Accidents Involving Underinsured / Uninsured Motorists

When you drive a car, especially in a city as bustling as Chicago, it’s important to drive defensively. But to some degree, you have to put your faith in other drivers to do what they’re supposed to do. You expect that most of the people on the road will follow the rules — stop at red lights and drive at reasonable speeds for example — and that if they cause an accident they’ll be prepared to make it right and take care of the damage. After all, the law says drivers have to demonstrate financial responsibility in the form of having adequate insurance coverage.

Sometimes, though, a crash may be so serious that the other driver’s insurance policy just isn’t enough to cover your injuries, especially if the other driver only has the minimum insurance coverage required by the state. It’s also a fact of life that some drivers don’t have insurance at all, and you may find yourself the victim of an accident caused by an uninsured driver at some point in your life.

If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, you may be feeling the stress of mounting medical bills and wondering what you’re going to do when the at-fault driver either doesn’t have insurance or his or her coverage already is maxed out while you need additional medical care for your injuries.

There may be a silver lining for you if you have sufficient uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance to cover the difference between your actual medical bills and the limits of the other driver’s insurance policy. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you determine if you have a potential uninsured/underinsured motorist claim and work with your insurance company to get your bills paid.

Illinois Insurance Requirements

It’s mandatory in Illinois for drivers to have insurance coverage that pays at least:

  • $20,000 per person and $40,000 per accident for bodily injury or death of another person if you cause an accident
  • $15,000 when you damage someone else’s property

When you buy “full coverage” insurance, Illinois requires that your policy include a minimum of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident when someone else is at fault for your accident but is uninsured or underinsured.

If you can afford it, it’s always a good idea to have coverage that exceeds the state minimums. Typically your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will have the same limits, or maximum payout, as your bodily injury coverage. If you have $50,000 in bodily injury coverage, you typically have $50,000 in uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

It should be noted that not all carriers offer more than the minimum uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, but if they do, it’s worth having and here’s why: You can only make an underinsured motorist claim against your own policy if your coverage exceeds the other person’s policy limits. If the driver who caused your collision has a $25,000 per person bodily injury limit, and you have $50,000 in coverage, you can only recover up to $50,000 total, or in other words you could claim $25,000 against the other driver’s policy and $30,000 against yours if you have damages in that amount. However, if the other driver has a $20,000 policy and you also have a $25,000 policy, you’ll get nothing from your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

If the other driver is uninsured, then the only claim you would make would be against your own policy, subject to your policy limits.

How a Lawyer Can Help

Making claims against multiple insurance policies can be a complicated process. An experienced personal injury attorney knows how to navigate the bureaucracy of insurance claims and make sure that your claims are submitted to the right policies. When you make a claim for underinsured or uninsured motorists’ coverage, your insurance company may dispute your claim or attempt to argue that your claim isn’t worth as much as you say. Your auto accident lawyer can help you gather all of the evidence you need to present as strong a claim as is possible so that you have the best chance at getting your bills paid.

If necessary, your attorney can file a demand for arbitration under the terms of the appropriate insurance policy and present your case to an arbitration panel to get you the results you deserve. Most uninsured/underinsured motorist policies include arbitration clauses, so court action on these policies is rare. Your lawyer can discuss with you the terms of your policy and what they mean for your claim.