What If The Other Driver Does Not Have Enough Insurance?
Far too many times in my years of representing car accident victims have I handled cases in which there is inadequate insurance to cover my clients’ injuries. Unfortunately, until the Massachusetts legislature enacts higher mandatory minimum bodily injury coverage requirements, injured car accident victims will be shortchanged.
That is because Massachusetts law only requires compulsory bodily injury coverage limits of $20,000. That means if someone injures you in a car accident, and they only have this bare minimum amount of insurance, then that is all you will collect from the insurance company. Even if you have very, very serious injuries, $20,000 is all you will collect, unless the at-fault driver has purchased higher liability amounts. If the insurance is insufficient then you can look to your car insurance company for underinsured motorist coverage.
This is how underinsured coverage works. Let’s assume your case is worth $100,000, and you collect $20,000 from the bodily injury insurer. Then the most you can collect from your underinsured policy is $80,000. The reason is because there is an offset in these situations to the extent of the availabile bodily injury coverage. Also, by law, if you are going to make an underinsured claim, you must obtain written approval to settle the bodily injury case from the underinsured carrier.
Of course, it is always wise to purchase enough underinsured motorist coverage. I suggest you buy at least $250,000 in underinsured motorist coverage so that you are protected.
Unlike with other car accident claims, you cannot file lawsuits for underinsured motorist benefits. What you can do though is arbitrate the claim. This means you as well as the insurance company will submit the case to an arbitrator who will render a binding decision regarding your case.
For cases where the other driver has no car insurance coverage whatsoever, or the driver cannot be located, then you can file an uninsured motorist claim with your car insurance company. And as with underinsured motorist claims, you cannot file a lawsuit with uninsured claims. Rather, arbitration is what you would demand in the event the claim does not resolve.