Illinois law requires that all motorists carry automobile insurance. Despite the threat of steep fines for failing to do so, however, many drivers don’t. By some estimates, nearly 14% of Illinois drivers carry no insurance. Others have only the minimum amount of coverage required by law, which for many victims is inadequate to cover the losses of a serious car accident. Fortunately, uninsured/underinsured coverage (sometimes called UM/UIM) is available to Illinois drivers. At the Chicago law firm Hale & Monico, we help our clients understand the benefits of this insurance and make claims in the event they need to use it. If you’ve been involved in an accident and have questions about uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, count on us.
What Are Chicago Illinois’ Requirements For Automobile Insurance?
These are the minimum coverage amounts all drivers must have in Illinois:
- $25,000 bodily injury or death per person
- $50,000 bodily injury or death per accident
- $20,000 property damage
Policies must automatically carry Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage (commonly called uninsured or UM coverage) for accidents causing bodily injury in the same $25,000/$50,000 amounts listed above. A driver may purchase higher amounts of UM coverage to pay for claims that exceed these amounts.
On the other hand, Underinsured Motorist Bodily Injury Insurance (commonly called underinsured or UIM coverage) pays the difference between your UIM limits and the liability limits of the at-fault driver. Illinois law requires this type of coverage if a driver purchases higher limits of UM coverage than the state minimums.
Benefits Of Uninsured Coverage
You can use your uninsured coverage if you get into an accident and the at-fault driver has no liability insurance. Additionally, the coverage applies where the driver flees (a hit and run accident) and cannot be identified. UM claims are made against your own insurance company.
Benefits Of Underinsured Coverage
The minimum amounts of liability insurance required in Illinois are usually woefully inadequate, especially in the event of a serious accident. Medical bills alone can quickly exceed the limits. Underinsured coverage is there to protect victims from drivers who don’t carry enough insurance. Like UM claims, they are made against your insurance company.
For example, let’s say you get into an accident causing bodily injury with losses of $100,000. If the other driver only carries the $25,000 required by law, you need to cover the difference. If you’ve purchased sufficient UIM coverage, your insurance company will provide the rest of the $75,000.
What To Do If You’re Injured By An Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist in a Chicago Accident
The first step you should take after any automobile accident, especially one in which the driver has no or has insufficient insurance coverage, is to seek medical attention. Even if you think your injuries are minor or that you don’t have any injuries, let a medical doctor make that determination. Insurance companies, including your own, are always on the lookout for reasons to deny coverage or minimize payouts. If you wait too long to get medical attention and a problem arises (or worsens) later, your insurance company may argue that an intervening cause is to blame. Or the company might say that your delay made the situation worse.
Document as much about the accident as possible. You will need to exchange insurance cards with the at-fault driver, but you should get as much information as you can about that individual and the car he or she was driving. In the event the driver flees, you will later need to document this in order to use your uninsured coverage.
If there were witnesses to the accident, talk to them and get their contact information. Also take photos or videos of the accident scene and your vehicle. Don’t forget to document all of your losses, including medical bills, missed time from work, and other expenses related to the accident. Finally, talk to an experienced Chicago uninsured/underinsured motorist accident attorney.
Challenges That Arise With Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Claims
You may think that making an uninsured or underinsured claim is relatively simple because it’s pursued through your own insurance company. But insurers don’t like to pay, and the fact that you’re their policyholder makes little difference. You’re likely to encounter one of two challenges when it comes to making a claim: denial of coverage and undervalued payouts.
Denial of coverage usually happens for several different reasons. The company may claim the accident isn’t covered, meaning the policy doesn’t get used at all. Or your insurer may argue you have not yet exhausted the at-fault driver’s policy, which is required before activating your UM/UIM coverage. You may even have a situation in which the insurance company denies it was a hit-and-run accident, which is one of the most common reasons to use a UM policy.
Another issue, particularly with UIM coverage, is undervaluing your claim. The insurance company may contend that your injuries are not worth the medical bills and other losses incurred. You may need follow-up surgeries or treatments after your accident that the insurer may claim aren’t necessary. Although the insurance company may cover some of the gaps between your losses and the at-fault driver’s policy limits, convincing your insurer to provide more can be an uphill battle. The insurance company just doesn’t want to pay any more than it has to.
In cases like these, you need an experienced Chicago automobile accident attorney who will hold your insurance company liable under your UM/UIM policy. That’s where we come in.
Contact A Chicago Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Accident Attorney
At the end of the day, your insurance company is a business. The more claims they deny or undervalue, even of their own policyholders, the bigger their profits. If you’ve been in an accident involving an uninsured or underinsured driver, you’re understandably upset. Don’t let the insurance companies take advantage of your situation. Reach out to Hale & Monico today for a fair assessment of your accident injuries and to get the compensation you deserve.