What Happens if I Get Injured in an Accident with an Underinsured Driver?

November 10, 2023 | Gary Annes
What Happens if I Get Injured in an Accident with an Underinsured Driver?

Car accidents may lead to extremely serious injuries that result not only in medical expenses and lost income but also in significant suffering, pain, and inconvenience. Medical costs, including the costs of medical procedures, can also cost accident victims thousands, even if they have good health insurance.

Also, in some cases, at-fault drivers may not have significant motor vehicle insurance coverage to fully compensate an accident victim for all their losses.

In those instances, the accident victim can exhaust the at-fault driver's available insurance policy limits and then turn to their own insurance company for the balance. In this scenario, the claim that the accident victim files with their own insurance company is called an underinsured motorist claim.

Underinsured motorist claims are slightly different from third-party, or tort, claims that an accident victim files solely with the at-fault driver's insurer. Therefore, if you need to file an underinsured motorist claim and involve your own insurance company, you need an experienced Phoenix car accident attorney in your corner representing you throughout your case.

What Happens if I Get Injured in an Accident with an Underinsured Driver

A knowledgeable car accident lawyer in your area can take the necessary steps on your behalf to file a claim with the at-fault driver's insurer, exhaust their policy limits, and pursue additional compensation from your own insurance company. 

Additionally, if an insurance company does not offer you the favorable monetary damages that you deserve to recover in your case, they can file a lawsuit and take your case to a civil jury trial or binding arbitration hearing.

Your attorney will aggressively advocate for all your legal rights and interests every step of the way. Your lawyer can also maximize the monetary recovery you receive so you become whole again after your car accident.

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How Do Car Accidents Arise in the First Place?

Serious car accidents are most often the result of other drivers' negligence. In some scenarios, motor vehicle accidents happen when other drivers exhibit road rage or aggressive driving maneuvers.

For example, an enraged driver might cut off other vehicles in traffic, weave around traffic without using a turn signal, speed, or aggressively tailgate other drivers, resulting in an abrupt accident.

Car accidents may also happen when drivers violate laws, especially those that pertain to speed limits, turn signal laws, and right-of-way laws. In addition, if a driver fails to look into their mirrors regularly while driving, they may negligently switch lanes when another motor vehicle is present, causing a severe accident.

Another common cause of traffic accidents nowadays is distracted driving. With the vast number of electronic devices available, a driver can easily find distractions. Some of the most common distractions for drivers are GPS navigation systems, tablets, cellular phones, and other devices.

A driver might also become distracted when they turn their head to discipline a child sitting in the backseat or when they roughhouse with vehicle passengers. A driver might also take their eyes off the road if they attempt to comb their hair, apply makeup, eat, or drink while behind the wheel.

Even if a driver takes their eyes off the road for only a second or less, they may miss seeing another vehicle, bicycle, motorcycle, or pedestrian.

Finally, some motor vehicle accidents result from intoxicated or drunk driving. The law establishes various legal standards regarding blood alcohol concentration limits for drivers.

For example, the usual BAC cutoff for passenger vehicle operators is 0.08 percent. In contrast, the threshold for commercial vehicle operators and minor drivers under 21 is much more stringent.

If a driver's BAC exceeds the legal limit while behind the wheel, a police officer may arrest them for DUI, and they may have to pay fines and incur other penalties. Additionally, if they cause a traffic accident that results in another driver's or passenger's injuries, they may have to pay civil compensation through their motor vehicle insurance company.

Drunk driving causes accidents because intoxicated drivers frequently cannot drive carefully and safely.

Specifically, drunk drivers may experience mental symptoms, including limited concentration, disorientation, and impaired judgment. As a result, they may inaccurately judge the distance between their own vehicle and another vehicle. They might also experience delayed reflexes, delayed reaction time, and poor vision, causing them to lose control of their vehicle and strike another.

Suppose you suffered injuries in one of these types of accidents, and the at-fault driver does not have sufficient insurance coverage to adequately compensate you for your losses. In that case, you can file an underinsured motorist claim.

Your lawyer can review your case, determine your eligibility for filing an underinsured motorist claim, and take the necessary actions to pursue the compensation you need and deserve.

What Types of Car Accidents Happen When Other Drivers Are Negligent?

When other people drive carelessly or recklessly, they may cause several different types of accidents.

Some of the most common types of car crashes that result from driver negligence include:

  • Rear-end accidents, where one vehicle hits the back of another vehicle
  • Head-on collisions, where the fronts of two vehicles strike one another
  • Sideswipe accidents, where the sides of two vehicles that are traveling in the same direction collide
  • Broadside or T-bone accidents, where the front of one vehicle makes contact with the side of another vehicle, usually at a traffic intersection or highway merge lane

Suppose you suffered significant damages in one of these types of accidents that a negligent driver caused. In that case, you need to consult a personal injury lawyer about your potential legal options. Your attorney can handle all the legal aspects of your case and notify the proper insurance companies of a potential legal claim.

What Injuries Are Common in a Car Wreck?

Victims of serious car accidents may suffer serious injuries that necessitate medical treatment, time off work, and other expenses. Depending on the severity of the injury or injuries, they may also lead to significant pain and suffering. When a car crash victim suffers a permanent injury or impairment, they might experience pain and suffering daily for the rest of their lives.

Since every car accident differs, the injuries that a driver or passenger may suffer will vary significantly from case to case.

Some of the most common factors that determine the injuries that an accident victim suffers include the number of collisions that occur in an accident, the force of those collisions, the number of vehicles involved in the accident, and the accident victim's bodily movements inside their vehicle at the time of the accident. 

Some of the most common injuries that car accident victims suffer include internal bleeding, internal organ damage, open lacerations, bruises, fractures, soft tissue contusions, broken bones, spinal cord and paralysis injuries, scarring, mouth injuries, facial contusions, traumatic head and brain injuries, rib fractures, and death.

One of the most important steps you can take after suffering injuries in a car wreck is obtaining the medical treatment you need to get better. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you might need to undergo a medical procedure, such as surgery, or consult a medical specialist, such as a neurologist or an orthopedic doctor. After you undergo a medical procedure, you may need to complete physical or occupational therapy to return to your pre-accident condition.

By following through with your entire medical treatment regimen, you increase your chances of making a full recovery. You also show the insurance companies that your injuries are severe or permanent and warrant extensive monetary compensation for you to become whole again.

While you focus on your medical treatment, your car accident attorney can begin gathering documents and assembling a settlement demand package on your behalf.

What Is an Underinsured Motorist Claim, and How Is It Different from an Uninsured Motorist Claim?

Motorist Claim

Some motor vehicle owners and operators carry only the minimum insurance coverage required by their jurisdiction. However, some accidents are so severe, and the accident victim's injuries so debilitating, that the at-fault driver's insurance policy limits are insufficient to fully compensate the accident victim for all their losses.

In that situation, the accident victim can look to their own insurance company for additional monetary compensation. In this scenario, the accident victim can file an underinsured motorist claim with their own insurer.

Depending upon the jurisdiction, underinsured motorist claims may work in several ways. In some jurisdictions, courts add the coverage limits of the liability policy and the accident victim's insurance policy together when determining exposure.

However, in other jurisdictions, the limits of exposure are the difference between the limits of the accident victim's policy and the at-fault driver's policy. In this latter scenario, the accident victim can only file an underinsured motorist claim if their own policy limits exceed the policy limits of the at-fault driver's policy.

An uninsured motorist claim differs from an underinsured motorist claim. In an uninsured motorist claim scenario, the at-fault driver is completely uninsured. In that situation, the accident victim must look to their own insurance company for monetary compensation, up to the limits of their applicable policy.

How Do I Prevail in an Underinsured

Motorist Claim?

To recover monetary compensation in an underinsured motorist claim, the accident victim will first need to exhaust the limits of the at-fault driver's insurance policy. If that insurance company offers its policy limits, the accident victim can turn to their insurance company for additional monetary recovery.

The elements of proof in this type of claim or lawsuit are essentially the same as in a standard tort claim.

For example, the accident victim needs to establish that the at-fault driver violated their legal duty of care, usually by breaking a traffic law or regulation. They must also demonstrate that as a direct and foreseeable result of the other driver's negligence, the accident occurred in which they suffered at least one physical injury.

However, in an underinsured motorist claim, a breach of contract component may accompany the tort (or bodily injury) component.

Specifically, the accident victim will need to establish that they had a contract of insurance in place with an insurance company and that by failing to offer additional compensation for their accident-related injuries and losses (because the at-fault driver was underinsured), the insurance company breached their contract with the accident victim.

Essentially, by filing an underinsured motorist claim, an accident victim enters into an adversarial relationship with their own insurance company. However, insurance companies are not ordinarily allowed to retaliate against the accident victim for filing an underinsured motorist claim for monetary compensation.

A knowledgeable car crash attorney in your area can negotiate with both insurance companies on your behalf for the favorable monetary compensation you need to recover.

Recoverable Damages in an Underinsured Motorist Claim

As part of an underinsured motorist claim, injured car accident victims may recover compensation.

Some of the most common monetary damages that an accident victim may recover include compensation for their inconvenience, pain and suffering, loss of life enjoyment, loss of the ability to use a body part, lost spousal companionship, permanent disfigurement, permanent disability, lifetime care costs, related medical expenses, loss of earning capacity, and lost income as a result of being unable to work after the accident.

Your car accident attorney will do everything they can to maximize the compensation you receive. If an insurance company does not make you a fair monetary offer, your lawyer can pursue the full monetary award you deserve to recover.

If you suffered severe injuries in a recent motor vehicle accident, time is of the essence. Your car accident lawyer can determine your eligibility for filing an underinsured motorist claim and take the appropriate steps to maximize the monetary award you receive in your case.

Gary Annes Author Image

Gary Annes


Personal Injury Lawyer With Over Twenty Years Of Experience

Gary Annes, a partner at Abels & Annes, P.C., has dedicated over two decades to practicing personal injury law, specializing in auto accidents, premises liability, wrongful death, medical malpractice, and sexual abuse. Since earning his law degree in 1995, Gary has led numerous jury trials, and adeptly resolved cases through arbitration and mediation, securing millions in compensation for his clients.

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