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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.