Being involved in a car accident is traumatizing. You’re left injured, have medical bills to worry about, and your car will require repairs before it’s safe to use again. If you add an uninsured or underinsured motorist to the mix, you have a recipe for a never-ending headache. However, depending on your auto insurance policy, you may have more options than you think.
The Difference Between an Uninsured Motorist and an Underinsured Motorist
You may be wondering what the difference between an uninsured motorist (UM) and an underinsured motorist (UIM) is, and why that difference really matters. To start, an uninsured motorist is someone driving without auto insurance. Insurance is a legal requirement in Colorado, and driving with proper auto insurance is against the law. An uninsured motorist can also refer to a hit and run, where the at-fault driver leaves the scene before insurance information can be exchanged. This means you are unable to file a claim against their insurance provider, even if they do have an insurance policy.
On the other hand, an underinsured motorist is someone who does have auto insurance, but their policy is limited, and will not cover your total costs. For example, the at-fault driver may have a $25,000 bodily injury policy, complying with Colorado’s auto insurance requirements, but your injuries cost you $100,000. The at-fault driver’s insurance will not be able to fully pay for your medical costs, leaving you to front the rest of the bill.
Why does this distinction matter? Well, an uninsured motorist is breaking state law, so being involved in a car accident with them can become more complicated and you may find it difficult to get compensation from them. In contrast, an underinsured motorist will not be able to give you the compensation you need or deserve, but will be able to help you recover at least part of damages suffered. There may also be caveats in their insurance policy that could allow you to get more from the insurance provider, though that is not always the case, and would require an expert legal eye in the first place.
Minimum Insurance Policies in Colorado
Auto insurance is a legal requirement to drive in Colorado, much like most other states. Drivers are required to have a policy that covers at least $25,000 per person involved in the accident, with a cap of $50,000 per accident. Drivers must also have a medical payment cover of $5,000 per accident, although that is incredibly low, and we would always recommend a policy with a higher limit.
On top of this, it is not legal for insurance providers to raise your rates or cancel your policy for making a claim on your own UM/UIM policy. There are Colorado statutes specifically prohibiting this kind of action. Doing so is both illegal and acting in bad faith.
Why You Should Get An UM/UIM Policy
Having an UM/UIM policy can save you from a huge headache. Generally, your auto insurance liability policy only applies to other drivers, meaning if you caused an accident, they could file against your policy and you would file against theirs. But with an UM/UIM policy, you can file against your own insurance if the other driver doesn’t have insurance or has a small policy to make up the difference. In addition, these policies also apply when you are a pedestrian, so even if you are involved in a hit and run while walking or biking, you have coverage.
When you are involved in an accident that was not your fault, you certainly deserve to be given fair compensation. But if you were the victim of a hit and run, or struck by a driver with a limited policy, then there may not be many options available for you without an UM/UIM policy of your own. These policies give you more flexibility, as well as a sturdy safety in case the worst should happen.
Luckily, all insurance companies in Colorado are required to offer UM/UIM policies and can only reject them if a client requests it in writing. Chances are, you might actually already have a policy and can increase the limit if you are worried about being involved in an accident.
If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist and you are at a loss as to what to do next, call the Tenge Law Firm, LLC at (970) 212-4777. Our Boulder uninsured motorist accident attorneys can review every aspect of your accident and insurance policy to determine what option is best for you.