess. You can’t just settle your claim with the other driver and then ask for your underinsured motorist coverage. If you went ahead with certain things, your insurance company will say that it doesn’t apply to you because you didn’t go through the process prescribed in your policy.
In an underinsured motorist situation,
I get a letter in writing from the at-fault party’s insurance carrier that says, “We are offering the limits of our client’s policy.” In order to protect my clients and make a claim, I ask them for a copy of that person’s policy to show what their limits are and what they are offering. Then, I contact my underinsured carrier and let them know that we would like to settle this claim and release the driver for the total amount of their policy. You must give your carrier notice of what is happening to give them an opportunity to pursue the other driver. That way, they will be able to see if they have assets or money they can recover from the other driver before you release them. I always put it in writing. You must send them a letter that says, “This is what we’re going to do…would you like to pursue the other driver or would you allow me to release the other driver and pursue my underinsured motorist limits?”
As I’ve said, I check them to see if the person has any ability to pay more than they have in coverage. However, your insurance company will do an assets check to determine whether it’s a good idea. If they say, “Yes, you’re allowed to release the person,” then you can sign the release, accept the limits of the policy for the person that’s at fault, and pursue the rest of your damages through your underinsured motorist carrier. It’s a two-step process that’s a bit more complicated for someone who does not know how to go about it. That is why I never recommend someone to do it on their own.