Uninsured or Under-insured Car Accidents
Even though it’s against the law to drive without insurance in Massachusetts, many drivers do it anyway. By some estimates, 4% of the driving population in Massachusetts has no insurance. This figure is low enough for many people to think that uninsured driving isn’t a big problem in our state. But if you have the misfortune to get into an accident with an uninsured driver, you’ll wish that number was a lot lower.
How uninsured and under-insured drivers in Massachusetts can cause trouble for you
It can be traumatizing enough to get into a car accident, but when the other driver is both negligent and uninsured it adds an extra layer of trouble. In most cases, uninsured drivers don’t have insurance because they can’t afford it. This means it’s unlikely that you will be able to recover compensation from them personally for your injuries. Instead, you’ll have to find out whether your own insurance company will reimburse you for:
- medical expenses
- lost wages and/or loss of earning capacity
- pain and suffering
- wrongful death of a family member
The good news is that in Massachusetts drivers are required to carry uninsured motorist (UM) coverage as part of their car insurance package. The required minimum is $20,000 per person and $40,000 per incident. This insurance would provide compensation and a source of financial recovery for your damages in the event of an accident with a negligent and uninsured driver.
There are many circumstances however in which a vehicle can be considered “uninsured.” For example:
- When the other motor vehicle causing the collision is a hit-and-run vehicle
- When the motor vehicle causing the accident is stolen
- When the other motor vehicle causing the accident has no insurance because:
- The insurance was canceled due to non-payment of premium
- The vehicle was never registered or insured
- The vehicle was registered in a state that does not require auto insurance (such as New Hampshire or Vermont).
- The vehicle in question was insured but the insurance company subsequently became insolvent
You may also be covered for bodily injuries caused by under-insured negligent drivers. In Massachusetts, under-insured motorist (UIM) coverage is optional coverage and essentially supplements the insurance coverage of the at-fault driver where the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage is insufficient to satisfy the value of the legal claim.
With this kind of insurance, you would collect the maximum amount available from the other drivers’ insurance, but then you can recover additional benefits from your own insurance, which would cover the rest of your damages up to the maximum amount of the specific under-insurance coverage purchased under your own policy.
Before you heave a sigh of relief, keep this in mind: most insurance companies won’t simply hand over the full amounts due to you. Insurance companies are more concerned with keeping their profits high than giving you full and fair compensation. In fact, following an accident with an uninsured or under-insured negligent driver, insurance companies vigorously contest these claims. Injured parties often will greatly benefit from experienced counsel who understands the complexities of uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage.
What to do if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or under-insured driver in Massachusetts
The most important thing to do is speak with an experienced personal injury attorney before dealing with your insurance company. This is because any claim for uninsured or under-insured motorist benefits is inherently complex, as these claims are rooted in complicated and technical provisions in the Massachusetts Auto Policy as well as Massachusetts statutes and case law. An attorney knowledgeable about motor vehicle accidents with uninsured or under-insured drivers in Massachusetts can:
- advise you as to the technical requirements of compliance with the terms and provisions of uninsured and under-insured motorist coverage (for example, the Standard Auto Policy in Massachusetts requires “prompt” notice of such claims).
- carefully review your policy to identify which injuries and financial losses are covered
- develop a strategy designed to maximize your compensation
- firmly negotiate with your own insurance company and the negligent uninsured driver or the negligent under-insured driver’s insurance company to ensure that all options are explored and that you receive full compensation for your damages.
Peter Ventura is a Worcester, Massachusetts car accident lawyer committed to helping people who have been in car, truck, or motorcycle accidents with uninsured or under-insured drivers obtain fair and full compensation for their injuries and losses. Call today for a free consultation at 508-755-7535.