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  • The Gerring Law Firm

I was hit by an uninsured motorist. Is there anything I can do?

The State of Missouri requires that all drivers carry coverage of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident of uninsured bodily injury coverage to address just this situation. These amounts are the mandatory minimums required by the state; however, many people carry more coverage than that. The good news is that if you (or a household member, so long as you aren’t specifically listed as an excluded driver on the policy) have auto insurance, you will be able to make a claim under the uninsured motorist section of your policy without risking a rate increase.

A police report will usually say that a driver didn’t have insurance but does not say whether or not the vehicle did. Remember, car insurance policy coverage can extend to anyone in a household. It may very well be that a relative of the insured had effective coverage for that vehicle on the date of the accident. In this situation, the policy information will not be on the police report. Police are usually concerned with making sure drivers are compliant with the insurance laws, not whether the owner of the vehicle is.

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If you are hurt by a driver that doesn't have auto insurance, make a claim through the uninsured motorist section of your auto insurance policy. Your insurance company cannot raise your rates for making this claim.

A strategy I have learned to find out if the vehicle is covered is to ask the first party adjuster (aka your insurance company’s uninsured motorist claim handler) to run a coverage check using the VIN number of the vehicle that caused the accident. It is in their interest to do this as they would prefer not to pay for an accident caused by someone else if there is another policy available. Insurance companies have databases that allow them to search for this information. These databases are usually shared information systems between insurance companies. Car insurance coverage is a private contract between the insurance company and the insured. There is no state requirement that either the insured or insurance company publicly report policy information to any database. From my experience this is the best way one can obtain insurance information without filing a lawsuit. It is not foolproof, and the search can be limited in scope, but it is better than nothing.

If you do not have enough uninsured motorist coverage to satisfy the claim, you may still be left wanting additional coverage. You may want to have your attorney perform due diligence on whether the at fault driver had any other policies that could potentially pay out. This includes any umbrellas coverages. You likely won’t be able to get this information without filing suit. In that event you can ask the at fault driver what coverages they may have had through discovery. This tactic is the most effective but also costs time and money, so it should only be considered if your uninsured policy won’t cover the cost of your injuries and you do not have under-insured motorist coverage.

Remember that if you must make an uninsured claim, your insurance cannot raise your rates. Many of my past clients have had this fear. The possibility of this event happening should have already been priced into the policy by the insurance company when they contracted with you to provide auto insurance. They cannot penalize you for exercising a benefit that you did not cause the need for having to use.

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