Accident lawyer reveals the steps you must take to collect Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Michigan
The YouTube video I shared earlier this week, “Defense lawyer versus insurance adjuster,” has drawn attention to the way many insurance companies treat people injured in car accidents.
No, you don’t always need to hire an accident lawyer. There are many cases (even when people are injured in a car accident), where I tell people they really don’t need me. But I do think you should at least talk to a lawyer to find out what your legal rights are, and to make sure you are not unknowingly extinguishing important insurance benefits or legal rights forever by mistake or inadvertence.
One perfect example is an important insurance coverage that many people have, called Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM). Sadly, this is a coverage that is often literally hidden on the declaration page of coverages, or is lumped together with Uninsured Motorist Coverage and not separately listed. However, the consequences can be devastating.
No. 2 – Any Michigan car accident involving serious personal injury and Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Many insurance companies, and especially trucking companies today, are aggressively contacting people injured in auto accidents before they can hire an accident lawyer to represent them. It makes good sense for the insurance companies, because the insurance industry’s own statistics show that a claim with a lawyer will settle for more than four times as much as a claim where the injured party is not represented by a car accident lawyer. And that is averages.
As I’ve discussed before, that takes into account auto accident settlements by lots of lawyers who bring that average way down, such as general practice lawyers who really don’t know what they’re doing or personal injury lawyers who haven’t tried such a case in years and settle for far less than they should. And since the insurance industry knows it can settle cheap when a person is not represented by an accident lawyer, and often before the full extent of the injuries is fully known, adjusters are now teaching at seminars to go out and aggressively contact personal injury victims. It’s good business and it saves the insurance companies lots of money.
But even if the injuries are clearly catastrophic, or even if someone was killed, and the insurance company is offering you what they represent as the insurance “policy limits,” watch out!
Many people have Underinsured Motorist Coverage on their auto insurance policies. But this doesn’t mean you’re in the clear to collect this coverage even after you’ve been offered the full policy limits from the insurance company who caused the car crash.
This is the most important thing you must know: You MUST get written permission from your own auto insurance company before you can settle, or you LOSE your entire right to collect the Underinsured Motorist policy limits you purchased from your own insurance company.
This means even when the insurance company is offering you what they represent as the “full insurance policy limits” involved (and even when those policy limits are clearly inadequate for the injuries caused from the car crash), you will still lose forever the right to collect your own UIM coverage from your own insurance company, if you do not have written permission from the insurance company first.
This is one of the most dangerous traps in Michigan law. And I’ve seen many people who have lost a family member in a fatal truck accident or people who have suffered catastrophic personal injury lose millions of dollars by falling into this trap. Just look at the UIM auto cases that have developed in Michigan and you see one sad case after another of people settling with at-fault insurance companies for injury claims, even for full policy limits, and lose forever the right to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in UIM coverage that they paid for, in case just this sort of thing were to happen.
Here’s why you must hire an experienced car accident lawyer in these types of cases: There are many insurance companies, notably Farm Bureau Insurance Company, but I can think of many others as well, that will almost NEVER give you permission to settle, EVEN when the other insurance company is offering the full insurance policy limits.
Remember, Michigan has no bad faith laws to keep insurance companies in line, so these insurance companies have very little to lose. If they refuse and you accept the tendered policy limits from the insurance company of the driver or truck that caused a major injury accident, you lose your own UIM coverage. So if you’re an insurance company, and you don’t have to worry about bad faith litigation and the worst that happens is you have to pay it out anyways, then why not?
On Tuesday, I’ll go into more detail on the dangers of “policy limits” – including the epidemic of fraud that is occurring in catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases in Michigan today.
– Steve Gursten is recognized as one of the nation’s top accident lawyers handling serious car accident and truck accident lawsuits. He routinely writes about insurance company abuse and the No-Fault laws in Michigan, and is available for comment.
– Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons, by Mattlemmon
Michigan Auto Law is the largest law firm exclusively handling car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Sterling Heights to better serve you. Call (800) 777-0028 for a free consultation with one of our personal injury lawyers.