What Are Your Rights to Recovery When That Bad Driver’s Car Insurance Is Not Enough to Pay For Your Damages?

Steven Cohen is a Partner with Finkelstein & Partners, LLP, where on a daily basis he litigates and resolves insurance disputes.

You are in a car crash and you are badly injured. You file a claim with your own insurance company for no-fault benefits. These benefits will cover your lost wages and medical expenses, to a point. What about money for your pain and suffering and loss of ability to enjoy life? You find out the driver of the other car only has the minimum required liability coverage in New York State which is $25,000, or has no insurance coverage at all. Are you out of luck? Not necessarily. You need to review your own auto insurance policy or declarations page and confirm the benefits to which you are entitled. New York State makes it mandatory that you purchase uninsured motorists (UM) coverage.  So if the driver of the other car that caused the crash had no insurance coverage, you should have some coverage available to make an uninsured motorist claim to your own insurance company. You may also have purchased supplementary underinsured motorists (SUM) coverage. This is available when the other driver has insurance but their liability insurance coverage is less than your own. If it is a minimum $25,000 policy and the other driver’s insurance company offers you the policy, you may be able to accept it and then look to your own insurance company for the remainder of your own underinsurance policy benefits. For example, if the other driver had minimum liability coverage of $25,000, you need to check your own liability limits. If your SUM coverage is $50,000 then you can make a claim with your own insurance company, and potentially recover an additional $25,000 (e.g., $50,000 less the other driver’s $25,000). To Get Your Benefits, You Should Seriously Consider Legal Representation Upon making your claim for UM or SUM coverage to your “Good Neighbor” into whose “Good Hands” you have paid premiums for years, don’t be surprised if your insurance company disputes your claim.  Expert opinions regarding your injuries may be necessary for submission to the carrier; you may be required to engage in a deposition, and you may also be subjected to an “independent” medical examination by a doctor chosen by, and paid for, by the carrier.  Ultimately, your claim may result in an arbitration (a quasi trial).  Given the significance of the stakes at issue, and the legal hurdles to overcome in order to be successful with your claim, it’s a good idea to have an attorney help you with the necessary paperwork and to represent you at the arbitration, to best present your case. You should periodically check your own auto liability insurance and SUM coverage to make sure you and your family are properly protected. If you have been injured in an auto accident, please reach out to Finkelstein & Partners, LLP, and discuss your legal options.

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In furtherance of our firm’s culture of commitment to always act with compassion, concern and commitment to our clients, community and colleagues, we have been taking precautions to ensure that we are still fulfilling our ethical and moral obligations while prioritizing health, wellness and safety of all we can.

As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced changes to many lives and businesses in our communities, and around the world. We, much like our neighbors and friends, have been taking precautions to ensure that we are still fulfilling our ethical and moral obligation to our clients, while also prioritizing the health, wellness and safety of our employees.

Until further notice, our offices will be closed to the public to encourage social distancing and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Our team is still hard at work, many from home, and you may still call, email, live chat or video conference us if you or a loved one is seeking legal assistance. As the first law firm to offer our clients secure online access to their case file more than a decade ago, we have always been believers in using technology to make life easier and information more accessible. In these present times it has been a smooth transition for us to continue to offer our clients the same seamless and thorough service that you deserve and are accustomed to.

This pandemic is unlike anything any of us have faced in our lifetimes, and while we can continue to emotionally support one another through it all, staying home and keeping your distance is vital to the health and wellness of our communities. It does not feel good to break routines, cancel events and retreat from our normal, day-to-day socializing, but let us remember that, in times of strife, prior generations were asked to go to war and we are simply being asked to stay home. Your isolation equals more lives saved, and more time for medical providers to prepare for the treatment of patients battling COVID-19.

When the dust settles, we will join together with a greater appreciation for our lives, local businesses, loved ones and health. Until then, we will continue to offer guidance from a safe distance.

Very truly yours,

Andrew G. Finkelstein and the staff of Finkelstein & Partners, LLP