Lawyers use jargon. The entire industry contains many terms of art, abbreviations, and words that are unknown to the general public. And few areas of the law involve as much jargon as the law involving automobile insurance. Uninsured motorist insurance, or UM, in the parlance of those who deal with it all the time, is one of those terms. What exactly is it, why do you need it, and how do you get it?
Uninsured Motorist (UM) insurance coverage is an insurance product designed specifically for situations in which the person responsible for your injuries did not have valid insurance at the time of the incident.
But Illinois is a mandatory insurance state, so how can you drive without having insurance?
There are several ways. Sometimes, people do so willfully. Often, they forget to pay their premiums. Other times, they misrepresent information on their insurance applications that leads to their coverage being invalidated. Or they don’t have a valid driver’s license.
If involved in a motor vehicle crash that causes property damage or personal injuries, the driver is required to file proof of insurance within ten days by filing an Illinois Motorist Report with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT). In the event there is no insurance in effect, the Secretary of State (SOS) will suspend that person’s license until the debt is paid, an installment agreement is entered into, or a bankruptcy petition is filed.
As is often the case, one way or another, karma catches up.
What is the injured person to do if the person who causes their damages doesn’t have insurance?
If you are unlucky enough to be in this situation, you are not out of luck if you maintained UM insurance. We’ll talk more about how to get it later.In other words, your insurance company will stand in for the “other guy’s” insurer. Your UM policy will cover you for your injuries and damages just as if you were pursuing the other party. Because you are not deemed at fault, in most cases your premiums will not increase.
I have discussed the process of making an uninsured claim in this space in the past, but, as in all injury cases, you are always better off having a lawyer represent you. Remember, insurance companies have access to mound of data, proprietary software, and decades of experience, not to mention their own lawyers who practice nothing but this type of law. You do not have most of those advantages, but having an experienced lawyer alone helps level the playing field. It also sends a message to the insurance company that you are serious about your claim.
While you can file a claim and settle it yourself, it is never a good idea to handle something yourself where the other party (in this case, your own insurance company) has about a million times more information than you do. And, as we have discussed in the past, these claims can often become contentious and act just like litigation.
Typically, the process for a UM claim begins with a demand for arbitration and the naming of arbitrators. This is governed by the insurance policy and by the Illinois Insurance Code.
You already have uninsured motorist coverage UNLESS you specifically decline it in writing.
Do not ever decline UM coverage!
How much coverage do you get? You will automatically have an amount equal to your liability limits unless you request a different amount.
As in all insurance situations, the best advice I have for you is to purchase the most coverage you can possibly afford, purchase all your insurance through an insurance broker, and review your policy so you understand what it covers and what it does not cover.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) is different. I will discuss this in a future blog post, but think of UIM as insurance you have for situations in which the “other guy” had insurance, but it wasn’t sufficient to compensate adequately for your damages.
As in all cases involving injury and potential liability, if you have been hit by a vehicle, immediately get medical treatment, report the crash to police and your own insurance company, and contact a lawyer with expertise in your type of case, such as bicycle accidents or pedestrians hit by cars.
If you've been in an accident and have questions, contact Chicago personal injury attorney Stephen L. Hoffman for a free consultation at (773) 944-9737. Stephen has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has collected millions of dollars for his clients. He is listed as a SuperLawyer, has a 10.0 rating on Avvo, and is BBB A+ accredited. He is also an Executive Level Member of the Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce.
Stephen handles personal injury claims on a contingency fee basis, which means you don’t pay anything up front, and he only gets paid if you do. Don’t wait another day; contact Stephen now.