Every car accident can be traumatizing, no matter how big or small. Recovering from injuries and property damage takes time—time that sometimes needs to be taken off from work and lead you to miss wages. You are probably also worried about how you will pay for your medical bills and repair costs, along with when you will be able to get back to work. When someone else hurts you in an auto accident, you should never feel like you have to be responsible for the damages. Fortunately, in the state of Colorado, all drivers are legally required to maintain minimum levels of car insurance. Unfortunately, not every driver follows these rules. Do you know what to do after a car crash with an uninsured or underinsured motorist?
Did you know that a recent study from the Insurance Information Institute found that 13.3 percent of Colorado drivers are uninsured? That makes it the 19th most uninsured state in the country. Consequently, Colorado drivers should be extra vigilant on the roads in case they run into any uninsured or underinsured drivers (or have any uninsured or underinsured drivers run into them). An uninsured driver is someone without any auto coverage. An underinsured driver is someone with auto coverage, but an insufficient amount to adequately cover damages. Fortunately, many insurance providers offer uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) policies in case of an accident with such drivers. A UM/UIM policy can help you recover losses, including but not limited to lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
As previously established, all Colorado motorists are legally required to carry a minimum amount of auto coverage. This coverage, also known as liability insurance, covers any property damage and personal injury to another person. In the state of Colorado, these minimums are $25,000 per person for bodily injury, $50,000 per accident for bodily injury, and $15,000 per accident for property damage.
Insurance providers in the state of Colorado must also provide motorists with the option of buying uninsured motorist/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. The minimum amounts are $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. Drivers are under no obligation to purchase UM/UIM coverage. However, it is something all motorists should highly consider. For one thing, it is generally cheaper than liability policies. UM/UIM coverage cannot exceed the amount of your primary liability insurance coverage. Still, it may be able to provide you the compensation you need when the at-fault driver cannot—which can be crucial in times of recovery.
You should file a UM/UIM claim immediately after an accident, just as you would any other auto accident claim. Contact your insurance provider and report the accident right away, making sure to let them know if you believe the driver might be uninsured or underinsured. Different insurance providers have different deadlines on filing UM/UIM claims, so time is of the essence. Generally speaking, drivers have three years from the date of the accident to file a UM/UIM claim. However, exceptions may apply if the at-fault driver compensates the victim for the underlying injury within three years. The victim may then have two more years to file a separate UM/UIM claim, during which time they may further consider their total damages. In any case, failure to file within your assigned statute of limitations may bar you indefinitely from seeking legal action. If this happens, then you will no longer be able to recover compensation for your damages. It can be difficult to know how to handle a UM/UIM claim, especially if you do not have a full and comprehensive understanding of the law. Consider speaking with a skilled auto accident lawyer to go over the best options for your specific case.
Some UM/UIM policies contain an exhaustion clause, meaning that the coverage will only kick in after all liable parties’ limits have been exhausted. In the case of an accident with an uninsured motorist, your UIM benefits will only apply once you have received the maximum amount under the liable driver’s coverage. If this is still confusing, it may help to consider the case of Tubbs v. Farmers Insurance.
In the case of Tubbs v. Farmers Insurance, the insured (Tubbs) had incurred $400,000 worth of damages in a car accident with an underinsured motorist. Tubbs and reached a settlement amount of $30,000 with the at-fault driver, even though the liable party had coverage up to $100,000. Because Tubbs had settled for less than the at-fault driver’s coverage, Farmers Insurance (Tubbs’ insurance provider) refused to pay UIM benefits. Tubbs argued that this exhaustion clause violated C.R.S. § 10-4-609(1)(c). The courts determined exhaustion clauses unenforceable since coverage is mandated by statute, exhaustion clauses.
Because Tubbs had sustained damages up to $400,000 and the liable party had $100,000 in coverage, the courts determined that he was entitled to $300,000 in UIM benefits. After accounting for the $30,000 he had already received, Tubbs received a total of $330,000 for his auto accident. In this case, Farmers only paid Tubbs UIM benefits once he received the maximum amount under the at-fault driver’s coverage. The Colorado Court of Appeals worked to clarify exhaustion clauses here and to protect car accident victims across the state.
Taking care of a car accident claim with an uninsured/underinsured motorist can be overwhelming, especially if you are recovering from injuries and property damage. You need someone you can trust in your corner. Fortunately, we at Injury Victim Law may be able to help. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist personal injury victims all across the country. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our trusted nationwide auto accident attorneys. You should never have to pay for somebody else’s mistakes. Let us fight for you and get you the compensation you deserve. We have helped numerous clients successfully resolve their UM/UIM claims. We can help you, too.