UM/UIM Coverage & LitigationThe field of uninsured (UM) and underinsured (UIM) motorist coverage involves first-party claims made by insureds against their own insurance company where the alleged tortfeasor(s) in an auto accident are either determined to be uninsured or there is an indication that the liability limits of the tortfeasor(s) auto policy may be insufficient to satisfy the loss. UM coverage may also be claimed where the insurance status of the alleged tortfeasor(s) are unknown such as where a hit-and-run accident occurs. Claims under UM and UIM are contractual claims brought under the insurance policy at issue, and thus the terms of the policy must be clearly understood to fashion a defense plan for handling. Claims under UM and UIM can involve claims for personal injuries, wage loss and other consequential losses.
The first step that needs to be taken in the handling of any UM/UIM claim is obtaining the relevant insurance policy at issue and determining whether in fact UM or UIM coverage exists. This may involve assessing whether the insured had a policy in effect at the time of the accident and whether the insured was in compliance with policy provisions such as reporting the accident or making the claim within the time frame allowed by the policy. An assessment also needs to be made whether the insured has satisfied their duty to cooperate with the insurer's investigation into the claim and other conditions of coverage. Further handling may involve investigation into the accident and determining whether and to what extent the other drivers and potential tortfeasor(s) in the accident were insured. This may also involve intervening into any potential lawsuits that have been filed by the insured against third parties to protect the rights of the insurer and participate in discovery that may be taken that could impact any future UM/UIM claim. Assuming that coverage for UM/UIM is found to exist, handling of these claims requires an aggressive approach no different than handling a third-party liability claim so that an insured must prove both the liability and damage aspects of their claim. Finally, assuming that the insured is found to have a right to recovery under UM/UIM, proper handling requires the handling attorney to be knowledgeable as to damage defenses and the potential setoffs available to the insurer so that double recovery is prevented.
Vanderlaan Law Group has attorneys who have spent many years handling the nuances of UM/UIM claims and received positive results both in Declaratory Judgment Actions (DJA) and at Arbitration. VLG attorneys have won summary judgment on DJA cases arguing that UM coverage is not available due to lack of contact from a hit-and-run vehicle, the insured's failure to report the accident to the police in a timely manner and the insured's failure to cooperate in the investigation of the claim. VLG attorneys have worked closely with our clients to monitor underlying third-party cases so that the rights of the client are not prejudiced due to any evidence or judicial findings in the underlying case.